The second I got off the plane in Hong Kong, I was so happy. It was cold! I’ve never been so happy to have to put a jacket on.
I took a city flyer bus from the airport to the hostel. It was met with another very happy moment when I ordered the ticket in Chinese and the lady accepted it and didn’t look at me confused or differently. She barely acknowledged me at all and I couldn’t have been happier.
After I got to the hotel, I walked around the street and I feel like I feel like I’m in love. It’s lively, bustling, with big double decker buses rolling on by (on the left side) and young people line up for dessert carts and makeup stores. Businesses men stroll on in their suits looking fancy. Everything is clean and organized and people queue neatly on the spacious sidewalks.
The next morning, I just wanted to walk around and see what was out there. I walked to the dock and took some pictures but mostly took in the smell of water and cool breeze. I had to break out my sweater and turtleneck this morning.
I realize that I don’t just love the city, but I love the fact that I’m surrounded by Chinese people. I read this article by NPR and I knew to a certain extent it was true. There is this pressure and hyper-visibility as an Asian American women in the US and particularly in Colorado. I get stared at all the time and whether negative or positive, there’s inherently a racial aspect to it. I get stopped by old white men who ask me where I’m from or what kind of Asian I am and it’s just tiring.
But here, I feel like I’m simple. I feel like just another person on the street. Not an Asian person, not a Chinese girl, just a person. I know I’m still different, I’m still Western and American, but I get to at least experience being simple here. And people don’t stare at me, they don’t so much as glance at me! It’s a pressure that I didn’t realize I had until I came here.
I got emotional when I saw a bus of school kids with a teacher in front of me because it was normal. Nobody else was staring at them because they were the Chinese kids, they were just loud rowdy kids.
The older ladies smile at me here and one called me darling. Older ladies in particular stop me and ask me questions or directions.
I love seeing so many different Chinese people. I see people who are very tall and short, with big eyes and small eyes. I see people with white, brown, black, grey, and sometimes even red hair. Lots of curly hair, textured hair, frizzy, thin, thick, long, short, nonexistent hair. There’s people who have Western features and people who have more Eastern features. Girls have pale skin or relatively dark skin, wrinkled or smooth, cool toned or warm toned. There’s different body types, very slim and thin, stockier, muscular. There’s so many different styles of clothes with people wearing trench coats, puffer jacket, athletic wear, tall boots, tennis shoes, dress shoes, runway looks.
It’s all a relief because there is no one way to look and be Chinese. I myself just had that realization landing here.
I realize I always feel judged in the US for a nose that’s not Chinese, eyes that are Western, a mouth that is Chinese, skin that is yellow, hair that’s too thin to be Asian. I’m too tall or not slender enough. One of my hair stylists told me I should be glad my hair was like American girls’ hair (not thick and straight like Asian hair). I had friends in high school have an enthusiastic discussion that if I dyed my hair blonde, I’d look like a white girl. I just had travelers back in Vietnam discuss the ways in which I didn’t look Chinese. And I try not to take them seriously, but if I’m not Chinese enough to be Chinese and I’ll never be white, I do question what that leaves me with?
It’s just reassuring to be around all these diverse Chinese people because I’m just another person in the crowd.
I know my thoughts on this will change. I open my mouth and I’m not Chinese anymore, I’m just another American. But at least for a bit I get to be simple.
I had ramen at this place tucked away in an alley. But it was not like street food, it was one of those kinda hipster places. It was delicious, my first time eating real ramen.
They had a squid flavored one that looked wicked cool because it was all black but I went with the hot and spicy flavor to keep it safe my first time around. If I go back, I’ll try the squid one.
Ferrero Rocher is everywhere here. Understandably though because it’s delicious. Also because it’s the new year, there’s tons of candy and gifty things like those Valentine’s Day shelves in the US.
Before my ramen, I had coffee at this hipstery coffee shop. It was an americano which reminded me that I don’t normally like coffee.
Here’s some more food. A red bean pancake which is just two pancakes with red bean paste in the center. Alright, just tasted like typical convenience store food.
