“We should meet up!!”
After months of both me and Amy promising to see each other soon, the chance finally came when I had time off for my student’s mid-term exams. Deciding to meet in Hong Kong, I promptly booked flights from Wednesday to Monday.
My memories of Hong Kong only resurfaced after I asked my mum whether I had been, to which she paused for a long time, before saying that we had a whole album of all of us on cruises and at Hong Kong Ocean Park (the theme park/panda zoo extravaganza).
The moment I walked out of the airport exit gate I felt a sense of euphoric nostalgia wash over me. It wasn’t the memories of HK resurfacing but rather the blurry vision of a big non-commy red star in the distance that made my chest tighten.
Rows and rows of chicken avocado sandwiches and hot meatball paninis laid seductively on the shelves of Pret. And so, with the first of my HK dollars, I bought a sandwich and an Earl Grey, all the whilst grinning manically into my phone’s multiple un-censored social media tabs.
I spent most of my first night wandering around between Soho and Causeaway Bay, oggling at the Beckys’ with the good hair and the Cantonese men manspreading their wares in outdoor bars. Having spotted some retro looking escalators in the middle of a busy area, I decided to ride up them, not knowing that they were part of the Mid-Level escalator system up towards the Peak. As a long time sufferer of fomo, I continued to reluctantly keep riding the escalator up, away from the M&S I saw, away from the halloumi stall, and away from lactic-acid-free calves on the walk down. After riding all the individual escalators up to the top I asked two women whether this was the Peak, to which they barked out a laugh and said it was at least another hour and a half walk up.
As it neared midnight I decided to walk back home, picking up a well deserved sausage roll on the way back.
The next day I found myself waiting in the rain for the no.5. Climbing aboard a humid bus, I non-verbally moaned about the rain with my eyebrows to some friendly old Filipino women who sat opposite me, all of whom were clutching their makeshift umbrellas (folders, bags, husband’s coats). As we wove up the Peak’s misty vistas, we finally ended up at what seemed like a tourist platform, complete with a flashing sign for Madame Tussands.
(I would come to later realize three hours later that this was the main bulk of the Peak’s viewing platforms …)
Having let the power of a VPN-less Google Maps get to my head, I followed the route on my phone that seemed to end directly on the little black dot over the word “Victoria’s Peak”. On my journey up I decided to detour from the signposted route through Victoria Gardens, and used my DofE initiative to shortcut my way to the top. Glistening with sweat and smugness, I clambered up the alternative stone steps, ignoring the increasingly bad quality of the path. Just as I was beginning to feel doubtful, I heard some loud voices ahead of me. Speeding up, I entered into misty plain before seeing some fluorescent beings in the near distance. Confused and glasses-less, I walked towards them before they turned around and stared at me. They then sniggered to each other, before resuming work on what seemed to be some sort of huge metal pipe.
Wondering whether the Peak was under construction, I traipsed back the way I came before encountering a sign I had previously lunged past:
I returned to reluctantly take the garden path I had previously scoffed at, weaving through a open garden before getting to a foggy outcrop at the top. Somehow missing the massive viewing platform on my left (it was very misty), I decided to ignore years of Planet Earth knowledge that screamed ‘DANGER’ and took the yellow and black striped path on the right.
Pausing and musing at this sign,
I continued to climb my way up a steep road up to a massive gated area with trucks moving around inside.
Armed with my cactus embroidered hat and Vans, I bopped up towards the security guard manning the spiked metal gate and asked him whether this was the Peak. He looked me up and down and didn’t say anything, to which I protested at by waving my Google Maps victoriously in front of him. I was literally right on the dot of the Peak, so this had to be it. Grinning like the devilish seventy year old he was, he pointed to the big English sign above him which said “RADIO STATION. NO UNAUTHORIZED ACCESS”. Seeing his eyes linger uncomfortably on my bare shoulders, I decided to jet quickly. It was only upon my descent down that I realized the existence of the viewing platform that I previously walked past. Sigh.
