SURPRISES

In my recent film-mania, I took a couple of mystery rolls to be developed and was surprised to find some photos from Hong Kong I had totally forgotten about. After seeing these pictures and mentally reliving my trip, I’m itching to go back. It has a particular kind of cluttered beauty that might not appeal to everyone, but I really loved the urban collage of signage on signage and pastel high-rises. HKG, number one stunner.

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HONG KONG

I’ve been delaying posting Hong Kong photos because it was such a wonderful vacation that I don’t even know where to begin. I was really surprised by how much I absolutely adored the city, and it’s for reasons that are too intangible for words. Just something about looking up and seeing the collage of pastel-colored skyscrapers (did you know Hong Kong has more skyscrapers than any other city in the world?), the sea breeze, the immense variety of places I could be within minutes. It’s such a compact little place with so many wonders.

I stayed in Chungking Mansion, a place not nearly as luxurious as it sounds. It’s infamous for being crowded, dirty, and all-around generally sketchy. The ground floor is filled with sleazy watch-peddlers and cell phone vendors calling you to buy their stuff. The other fifteen floors are crammed with tons of hostels renting tiny rooms (I mean srsly miniscule, y’all, my bed was in a cubby — too bad I didn’t get a photo!) for dirt cheap. It was seedy beyond seedy, and I loved it.

Space in Hong Kong is limited, so places to stay can get expensive. I chose Chungking Mansion for the bargain, but honestly, I have to say, it was an integral part of my Hong Kong experience. I loved the grit, the constant commotion, and the fact that I could breakfast on super cheap chana masala downstairs every morning. Sometimes it was a little overwhelming, or even a little frightening, but it was so worth it. Although most people would probably recommend otherwise, I have to give Chungking Mansion two thumbs up.

I told the Big Bus tour representative that I used their Shanghai service, and she offered me a discount. How could I not take it? So yet again, I ended up on the cheesy double-decker bus, looking like a total tourist (and loving it) with my big camera and standard-issue tour headphones (they even played the same delightfully terrible songs between the commentary). Here are some highlights (I tried using my new/old Yashica for all my vacation photos this time — I think the experiment was a success!)

Here’s the Lippo Centre building, which some people say looks like koalas hugging a tree. I think all buildings should be designed to look like animals hugging things.

Another great architectural fixture, nicknamed the Prince of Wales building or better yet, the Upside-down Gin Bottle. It’s actually the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Forces building, housing soldiers so valuable they’re never allowed to leave the barracks, even when they’re off-duty. Yikes.

Friendly dudes at Central Pier, where you can hop on the Star Ferry and cross from mainland Kowloon to Hong Kong island (or vice-versa) for less than a quarter. The Star Ferry is too good. ILU HK.

The stunning view from Victoria Peak, which (I suppose) was worth the absolutely hellish tram ride up the mountain (half an hour of fighting hoards of pushy tourists for a spot). Next time, I’ll climb up on foot!

The perfect place to end the day with a Tsingtao and a nice long sit.

Part of the Big Bus tour included a short ride on a sampan boat through this typhoon shelter in Aberdeen, where a community of fishers still live on their old boats. So incredible to see the juxtaposition of their simple, very limited nautical homespaces docked just in front of this lush skyline. Although the Wikipedia article says the boat people no longer live on their boats, it definitely seemed as though there were entire families housed on the vessels, dogs and all.

This afternoon at Stanley Beach was one of the most relaxing times of my life, just sitting for hours drinking cold beer and watching swimmers and windsurfers. One of those perfectly crystallized, sublime days where you are in the place you most want to be in the world with absolutely nothing else to do but exist. Ahhhh

My level of relaxation and rejuvenation in Hong Kong was topped only by this guy, who was OUT on this park bench. (I think) I envy his Zen-like repose.

This vacation was so so good, and the weather right now is so so good, and life in general is just so so good. Things are changing, and it feels like such a lucky flux. The air is crisp, and the opportunities are ripe. Over the past few weeks, I’ve met so many wonderful people and had some wonderful new beginnings — like joining the team at Seoulist Magazine as a contributing writer and photographer. They found me through my Honest Cooking column, and it feels a bit like fate. I am so inspired by the strong vision and integrity I feel Seoulist has, as it’s so truly different from all the other English-language media in Seoul right now. It’s exactly the kind of project that I want to be a part of, and it was really exciting to have the editor e-mail me today with the link to my freshly published article. If you have a minute, just browse the Seoulist website and take in the stunning design, writing, and photography. Yay!

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