Wednesday, December 27, 2006

First Day in HongKong

I checked into the hotel last night around midnight. As I got onto bus A11 from the airport, I felt like I was in Miami with the humid air, busy ports and bridges. Occasionally I hear people speak loudly in Cantonese on their cell phone. I understand none of it; they might as well speak Spanish. The funny thing is that I’ve been here for half-a-day now and I haven’t spoken a single word of Chinese. Maybe it is better that way, they don’t like Chinese from the mainland here.

The first thing I did after checking in was turning on my computer and sadly, I couldn’t find a wireless net work that worked more than 2 seconds at a time. Then I gave up and took a shower. After more than 20 hours on the airplane I was tired and hungry. I had two meals and a ham and cheese sandwich on the flight to Tokyo but I pretty much passed out on the way to Hong Kong and didn’t have the third meal on that flight. Besides, I think if I had any more airplane food I would literally be sick to my stomach.

So now we are onto priority #2: food! The hotel room is tiny; I have barely enough space on the floor to lay out my luggage. However, the good thing is that it’s located in Causeway Bay, the central part of Hong Kong Island. There are Starbucks and fashion stores right down the stairs and a 24-hour grocery chain called Wellcome (yes, that’s spelled with two l-s) across the street from me. Hong Kong is known for their noodles and roasted geese. It’s already well pass midnight but the noodles shops are still open and crowded inside. I decided to get a bowl of yellow noodles with beef broth, mushrooms and fried tofu. I had a hard time to read the menu in “un-simplified” Chinese so I reserved to the point-and-nod method of communication. It came to about 4 US dollars and the shop owner threw in a small container of hot oil in my takeout bag. I was happy. Then I made my first major mistake since I left Rochester (and I don’t mean the wrong turn I took on my way back to the hotel, and no, I haven’t gotten mugged yet, there are tons of people on the street after midnight, even long lines at the bus stop, don’t they have to sleep and go to work the next day???).

So what was the mistake? Arrogance. When I finally got back to my room, I took out the rather tiny and pitiful looking “hot sauce” (which smelled like sesame oil) and thought what the hell is this thing, don’t they have real hot sauce here? Of course I dumped the whole thing in and even used the tofu as a little sponge to soak up whatever was left in the container…and then…WOW!!! My mouth was on FIRE! Man, this is Hong Kong, not Sichuan or Hunan where they’re known for their killer spicy food! I was totally not expecting this! I have been too use to the mild crap we get in the US. So for the hour that followed I was completely in tears and had to blow my nose between every other bite and drink peach-flavored milk I got from Wellcome to cool down (it was the only cold drink I had) and the whole time I thought thank god I took the stuff back to my room, I would have been pretty embarrassed if this had happened at the restaurant. I’m the queen of spicy food! I can’t be defeated! I had to eat the whole damn thing just to prove a point. And that’s how I fell in love with this place. So here is a word of advice: if you ever travel to Hong Kong or any part of Asia, taste the “hot sauce” before you put it into your food!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Going Home

As I boarded the plane to Detroit, I smelled Indian food, immediately I thought: oh god, I have finally spent way too much time eating at the Thali of India. I quickly sniffed my sweater but I can only detect a faint scent of my perfume mixed with Misha’s cigarette. Then I saw there was an Indian family sitting in front of me, I felt a sense of relief and disappointment all at once. I sure hope I won’t be sitting behind the curry roll on my 13-hour long flight to Tokyo!

Few hours into my trip already and it still hasn’t clicked in my head that I’m going to China. This trips reminded me of the time when I first came to the States by myself more than 10 years ago. Back then I knew Chinese but didn’t speak English; now I learned English and have forgotten how to read or write Chinese. Hong Kong is not home, neither is ChangSha. I want to feel like returning home after a long journey, but now it seems more like a comfy bed is all I really care for.