“I’ll buy some ice cream” I thought to myself, as I wandered into the tourist complex. Luckily, I didn’t go straight to the bus stop and instead took a wander around what I found to be some of the Peak’s infamous viewing decks. Even luckier, the rain clouds began to clear up, allowing me to spend a few hours watching the sunset fall on the Hong Kong skyline.
After spending hours just sitting on the Peak, I finally took the infamous tram down and went to a bar in Lan Kwai Fong called Le Jardin. Lan Kwai Fong is the big square of bars and clubs near HK’s Soho, so it took me a while to find the exact bar where the local CS meeting was being held. Several Aussies, Koreans, Canadians, Egyptians, and hours later everyone had decided to cease drinking as they still had work tomorrow. They were all well-seasoned CS’ers and gave me a warm welcome to Hong Kong, encouraging me to continue the night at one of the other bars/clubs. Thus, I spent the early hours of the morning on a rooftop stage with one of the other locals, before getting intimately acquainted with a chicken nugget on the way home.
After sweating in bed until the early afternoon, I finally got off my ass and went to explore Kowloon before settling down to see the evening light show across the harbour. Earlier that day I had woken up to a message from my secondary school friend Suyin, who had seen my prolific social media postings of HK and had invited me to come out with her and her friends.
And so, I put on my cleanest bra and met her at a bar; the kind of bar where you get kicked out of for not having a reservation. Regardless, we went on to one of the many rooftops of HK and watched some beautiful people do some unbeautiful grinding. We constantly found ourselves exclaiming at the strange situation we were in, only five years ago we were doing our A-Levels and now we were sitting in a Hong Kong bar with a cocktail that cost more than my newly tanned arm and leg.
When there’s been a lag of five years, there’s a surprising amount of things you don’t know about each other – your university, your dating life, how many of our friends we secretly hate now etc. We decided to continue catching up the next day at lunch, and then roped some innocent falafel eating customers into taking pictures of us: “we like, haven’t seen each other in five years? Soo”. Pics and boomerang video uploaded, we gave each other a warm hug goodbye, with my promise to come back again soon.
That evening I finally met up with my good friend Amy from the Beijing TEFL training camp last August. I hit up LFK for the third consecutive time with Amy in tow, deciding to buy our drinks from the jam packed 7/11 in the area in order to chinese-squat and chug wine like old times (not really). We spent a few hours catching up and reminiscing before we entered the clubs nearby.
At one point we somehow ended up invited to help down a platter of neon shots by a group of Americans. Never ones to turn a large number of dubious alcohol, we gambei-ed with them for a while before going somewhere else.
Sunrise dawned over us and we had sobered up enough to realise that we looked like shit. We left LKF thinking it couldn’t get any better than the group of guys who offended us with an amateur rendition of the disappearing thumb trick outside one of the bars. Upon reluctantly turning down such a magician, he nodded to all of his friends before turning to us with a look of understanding: “ahhh, it’s cos I’m a terrorist right?”. (Nope. Just prefer people with thumbs.)
However, as we were seeking refuge in McDonalds, we were attacked at the ordering machine by some Scottish men. As we loudly debated between clicking 9 or 20 nuggets on the screen, a man on the next machine turned to us, evidently triggered by our British accents:
“Hey, so are you guys British or retarded?” he said with a broad-beardy smile.
(I decided to opt for the 20 nugget box.)
We stumbled back home as Hong Kong’s fitstagram joggers came out, and promised to try and wake up at a decent time so I could wave Amy back off to Guangzhou.
Rather than systemically going through the Top 10 TripAdvisor attractions like I normally do, I found myself just enjoying the company of friends both old and new. Hong Kong is without doubt the sexiest city I’ve ever been to, with all of her crisp skylines and even crispier prawn dim sum making it impossible not to fall in love.
It was one of the best trips I’ve ever had, and I boarded the plane back with a box of M&S cocktail sausages, a three-day hangover, and a promise to reunite with her soon.