Ever since I was a young boy, I have dreamed of going to Hong Kong to see everything the city has to offer. I will never forget the first time I opened up an atlas in elementary school and began to peruse through the interesting and obscure pages of the book. My love of maps started early on as a child when I had a United States placemat at home and quickly translated into my love atlases (and three consecutive school Geography Bee championships).
I will never forget the first time I stumbled across this far off British city located in the heart of China. Its name was Hong Kong. From the first second I saw (U.K.) next to this city, I was instantly intrigued and wanted to find more about why a British city was in the middle of China, how long it had been there, and what its purpose was. As fate would have it, the city was not British much longer after I made my discovery, but my desire to travel there was set in stone from that very moment. Would they speak English? Where would people drive? What kind of food do they eat in Hong Kong? — All common questions that came to mind for me.
I even wanted to know if the wall-sized photo from the Port of Hong Kong that hung at the local China Buffett was real or not!
This nascent interest came to a head for me during one of my final semesters in college when I wrote one of my Honors papers on the positive impact of British rule and British Common Law in Hong Kong. The fascinating reading about how Hong Kong came under British control, the conflicts surrounding Hong Kong, etc. all intrigued me, but one factor stuck out the most: Hong Kong was capitalist while China was (and still is) a Communist nation. Twenty some pages later, I thought I had all of my questions answered, but I knew the only way to truly understand it would be to see it in person. From where I typed that paper in North PHiladelphia, I knew I would not be roaming the streets of Hong Kong anytime soon, let alone within 18 months of when that paper was submitted.
The title of this post is “The Elusive Hong Kong,” There is a very good reason why I chose this title as opposed to others that could fit Hong Kong or the purpose of what my trip in a more apt way. In 2011, I was living in Tokyo as a study abroad student at an American university and I was truly enjoying my time on the bustling streets of the world’s largest city. Everything from making new friends to studying a new language, and exploring Japan made life amazing. I aw just getting in to the hang of things after about two months a t my university when the horrific Great Tohoku Earthquake struck Japan on Friday, March 11, 2011.
Immediately following news of the earthquake, tsunami, and radiation leaks in Japan, my family and I, the US Embassy, and other outlets were concerned about how some American students in Tokyo were going to get home. FOllowing several sleepless and tense nights, my parents and I determined that I would come home on March 15th, a mere four days after the earthquake. Fortunately everything worked out fine for my return home, but something peculiar happened which was quite a surprise to me: following a day-long hibernation back on the East Coast I logged into Facebook only to find that many of my friends were checking into various places in Hong Kong. As a matter of fact, all of these people were at my university when I decided to leave.
It instantly hit me that the US State Department ordered the kids home and my university helped work out some sort of flight back to the Untied States that involved a layover in Hong Kong. Sure, I was happy to be home, but I was so disappointed that I missed out on the chance to explore Hong Kong with some of my newest friends. I never thought I would get the opportunity to come back to Asia, let alone Hong Kong.
Things have changed quite a bit and now I live in Asia and will be traveling to Hong Kong on Friday. I am so excited for this experience and cannot wait to see if my preconceptions about Hong Kong, the things I have learned from my research, and other suppositions about (what one of my friends called one of the world’s “Three Great Cities”) Hong Kong will be true or false. Will the food be amazing? Will people readily speak English on the streets? How beautiful will Victoria Peak be at night? Those questions, and others like them, are all on my mind as I finish up this post.
Lest I forget Macau. Similar questions about this Portuguese outpost are swirling through my head. I will be going there on Saturday.
Maybe I play the British Grenadiers March and the Royal Hong Kong Police Force Anthem before I depart to set the mood for this whole trip.
I cannot wait to go to the elusive Hong Kong and check this city off my bucket list.