Good morning from Hong Kong! It feels so good to be out of Thailand where, for one reason or another — mainly a lack of funds — I haven’t left for two long years; globetrotting writer *cough cough*.
I’m here on business, which makes me feel very busy and important whereas, in fact, I am merely disorganised and lucky. Either way, I am very happy to be here. Hong Kong is one of those cities I already knew I would fall in love with before I arrived; the neon lights, the incredible skyline, the packed streets and the hazy humidity which makes it so exotic.
It got me thinking about the things I really love to do when I’m on a holiday. Of course, there are some things every newbie must do. In Hong Kong, I suppose one of those things is to see the skyline from a boat at night. I can check that one off the list and, wow, it was beautiful.
But those kinds of things — seeing landmarks and ticking things off the tourist trail must-visits — are never my favourite things to do. The things that have made my soul soar again (which is the unbeatable feeling travelling gives me) are the tiny culture shock moments. It’s those moments I chase after. Even after three and a half years in Bangkok, everytime I see a fruit I have never seen before or attend a ceremony where I don’t understand anything, I buzz with renewed love for my adoptive city.
When I first moved to Dubai, I remember clearly the warm, spicy smell in the air and the beauty of the mosques were the first things that got me excited about being somewhere new and very different. In Phnom Penh, it was the colourful houses and the huge, brown muddy river and the fact I got picked up from the airport in a tuktuk. In Bangkok it was the palace and the way the temples twinkled in the dark as if they were lit up by fairy lights.
Here in Hong Kong, it’s the supermarkets which are full of odd Chinese snacks that are different to our odd Thai snacks. It’s the advertisements with huge Chinese characters that would take years to learn to understand. Even the claustrophobia of such a built-up city that’s been coated with a pollution haze since I landed makes me feel as though I’ve touched down in steamy foreign lands straight from an old movie.
I love the feeling of being a little bit lost and of not quite understanding how things work and not knowing what I’m doing. I love those first days when the bank notes and coins look beautiful and odd and when just walking a little bit down your hotel’s road — even when it’s not anywhere particularly exciting — is a huge adventure. I’m here working with people who live here and I can see the shimmer of the city has worn off for them a little, as it always does when you live somewhere. It’s impossible to look at a city through fresh new eyes every day.
Although I don’t think I’ll ever feel like I know Bangkok like I know my hometown, due to cultural and language differences, it has, of course, lost that non-stop thrill that I feel right now being in Bangkok. Even when I go to a new part of Thailand, I don’t get the same feeling. I’ve missed that.
I am still madly in love with Bangkok but, if it were my lover, I would be having an affair with Hong Kong right now. This is a seductive city and, despite a big lack of green spaces, I could see myself here.
If you know me well, you’d know I am relatively easily charmed into dreaming up lives I could lead if I lived in certain cities, though — I’ll tell anyone who’ll listen about my love for Kathmandu, Barcelona and, of course, Bangkok.
I can’t tell you whether or not my feet are itching yet because, I only landed 24 hours ago and, I think the real test comes when you touch back down on the runway of the city you live in. I remember the first time I landed in Dubai airport with a heavy heart wishing I was elsewhere was the day I knew I was going to move away. I doubt very much I’m at that point with Bangkok but, I think I need to bring the romance back into our relationship a bit. I think it’s doing me good to be involved with another city for a while.