Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Hong Kong Waterfront

I am not sure what to make of Hong Kong. There is something about all that glass and steel which is very appealing. But the Kowloon markets, alleys, narrow streets, dodgy goods, poor lighting, gazillion product types, and general hawker atmosphere that tugs even more firmly at my sensibilities than the western elements of this town. Perhaps in the end it is an amalgam of all these things that make Hong Kong unique.

Late last night I wandered the fish markets, comprised mainly of hawkers trying to offload eels from their wicker baskets. Maybe at the end of the day it is only eels that are left. It still has a flavour of the old Hong Kong about it, and that illusion can be maintained as long as you don't let your gaze lift too far from the baskets and shrivelled old ladies trying to sell you something live and jumpy - else you find yourself looking into the windows of five star hotels. A few short blocks away I met and chatted with a young man who was standing at a deserted wharf, not far from a cruise ship, with a small roll of line and attempting to snare the smallest of harbour fish. He was not doing it for a meal but for the recreation. (I thought, unkindly, he needed a trip to far north Queensland to get some trevally on his line). But we enjoyed a conversation usually shared by fishermen - bait., lines, hooks, family who don't understand. A universal language. I left him with nothing in his bucket but a hopeful look was on his face.

This afternoon I wandered in blistering heat along the waterfront and mixed with the nouveau rich, of which there were thousands, all walking with the disbelieving air of having made it from the mainland to Hong Kong. And were wondering what all the fuss was about. In the heat of the day the waterfront was a baking oven with the occasional jarring icon out on display. This evening it came alive with crowds, ice cream, coke and a carnival atmosphere. But only the Chinese seem to be able to create a carnival atmosphere while they all mill around and look at each other.
September 2004

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