My last day in Hong Kong was spent conserving energy for the flight home. While my friends went off to explore more of Victoria Harbour and Central, I stayed behind to sleep in, get some work done, and explore the neighborhood.
We were staying in a cozy AirBnB-rented apartment near Ladies Market in Tsim Sha Tsui. Ladies Market is a night market that got its name from the ginormous amount of female-centric goods on sale, though anyone who’s visited will tell you that the market will have something for anyone of any age and gender, often at haggleable prices. At night, the market is your typical night market–loud, colorful, and vaguely grimy (but in a fun way), with different items that compel you to buy, buy, buy!
In the daytime though, it morphs into a regular Hong Kong neighborhood. The stalls disappear, leaving an almost-clear pathway between streets. Without the neon lights, the shops look benign, losing their exotic allure. The streets are still filled with peole, but the crowd is different, hurried. They are Going to Places instead of Coming Here.
I wake up to a breakfast of glutinous rice balls stuffed with crushed peanuts swimming ginger broth. Tang Yuan is usually served during festivals, but we had happened on a pack of frozen ones in a grocery a couple of nights before, and my friends wantwred to have them for breakfast. The great thing about staying in an apartment is access to a kitchen. Not having to rush to get to breakfast allows us to spend our mornings leisurely, and in my case, even sleep in.
Part of the deal with this Hong Kong trip was that we would set aside time to work. The great part about being a freelance writer during the age of the internet Is that it allows me to work virtually anywhere, within reason. If I plan well enough, I may not even need to be online that much, though from experience gained on several trips, I’ve realized that for me to work efficiently on the road, I need time by myself to work, assess, and generally find my ground. Otherwise, I go crazy. I literally have to not talk to anyone for a while or else I get snappish. Not many people understand this, even though I always warn people I travel with beforehand, but thankfully, these friends did. I think they needed their down time too, because we’d all automatically stop talking to each other and just exist as soon as we got back after a long day. My friends were freelance creatives as well, and were in Hing Kong for business, but they liked to work at night. I tend to like working in natural light. I took advantage of my being alone in the apartment to enjoy the work process. Internet in Hong Kong is fast (actually, internet anywhere that isn’t Manila is fast), and I managed to get a lot done before my tummy started to complain. Time to head out for lunch!
A Look Around the Neighborhood
I have to admit, I can be pretty lazy sometimes, but my refusal to make an effort has often led to wonderful discoveries. In this case, my laziness to get out of the apartment led to extreme hunger, which led to my eating at the restaurant next door (This isn’t entirely true. I did walk up and down the street looking for a dining place, only to pick the one nearest our entrance. I was super hungry wile I did that, though). What a great decision!
The restaurant was canteen style–you picked two viands, which got served with rice. I ordered steamed broccoli florets and steamed tofu skins, two of my favorite Chinese dishes. I also ordered a glass of nai cha because I was in Hong Kong and was determined to drink so much milk tea that if I cut myself, nai cha would pour out. It was the cheapest meal I had on that trip, and the second best (nothing beats Peking duck, of course).
My belly filled, I decided to explore some more. I circled the block before ending up in the Chinese pastry shop on the other side of our apartment building entrance. I bought some egg tarts (because again, Hong Kong) and some masachi, a dry version of the peanut-stuffed glutinous rice ball, this time rolled in coconut.
I bought a few so everyone could have a taste.
I saw snippets of Hong Kong life that made me feel like I was on a movie set. Cinema has glamorized Hong Kong as a place that’s equal parts dazzle and decay, and I can see why. Everything seems romanticized somehow. For some reason, in Hong Kong, every little emotion carries more weight than it should, and, thanks to the movies, every little thing seems poignant, and beautiful.
Aside from stationery, the only other things on my shopping list were meds, specfically topical balms, the mintier, the better. No Chinese household is complete without an array of muscle rubs, and outs was no different. The more granny-like the smell, the better. I picked up a jar of white Tiger Balm for my friend’s spouse (I didn’t even know there was whote Tiger Balm!), Tiger Balm liniment for my mom, and for me, a bottle of lavender scented White Flower, which my friends introduced me to.
And then it was back to the apartment to get ready to leave. My friends made it back just so they could say goodbye, and one of them even made sure I got to the bus stop after he found me on the street walking in the wrong direction. Pulblic transportation in Hong Kong is enviably efficient; it is possible to go almost anywhere on the island via bus, MRT, or ferry. Fares can be stored in and paid through the Octopus Card, which also works as a debit card in convenience stores like 7-11. It was just one bus ride from where we were to the airport. Since I got there fairly ealry, I had enough time for a last Hong Kong perfect meal before checking in.
Goodbye, Hong Kong! It was great to be back! Next time, I won’t wait so long before returning.