I was out early this morning, checking out the neighborhood as it woke up. Tsim Sha Tsui is a busy place at night but it rises slowly in the morning. By about 8am, people were blearily making their way to work, buying breakfast at roadside stands, and peering at their newspapers.
Kowloon Park is an enormous manicured garden in the middle of the city. There are broad walkways, a massive swimming complex, many fancy plants and trees, and a maze of hedges for those wishing to get lost. It was dotted with people jogging, practicing tai chi (shadowboxing), Kung Fu, and even Chinese opera as part of their morning routines.
I met for lunch with my friend Cherry, who I met in Canada a few years ago. Cherry grew up here, went to school at York, and then returned to Hong Kong after graduation. Cherry is in her element here in Hong Kong, and was a great tour guide. We had lunch at a local noodle/BBQ shop, and then wandered about for a while. We ended up at a small cafÃ© called Kubrick. I had been beginning to get used to the constant hammering, buzzing clamor of Hong Kong until we stepped into Kubrick and the soundproof door shut softly behind us. Instantly, it was silent except for the soft, hipster music playing in the background. It was an oasis of relaxation to recharge before heading out again.
In the afternoon, I went to visit my 92 year-old Auntie Elaine, who is now living in a retirement home. She has always been kind to me. Every year since I can remember, she sends me a knitted sweater or an afghan that she painstakingly made. I have only met her once before, over 20 years ago in Sacramento, but she remembered me clearly. She was so excited to see me that she didnÂt even notice the fancy cakes and pastries that I brought her. We talked for about an hour, and I caught her up on family and other happenings. On the way back to the subway, I walked through Victoria Park, which is a massive outdoor sporting park, free to the public. There are basketball, tennis and soccer fields available, right in the heart of some of the city’s most expensive real estate.
In the evening, I met up with Sander, the Dutch guy from the train station in Guilin. We had dinner at a fast food Japanese restaurant. The food was forgettable. We were on the main Hong Kong Island, so we took a 28 cent ferry across the harbor to Kowloon. It really affords a great view of the city, which surrounds the water on all sides. But the best views came later, when we took a tram to Victoria Peak. There were plenty of tourists about, but there was still room to enjoy the magnificent cityscape. In area, Hong Kong is not big, but in density, it is overwhelming. Six million people thrive on these small islands, and they build up and up and up.
Sander and I retreated to a trendy bar for a drink, and hung out there talking about life until calling it a day about 2am.
After having spent so much time silent and mostly alone in China, Hong Kong has been part of my reintegration process. IÂm reconnecting with other people, and easing back into normalcy one step at a time.