I initially went to this street food bakery and I had heard good things about it but it was just a stall crowded with locals. There was no English menu or anything and there was clearly some kind of method to ordering that I knew I would screw up if I inserted myself in there.
So I just watched and admired the everyone yelling and dancing around each other. Even though I wanted to try that bakery, I knew that I would make everything come to a halt because of my lack of Cantonese. I knew that they would be disgruntled because it’s such a rapid process. And I knew that if I did try to insert myself just to get one small pastry, it’d be selfish and I’d be the rude one. Besides, it was pretty fascinating just to watch it all go down.
Anyway so I turned the corner and stopped at a Chinese bakery where you just put everything on a tray.
Flaky crust egg tart. Soo good. I don’t think I’ve ever had an egg tart besides at the Chinese buffet and this is incomparable.
This sausage cheese bun. Alright. It had the sweet cheese that the veggie roll in Vietnam had and I just don’t care for the cheese.
A really nice croissant in a park which was in between all these apartments right in the center of Soho and it was so nice and quiet.
I met this English teacher from England and it was such a strange conversation. I’ve heard stories online from jaded expats who hate China and stuff but this is the first conversation in person that has really confirmed that. Like two minutes in, this person said they hated all Chinese people. I asked if they meant mainland Chinese people because they have a reputation for being a bit more rude. They said no, Hong Kongers and even the Chinese back in the UK.
He didn’t really have a reason for choosing to teach in HK besides the pay. He didn’t like the food and got pissed when this lady at an Adidas counter couldn’t speak English.
I think it’s just strange to come to a country you hate, are not interested in really trying out much of the culture, and get mad that they can’t speak English when you aren’t trying to speak Cantonese.
In Vietnam, I got a little taste of these sentiments. One traveler said “if China is the future, it sucks” and I’ve heard white expats online saying how they are counting down the days until they can leave.
Obviously my perspective is a lot different and I’m probably just hearing the loudest of the bunch but I honestly don’t get it. I get a little annoyed that people walk slow here but nobody has been blatantly rude, the server’s and customer service people all just do their job, it really doesn’t seem as bad as everyone online makes it out to be.
I’m probably getting a different perspective because I’m Asian though and maybe I would feel differently if I was a white tourist.
I went to Nan Lian Garden which is this large garden tucked away in the north part of the city. It was really beautiful and cool to see a contrast from the garden and the surrounding mountains and buildings.
I went to their zoo/Botanical garden and it was pleasant. Pretty small for a zoo, they only had birds and monkeys. I thought it was funny that they had a raccoon.
I also got some dim sum at Tim Ho Wan. It’s famous for being cheap Michelin star dim sum. It was good! I don’t have a picture of the food but we had chicken feet, rice with sausage, this chicken wrap thing, a BBQ pork bun, steamed cabbage, and this cheese/chicken/pepper thing. All good but the pork bun was soooo good. Here’s the queue for it.
I went to this tiny Filipino restaurant and got BBQ pork white rice and an egg. Simple but good. The owner was really nice.
Then got dessert at Kai Kai. It had some plaque about Michelin star but I don’t know if it was awarded with one or just mentioned. Anyway I had the sweet potato ginger soup with black sesame balls. The black sesame balls were incredible, the rest of it was not my kind of food.
They didn’t have an English menu, just a Cantonese board and so I just had to point at the person’s dish next to me and say “那个” (that one) and they got it.
My roommate and I had a cute conversation. She is a local, works here. She knows a little bit of English and is so talkative and enthusiastic! So the language barrier doesn’t stop her from talking to me. She just will say things in her dictionary app and show them to me and I get the picture.
She showed me what she bought (green tea and a facial roller thing), she asked about me and where I’m going, and then showed me pictures and videos of her baby. She’s seeing her baby today and she literally showed me every video in her phone. Her baby is super cute though. She offered to have me meet her baby next week and to show me around to this language exchange group in HK but I’ll be out of HK by the time both of those things would happen.
That’s what I’ve been up to lately. I have a lot more food that I will hopefully be eating and I think I’ll try to hike around some of their mountains.