November 15, 2012 —
Hong Kong is carved out of the side of a mountain. It’s right on the water and reminds me a bit of a futuristic Chicago. The skyline is a sea of brightly lit buildings, stretching up, big and tall into the sky. It makes New York City seem very squarely organized; Hong Kong does not follow the grid plan.
There are tons of people in the streets and many of the alleys are packed with tiny booths selling everything from food to watch parts to Halloween masks. (It’s the end of October.)
Many buildings are under construction and have bamboo scaffolding wrapped around them like cocoons. It’s impressive to see the bamboo towering so high: think skyscraper, an interlocking labyrinth of crisscrosses.
Emily and I are on a 12-day trip to China for Emily’s college friend, Candice, and her fiancé, Greg’s, wedding. Candice was born in Hong Kong and still has family here. Candice and Greg now live in Beijing. (They also went to school there.) Their wedding celebration is a fairly elaborate chain of events, half in Hong Kong and half in Beijing.
I have never been to Asia before and have been very much looking forward to this trip.
Emily and I arrive after dark and don’t get much of a picture of what Hong Kong actually looks like on our jet-lagged cab ride from the airport to the Lan Kwai Fong Hotel. The next morning I venture out on an un-ambitious walk around the block and I find myself immediately lost.
My original mission was to return with a new Sim Card for our phone and a cup of coffee. All of that seemed much simpler when I left the hotel. Taking four lefts should lead you back around to where you started. Right?
I start to panic when I realize that I do not know the address of the hotel. I don’t even know what street it’s on. Without a working cellphone and no map, suddenly this place feels very foreign.
Thankfully, when I ask someone, they speak English and they tell me I am just a few blocks away. Later I find out that almost everyone speaks English.
There are 10 of us going to the wedding and we hang out together. It’s a good group of interesting people and I recount my previous nervousness over delicious Dim Sum at lunch.
Hong Kong is exactly 12 hours behind NYC, which makes it easy to remember. I don’t even have to reset my watch. When we first arrived, folks are focused on the upcoming election but all of that talk disappears when Sandy hits the Northeast.
Emily and I watch and worry about our friends and loved ones back home. I am not envious when we find out that lower Manhattan is without power.
It’s odd to see the nightly news when you wake up and the morning shows after returning home after a late night.
All of the events for the wedding are wonderful. There is a traditional Tea Ceremony at Candice’s house where she and Greg present tea to all of the elders in the family. It is very formal and a beautiful ceremony. It is not conducted in English but we eat great food and follow it as best we can.
A few days later, Candice and Greg do the equivalent of going to City Hall to get officially married and afterward we drive out to a beautiful lunch in the countryside.
The meal is amazing and the restaurant is located in a valley and on a lake. After the meal we stand around congratulating Greg and Candice and take in the view.
“Soak it up now,” someone says. “There isn’t this much fresh air in Beijing.”
[More next week as Zac continues his Letters Home from Beijing.]