I arrived in Hong Kong last Thursday and if I’ve learned one new thing about myself thus far, it’s that I look like a woman with a burning desire to buy a knock-off Chanel bag.
Seriously. I can’t take two steps without someone offering to escort me to basement full of designer imposter purses, watches and “anything else.” I can’t blame people for trying. They know my type.
The second thing I learned is far more interesting: I can hail a cab with the slightest of hand motions.
Apparently, in addition bearing the profile of someone who might want to buy a python handbag out of the trunk of a car, I also look like the type of person who can rack up quite the cab fare. It’s not a bad guess, but I have little use for a taxi in Hong Kong, mostly because I have no idea where I’m going. Still, it’s a fun new trick and I spent the last three days catching cabs and then releasing them to nearby locals whenever the opportunity presented itself. Sometimes I use my power for good.
Aside from those two mainstays – declining offers for knockoff designer goods and hailing taxis for sport – I’ve been passing my time in Hong Kong being mostly overwhelmed. This trip marks my first visit to Asia – and even though Hong Kong has been billed to me as “Asia Light” – it’s still busy and crowded and foreign in a way that most other places I’ve visited haven’t been. In fact, with the exception of Madagascar, which is all of those things and comes with the added challenges of being prone to cyclones and not having a corner Starbucks or H&M to escape into every now and then – this is the most unfamiliar place I’ve ever been.
Good thing I started off light.
Assuming you’re not a banker, there are the two main things to do in Hong Kong: Shop and eat.
Most people like to eat, so I’ll start there. In simple terms, the food scene is awesome. And that’s coming from a person who doesn’t actually like to eat that much.
All those tips you heard on the Travel Channel are true: Find a restaurant with a lot of local people and go inside. When you’re at a market, look for the longest line and get in it. Follow that advice and you can’t go wrong – unless you happened to get in a really long line for the bathroom, in which case, try again. And keep your eyes open, would you?
But seriously. The noodles are awesome. The hot pots are great. Try everything, Like lavender soft serve ice cream in a fish roll. What’s a fish roll, you ask? Who cares. Just get one so that you can say you did. If you don’t like it, throw it away or give it to someone. It’s 30 cents, live a little.
As for shopping, that’s not exactly my favorite activity either – at least not proper shopping by Hong Kong standards. I don’t want to browse the Armani flagship store by my apartment – or the four others in a ten-file radius. Coming from New York, there’s no real novelty in browsing American and European luxury brands, though I’ll admit that the sheer volume of stores here is amazing. Prada, Burberry, Cartier, you name it, Hong Kong has not one, but three. And they’re all made entirely of marble and glass and roughly the size of a church. You need a 24-hour MAC Cosmetics? Well there’s two. Go nuts.
(I actually made that last part up, but really, I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out to be true.)
Frequent readers may be able to guess what one of my first stops would be once I landed at the airport. Besides coffee. And the bathroom. And the bus ticket window where the attendant told me that I wouldn’t find my stop on the map I was holding because it was actually for the train. Give up?
A hair salon!
That’s right – despite the $400 adventure with Spanish Paula this spring, I decided to get my hair done in a country where I understand even less of the local language and have only a basic awareness of pricing. Some may describe this idea as foolish or “asking for it,” but I wasn’t worried at all. I just wanted some to shellac my hair. These people invented that shit!
Turned out fabulous. So fabulous that I was immediately mistaken for an Asian woman from behind. Now that’s a good blow out.
Today I met a banker from London when we both missed our stop on the N9 bus to Big Wave Bay, a surf beach on Hong Kong Island. And by “missed our stop”, I mean that we failed to request it and instead got off at the next one, which happened to be the Shek O Police Department.
It was there, outside the precinct, that he pointed out that there is a pattern to my most recent leg of travels: New York > London > Zurich > Hong Kong.
“You’re sure you’re not a banker?” he asked.
“No,” I laughed. “And thank god for that! I wouldn’t last a day.”
“Well then are you looking for a banker?”
Nope. Not any more than I’m looking for a knockoff Chanel. I would, however, love to catch some waves.