Everything moves fast in this town. You’ve heard of the New York Minute? Welcome to the Hong Kong Second. (Yes, that’s a thing; I didn’t make it up.)
When leaving your hotel lobby, you need to look both ways. That’s just to merge on to the sidewalk. It is a sea of moving humans and they are yielding to no one. These people are on a mission to get to their appointed destination. Many of them are pushing or pulling hardshell roller bags as though they are late for a plane.
What’s in the bags? We don’t know, but we’re guessing things they have picked up while shopping. Shopping malls are tucked into skyscrapers on nearly every block.
The streets are relatively clean. There is a dirth of litter compared to the U.S. And the malls — sporting all the famous designer brands — are spotless. Gleaming marble floors, brightly lit stores of every kind.
We’ve got no particular place to go today. We just want to take in and enjoy the Kowloon district of Hong Kong. But that doesn’t mean we don’t need to compete with the crowds to get anywhere.
We take the Metro subway a few blocks. Underground is another city in and of itself. Once again, the thing that stands out is how clean and well lighted it is. (By the way, you can’t peak around the corner to see the train lights up the subway tunnel. The tracks and subway platforms are separated by a wall of glass.)
After a short hop up the Red Line, we arrive at our stop. Smack dab in the middle of this organized chaos of a city we find Kowloon Park, where Banyan trees line the entrance to an urban sanctuary. The Hindus believe Krishna resides in the leaves of these botanical wonders, with their mythic-like dripping roots. The god of compassion could not have picked a better perennial wooded plant.
We ascend a flight of stairs, greeted by some Disneyesque characters that are part of a three-dimensional tribute to Asian cartoon artists, and we settle at a park bench. We decide this will be a good, quiet place to busk. So we set up and commence playing, only to be greeted by the noisiest birds in the East. Their chirping is no worse than the noisy chatter of patrons at an open mic coffee shop, where baristas yell out drinks over the din of the hissing of the espresso steamer.
And so we carry on, unfazed.
After playing a few tunes — to quizzical looks from other park goers — we pack up and take a stroll ourselves. This activity works up an appetite.
We merge back into the busy surface streets and end up (where else) but in another mall. According to the “You Are Here” map, there is a very good dumpling joint on the 3rd or 4th floor. We’re not sure of the exact floor, because the Hong Kong system for levels is very confusing. There are not only lobby levels, but upper lobby and lower lobby. And below the lower lobby there might be the ground. And below that can be the parking levels. Hard to know how high or low you are in this system.
Everything moves fast in this town, except the elevators, which, it should be noted, are manufactured by Otis or Schindler. Not only do they move at a comparative snail’s pace to the rest of this bustling city, but once the doors open, there is little to no space, especially for people carrying extra baggage like musical instruments.
We give up and hoof it up the stairs to finally find the restaurant and get seated.
A family next to us has a toddler in a high chair. The little guy is a husky fellow with a crew cut. He’s dressed in red, white and blue sneakers and the tiniest letterman jacket. He’s holding his mother’s rose-gold colored iPhone — it’s bigger than his head — and he’s clicking through a game that includes English nursery rhymes for the soundtrack.
Dad grabs a portion of his meal with his chopsticks and attempts to feed the boy while the little one is distracted. He gives the universal sign for “no” by shaking his head. The days of distracting kids to feed them with the “airplane game” are long gone. Doesn’t seem video games on phones are much more successful, though.
It’s feeling like rain so we skidaddle back to base camp, also known as our hotel. We ventured little and gained nothing on this day and we’ve got little to show for it, except the memories.
Legend has it that Krishna, in his childhood, reinforced the concept of lila, playing a game for enjoyment rather than to compete to win. Maybe Krishna is right.
Time for a nap.