It was a bit of a stark contrast to go from Earthsong, NZ, to Peel Street in Central, Hong Kong. My cousin J kindly picked me up from the airport and took me to his spacious flat, with two resident cats and his cheeky, delightful teenage son Sam, promising to be home by 8pm – that’s reasonably early for him and his Chinese partner Amy. Normal working hours in HK. I peeked out from under the blind at the view from my window, a bit spooked by the people sitting at the balcony on the far left, staring into my room…..…..until I realised they were mannequins.
Above is the changing-colour-view from the top of his street at night.
There are many great things about this city. In midwinter it’s a steady 20deg and sunny everyday. It’s incredibly colourful, such a sensory experience walking down the street, which includes all the latest modern shops interspersed with old spice shops, side street markets, shops full of ancient Chinese antiquities, and endless neon.
And then it’s so easy to get out of! Just a 20 min ride on a double decker bus from Central and you can jump off into a country park of forested mountains and have a day’s walk to the sea. Here is the rather hazy view from Violet Hill. Just like the Greek Islands.
Down on the beach at Repulse Bay there is an interesting sight: a large building with a hole through the middle. How curious. Think about how packed Hong Kong is, how valuable land is, how developers would want to use every inch of space with flats for more money. So get this: the hole is for the dragon to fly from the mountain to the sea.
“Most feng shui practitioners examine the design and placement of buildings/objects to ensure they are created in an auspicious and harmonious way. Hong Kong has naturally good feng shui. It faces the water and is protected by mountains behind and across from it. Legend holds that dragons live in the mountains and hold positive and powerful energy. This energy blows through Hong Kong daily as the dragons make their way from the mountains to the sea to drink and bathe. As Hong Kong expands, builders and architects create massive structures that potentially “block” the dragons’ passage from the hills to the sea, creating bad feng shui and blocking the natural air flow through the city. Thus, architects plan housing and office complexes with “gates” or “windows” allowing dragons to pass through the city unimpeded on their way to the sea.
Prominent architectural and building firms consult feng shui experts at every step of a project when building in Hong Kong. Fosters + Partners incorporated feng shui principles when planning the iconic HSBC Hong Kong building…. Bank of China architect, I. M. Pei chose to ignore these principles at his peril. Criticized for its harsh, knife-edged angles and screw shaped top, it supposedly “cut” into the good fortune of nearby neighbours. Coincidently (or not), the nearby Lippo Center tenant went bankrupt and the first governor of Hong Kong refused to live or work in nearby Government House citing the bad feng shui. Supposedly, the two rods that stand atop Foster’s HSBC building are a classic feng shui technique of deflecting negative energy back to its source. The rods point in the direction of the Bank of China building.” http://apassportaffair.com/2013/06/07/hong-kong/
On Tuesday evening J, Amy and I went out for dinner to a local Chinese restaurant although we didn’t choose this:
On Wednesday J took the afternoon off and we went by Sampan to Lamma Island.
Amazing that you can get to such a peaceful island with no cars in less than an hour from central Hong Kong. We had a long walk and I had my final swim of the trip. Chinese New Year was looming so decorations were everywhere (J’s pic). We returned on the ferry by night, the sky scrapers twinkling on the horizon.
An interesting fact: Hong Kong so packed yet the levels of street crime are so low. Why? I’d love to hear any reasons for this. You’d think with such a packed city it would be high.
It was a quick 48hr visit. Finally I was to board my last flight home. I was in the airport about to change my Hong Kong dollars when I caught sight of a set of keys in my purse. Whose keys are those, I wondered. Perhaps I had borrowed some and not returned them. After a minute or two of staring at the keys I began to realise, logically, that they must be my mine. Oh my God. I was staring at my very own front door key, with another key (which must be for my bike lock?) with no recognition. It was a very strange feeling. I stood for several minutes in the midst of a whirl of airport activity, loud speakers announcing the next flights, trying to take this in. It was the first time that I had a glimpse into the experience of amnesia, being faced with something or someone that you are told is very familiar, but not being able to recognise it.
Something must have changed inside, I thought. I’d visited many different places, there had been so much change on the outside. But I know from previous trips that the greatest culture shock is often returning home, where you expect everything to be the same, and it sort of looks the same, but somehow it isn’t because something in the perceiver has changed. I wondered what else had changed inside without my knowing. What was waiting for me on return?
Finally we were taking off, as usual my nose was pinned to glass like a small child all ready for the dramatic scenes. There were some good views on take-off of Hong Kong with its ever-present brown stripe of pollution.
But for much of the journey the world kept herself secret, shrouded under a layer of white cloud, with a few mountains peeking out. We seemed to fly much further north so when the cloud did clear it revealed the brown plains of Mongolia followed by frozen wilderness, mountain ranges striped with layers of snow in their valleys and winding white rivers. There appeared the occasional light in the dusk: what must it be like to live there? Hour after hour of wilderness: it was both chilling to imagine being in this place as well as heartening to see that this land-without-humans still exists, how easy to forget that this is out there when living in England. As we flew into the end of the day I was treated to several hours of gradually reddening sunset over ever pinkening clouds.