Perhaps the most surprising thing that this first week has revealed to both of us is how quickly we can respond and adapt to such stunningly different scenery and circumstance. We landed in Hong Kong the morning of the 16th, wiped our bleary eyes, exited a cab, and were knocked out by the landscape in front of us. I have been knocked out repeatedly throughout these days, but I'm beginning to find some comfort and familiarity in Sham Shui Po.
I am getting used to, for example, waking up to the impolite din of a jackhammer from the construction site across the street every morning at 6 AM. I have resigned myself to having my hair just being slightly cold and damp all the time. The toilet shares precious square feet with the shower, there are spots of what looks like black mould between the tiles, and the hot water runs out after about five minutes. Coffee is either powdered with too much milk and sugar, or insanely expensive. I am always overly aware of the fact that if I forget my metro pass in the apartment, no magic fairy is going to soar up the six flights of stairs and fiddle endlessly with the locks and keys to retrieve the card from my room for me. But then the hallways are scented with musky incense, and when we emerge from the dark, cracked-tiled entrance we are immediately hit with this:
All the streets in the neighbourhood are like that, pastel-coloured buildings stacked against each other with wide awnings over narrow sidewalks. Every corner you turn, there's another uniquely delicious smell (I am hungry all the time here because of this!), and people flood around each other on the sidewalks at all hours. We've been eating custard buns almost every morning, with the exception of yesterday, when we decided to pop into a local cha-chaan-teng where I was able to muster up the courage to order, in my exceedingly flimsy Cantonese, two bowls of century egg-and-pork congee and two yao tew.
Jet lag has been kind to us - we wake up at 6:30 or 7, and work individually until noon or later, at which point we exit the apartment and just wander different areas and neighbourhoods across Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and beyond. The day before yesterday, we got lost in the crowds of Mong Kok, ending up in the Fa Yuen flower market as the sun was going down. Yesterday we took a ferry to the fishing village in Lamma Island, and hiked past the peacefully desolate beach, dewy gardens, soaking up stunning vistas of the mountains layered by fog.
It's strange to think about how much time we have here, which is indefinite. Hong Kong has the capacity for daily adventures and endlessly new experiences. But I supposed I'm also looking forward to the grind, of having a place to go every day, familiar people who I can talk easily with, and to be able to shrink into the folds of the city. But, I'm happy to say, it's only been a week! Who knows where we'll be later. With any luck, we'll be lounging on that beach in the hazy Hong Kong summer.
- I wrote a love letter/mini history of Montreal's casse-croûte culture over at Saveur magazine and it was published this week. Check it out here.