Our first shock upon arrival wasn’t so much culture as temperature related. It’s cool, bright and breezy in Hong Kong in December. Locals wander about in jumpers, tights and even coats and so, after the first day goosebumpy day, do the tourists. When it is cold in England, it is much colder, but at least we know when we get inside it is going to be warm. But here, in this city of massive and rampant consumption, the air con reigns supreme; in the ubiquitous malls, the amazingly wonderful MRT (underground), buses, cafes, museums and ferries.
Perhaps this is because most of the year Hong Kongers are made damp and wilty by the heat and humidity and when the weather turns itself down a notch, people are so relieved they just want to stay the same delicious chilly temperature all day long. Not to mention this gives them ample opportunity to show off their Chanel jacket or Gucci knee highs.
Sitting in the hotel restaurant wearing trousers, socks, vest, t-shirt, jumper and summer scarf sure does put a girl off her boiled egg, water melon, toasted bagel and watery tea though.
Because of the air con and mall affect, the Norwegian and I much preferred to stay outside in parks, on beaches and walking along foot paths. We wanted to be cold without adding to our carbon footprint, we wanted to be cold as nature intended.
Hong Kong has a number of rather nice parks, and a few terrible ones – pink concrete is not a good look. But whichever park we ambled through we found local people practising Tai Chi. Some in small circles, some on their own and most in synchronised rows. People of all ages, shapes and sizes, including little girls in trainers with flashing red and green LEDs and middle-aged, full figured matrons wearing anoraks and bum bags (or fanny packs if you please).
One day we saw a group practising with long silvery swords. Elegant and composed they cut the air with graceful, slow sweeps and thrusts. Another tourist couple stopped, German perhaps, and were talking pictures, as were we. A passing Chinese guy looked and laughed,
‘Join in! Join in! Why not?’
The tourist pair laughed, taking a few shuffling steps backwards lowering their cameras. ‘Ah but we don’t have swords,’ said one, relieved.
‘But you do, you do. In here,’ said the guy pointing to his heart.
‘Maybe when we are in Australia, I’ll take up a martial art,’ the Norwegian says.
What an insanely busy place. I think you need the martial arts just to be able to move down the streets at a decent pace. Think Zeta-Jones in Entrapment, but in stead of the lasers there were Indians offering you tailor-made suits and rolexes, Buddhists blessing you and collecting coins, locals strutting their designer wear (every other shop is a Givenchy, Hermes, Louis Vuitton etc) and tourists gawping (mixture of gaping and gawking) at everything (us).