Ever feel like you’re writing your own eulogy? Like the events you’re describing would make a hilarious anecdote to be told over a glass of very good value Prosecco in the charming back room of some restaurant full of friends and family all wearing floral ‘celebration’ colours? Here’s a good one for my personal anecdote collection – how about the time I went to the front desk of a hotel and asked the evening staff if they had ever felt the earth move. I meant actually move, as in the room swaying, door moving in time with the room, all that. ‘No madam,’ they said, ‘would you like us to come up to the room and see if it’s still going on?’
No one laughed at the time – and the time was last Saturday night, just before we left the hotel to find food in the middle of Hong Kong’s built-up, vertiginous, jam-packed Central district. I wasn’t trying to be funny. A note on the coffee table warned us of heavy construction work in the street alongside us. A Twitter sweep for ‘Hong Kong earthquake’ found evidence of one just off the coast of Japan at roughly the same time – but that was too far away from us and no one was panicking, so we left the receptionists looking pale, and went out for dinner (following a slightly embarrassed Mr PC into the lift) and later that night – back up on the 21st floor of our tall stick of a hotel – I knocked back a swig of SM’s cough mixture to make sure I slept through whatever might manifest during the night. Nothing, happily.
A friend described Hong Kong as ‘Asian New York’, and it was. Battered cabs, narrow streets, stop signs, tram lines, signs promising: ‘Jewellery’, ‘Massage’, ‘Dim Sum’, hot rain and clouds on the mountains and fruit stalls everywhere, pencil thin alleys with tiny cats chasing tiny balls of wool, small handbag dogs, chicken’s feet and durian and construction, construction, construction – enough to put hammered-down Singapore to shame. At night out come the lights and then it’s the same but lit up, wet streets flashing more neon ideas for how to spend your time: Lady Toys! Picture Framer! Meat!
Maybe not New York, maybe Blade Runner, with a constant tinny wailing thrumming from invisible speakers everywhere. If Singapore is Asia Lite, Hong Kong is a step up for us expats who want to sample a taste of the Orient but with handy social subtitles. With Hong Kong you get a bigger slap of flavour and a smack of real-life that I’ve not explored in smooth Sing (through my own fault, hands up). ‘It’s got London pavements,’ observed Mr PC – meaning dirty, wobbly, uneven, hilly, tilted slabs with rivers of black grime running alongside in the rain and gutters full of the debris from the shops belonging to all those signs. The pavements were nostalgic to me, they felt comfy, and I liked our three-day spin around the town, but my leg muscles notsomuch.
The hotel actually was moving on Saturday night, I’m sure of it, but it might have been down to its skinny structure – everything in HK is tall, tall tall. In Singapore hills are a thing of the past, the city being mainly made up of slight inclines with a majestic ‘bukit’ here and there. I could revisit HK for the ambiance – I really, really liked it a lot – but I’d need therapy to get over my vertigo first. A weekend in the Pearl Of The Orient has set me back several months in terms of the fear of heights that I had been happily getting under control: I couldn’t get on an escalator in a shopping mall today, whereas last week I might have managed it. Heights are a huge factor of Hong Kong that no one tells you about, it is a town built on a series of mountain sides with steps for streets and buildings lined up like one of those domino-topple challenges. So if you’re a bit phobic you might want to steer clear of:
• The no 6 bus to Stanley: stick to the lower deck, don’t look, and hold on tight.
• Funicular up the Peak: up and down, eek! Don’t look.
• Scenic walk around Peak: hug the left hand hedges and don’t look.
• Top part of the Escalator: gradual inclines give way to sharp dramatic drops: don’t look.
• Escalator between floors 2 and 3 of Hong Kong’s Heritage Museum: take the lift.
I loved it, though, and I’ll be back again with some valium, a list of all the things we didn’t do, and a super-strong pair of shades to block the drop.
EDIT: Here’s another hilarious anecdote. How about the time I left my portion of a school trip on Level 4 of the Cloud Dome because it was too high up? Left them in a measured, calm fashion, yes; and they’re Y5s so not tiny; and they seemed OK with that, but – well – left them, yes. Today, in fact. No one laughed then, either.