2 April, pt 1: City Garden Hotel, North Point, Hong Kong
After that long flight, and some problems at our new hotel that first night, we weren’t feeling very optimistic about our stay as we got ready for bed. I think we were asleep by 9pm; as a result, I woke up at about 5 or 5:30 the next morning, 2 April: my birthday. I took the elevator from our 15th floor room, down to the massive lobby, and out the front door into the warm, moist morning air. I wanted a cigarette, so I walked next door to the 7-11. Hong Kong has 7-11’s and Circle K’s everywhere. There’s no shortage of them, though I quickly found that cigarettes cost more here. I bought a pack of Winstons (sorry, no American Spirits here), some water, and walked back to the front of the hotel to smoke and take in early morning on the other side of the world. The air smelled different here. It wasn’t bad; it was warm, there was the hint of garbage, but above all of that it smelled – floral. Across the street was a square, filled with trees, bushes, a fountain, walking paths, and a children’s playground. Around the entire square in a half-square formation were six 25-story apartment buildings, filled with residents of Hong Kong, still sleeping or just getting up, getting ready for work, a warm morning fog partially obscuring the highest floors. Hardly anyone was out on the street, but nearly every car that was parked along the streets were high-end cars or Mini-Coopers. I saw a Ferrari, Mercedes, BMW, Porsche, and a Fiat. Only the public or city vehicles were Japanese or Korean (Toyota, Hyundai, Mazda, etc.). I was what I heard first, however, that caught my attention the most.
Before I came here, I had of course told my boss what we were going to be doing. He had been to Thailand once, and was struck by how different the BIRDS sound there, and suggested to me that I pay attention to that. I kind of thought he was overplaying this particular characteristic of an exotic Asian country…until I quieted my mind, looked across the street into that square and listened to the early morning calls of the birds in trees there, filling the air with a sweet, foreign sound. It was a beautiful isolation. Sure, there were a few people walking down the sidewalks as the night sky slowly filled with the morning light, but in that moment, I felt completely and exquisitely alone; it was just me and that symphony of birds, and I understood what my boss was talking about. It was a private moment, filled with contentment and bliss. It was only a moment, but it was all mine. Thus began my man-crush on Hong Kong, that over the next week would become love.
-For images of our trip, please visit my wife’s Facebook page: Mischa Elaine Johnston