“A Misread Asian Capital ”
By Anya Mohammed
“Once a year go someplace you’ve never been before” is a famous quote of Dalai Lama. I love traveling hence I strongly abide by this advice of his. Travelling revives my soul. If I don’t travel, I feel stranded in time and space. So every year, twice a year, I cross out places I visit on my list. This New Year’s, I took off a place on my list which is known as the financial hub of .the world. Doesn’t sound much like a vacation spot, does it? I thought so too – until I meticulously researched about it and was actually there – a special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China known to the world as, Hong Kong! When I shared with my friends where I was going, most fell silent and quietly questioned my choice of a holiday! However, to me it seemed like a totally different world – full of new experiences waiting to be unveiled by my adventurous nature. From the people to the cuisine, shopping to sightseeing, culture to an arena of wondrous skyscrapers and family fun to luxury spots, everything seemed perfect. I, however, will not get into descriptions of the tourist spots I visited. There are plenty of websites on the internet that discuss that and can act as your personalized travel guide. Where to go and things to do are better left to our best friend, Google! The treasures this land held, blew my mind and so I want to discuss the actual feeling of being in Hong Kong, nature of the people, touch of the diverse cultures and cuisines as well as the unusual clichés every culture has. Hong Kong for one is an underestimated region of China. It may be the monetary heart of the world, but it is also home to a diverse dome of cultural manifestations.
While I was flying to HK, I was edgy because I worried what if I didn’t fit in or what if I was mugged. What if… what if… My thoughts travelled at the speed of 30 what ifs a minute! But let me tell you this, I was WRONG! Hong Kong is a fusion of the East and the West. Preserving its Chinese traditions with a hint of western culture resulting from being a former British Colony, HK is welcoming to variety. Fitting in is not a problem. The Hong Kong Chinese love their tourists and try their best to accommodate to the different needs of different visitors. Let me share a small example here: Halal Food! I thought that finding Halal food in HK would be a challenge. However, to my surprise, there are quite a few Halal restaurants. Not only that, but if preparation of Halal food is requested, most restaurants will be happy to eliminate the items forbidden to Muslims. I love fish, but most of the seafood was incorporated with a cocktail sauce consisting of an alcoholic item, however, upon my request a special Muslim friendly sauce was prepared that sure pleased my taste buds. The Hong Kong Chinese were very understanding to my special dietary requirements anywhere I requested hence, that made the whole foodie experience much more enjoyable. Traditional Chinese cuisine is very rich. Not only does it mainly consist of seafood, but vegetables also occupy a huge part of the plate. When I walked down the Street food market, my nose tried to pick up all the different spices being used. Ginger, garlic, red chili powder, soy sauce, and coconut are just a few to name. The street food market was bustling with people standing in corners enjoying their roast goose or fish balls in a broth. Hygiene, though, was a bit questionable – then again, it’s street food!
Wandering the roads of HK, I had the chance to visit many Chinese medicinal doctors. Most of their concoctions were made from ancient Chinese wisdom using herbs or animals. To me it was exotic! Some of these unusual items that caught my attention were imperial bird’s nest, dried sea horses and snail extract. Imperial birds nest, sold starting at HK$5000 per pound, is one of the most expensive health and beauty product in the world. Consumed on an empty stomach, it is known to boost immunity and growth as well as provide relief from chronic illnesses. If applied on skin in the form of masks, it slows aging, brightens skins and provides a youthful glow. So yes, I did buy a few boxes of this mask!
Dried seahorses are consumed either as a broth or crushed in the form of capsules. These tiny sea tale creatures consist of immense health benefits. From curing Kidney ailments to providing longevity, seahorses are valued at the rate of gold. That must be one of the reasons why old aged Chinese are very active and smart intellectually as well as physically. Seahorses have a nauseating salty taste, definitely not friendly to my palette! These little guys are never going anywhere near my mouth again!
Snail extract creams and serums were everywhere in the markets. They are known to provide immense cosmetic benefits. Snail extract not only moisturizes the deepest layer of skin but shoots it with so much collagen that “one may actually forget to age, “the Chinese medicine practitioner said with so much surety, that in went a few boxes of the cream in my shopping basket!
The Hong Kong Chinese are very organized and stylish people. Their dressing is very contemporary and wraps up a fashionista look more than a comfortable one. My first day in HK, I wore a jeans, sweatshirt and sneakers. Boy oh Boy! Did I feel under dressed?! I went on a shopping spree and brought a whole new suitcase of clothes and accessories. Hong Kong is a shopper’s dream haven! I could not get enough of everything neither could I stop myself from going wild in a shopping spree. I found the best luxury stores and also took pleasure in walking through the meters long night markets.
Another thing I observed about people from HK is that the men were very good fathers. Nearly all the men I saw with kids seemed to KNOW what they were doing WITHOUT the mothers. I saw dads feeding, teaching and shopping for their kids independently. I even saw a dad successfully solving a Rubix cube with his 10-ish year old son! Now how many dads enjoy doing that?! I bet not many. This brings me to my other point of perception – Hong Kongers are intellectual beings! I don’t know if it is the result of their extremely nutritious diet rich in seafood, or their strong educational system. Not only are they smart and fast, they never look too old! Women didn’t have any fine aging lines or saggy under eyes. They didn’t need a walking cane neither did they need help carrying immensely heavy objects. That is what I call healthy!
Smart, aware, strong and civilized are just few of the qualities I could gather in this community during my 2 weeks stay. Hong Kong, a revolutionary culture, is definitely a place that won’t bore you. It truly stands for its name “fragrant harbor.”Not only is the culture rich and worth experiencing, sightseeing is a whole level of excitement! So the next time you are thinking of a vacation spot, do keep Hong Kong towards the top of the list. I assure you, you will have the time of your life in this eccentric Asian heaven!
My Personal Hong Kong Picture Gallery:
Times Square, Grand Piazza, 1881 Heritage, Hong Kong – a walk in snowman with “falling” snow on Christmas Eve
Times Square, Grand Piazza – the most luxurious shopping venue in Hong Kong
Disneyland Resort, Hong Kong
Searing skyline on Tak Fung Street, Hong Kong
Victoria Peak, Hong Kong – the highest mountain top deck to get a bird’s eye view
Ocean Park 12 minute cable care ride
Victoria Harbor connecting one island to another – view from the roof top of my hotel.
Imperial Bird’s Nest face mask pack – magic skin!
Snail Extract face cream and sleeping pack – no age, no rage!