“Welcome to Hong Kong” is what the taxi driver said to us as we emerged confused and fundamentally exhausted after a 15 hour flight from Toronto. The first thing we noticed is that there is no end to the airport, I think it must be the most enormous building that has ever been built.
We manage to locate the taxi stand after I had a moment believing we would never ever get out of the building and would be there for our entire trip. My husband says something about Hong Kong being like New York and the driver emphatically says:
“No,no no, not America here., THIS is Hong Kong”, he smiled proudly, and looked at us with a twinkle that belied that he knew something that we didn’t – yet.
Hong Kong airport is the biggest single building complex we have ever seen. Inside it has street names (in Chinese) to let you know how lost you are. Taxis are different colours – red if you want to go into Hong Kong or Kowloon, the island situated across from HK Island, where we are – and for something else. I didn’t quite understand the thick accented but kindly willing young man who tried to explain the “system” to us. I don’t do well with “systems” I suppose.
The half hour drive to our hotel was well timed – just in time to catch a most spectacularly awakening Hong Kong with a bright red sun breaking over huge misty crested mountains. The mountain ahead of us looks very mysterious, all clouded in morning mist topped by a stunning silhouetted monastery. I feel my heart beat faster at the thought of all of the temples and beautiful Buddhas I will visit here. It is my ultimate hope to spend a day at a monastery in quiet meditation – not exactly a rockin’ time, but it’s what i need right now.
We are staying at the same hotel I came to the year it opened – many millenia ago with my dad who joined us on a school trip to china. The year i came they had just opened the hotel – around 1983. This was the first year that China had begun to allow tourists. We spent a week in Hong Kong, at this very hotel. Ironically, this year (2015) they have just fully renovated it because “everything had gotten a little old” – like me I guess. But, if I do say so myself, we are both holding up just fine. It’s still beautiful, I loved it then and now because it had a piano player in an atrium and balconies that overlooked an interior garden.
I don’t remember the place much – my brain has been through almost 35 years of living since then. But I am ready for the new memories. The ones that we will make this time, with our “older bodies” and our more understanding minds. I dont think I understand the power of China when I was so young; but oh now I do, and I will not waste a minute.
We got to the hotel so early (6 am) no one had checked out yet, so there wasn’t a room available for us. Which was actually a good thing, since we were able to relax over a delicious breakfast in the hotel, and I have the time to write this 🙂
I got restless so I left my husband and his co-worker at breakfast to take a walk on the quiet still awakening streets – even before even the old man who delivers the news papers had come. I looked at the shop windows – all around us are medicine shops and healing tea houses. One medicine shop had a bunch of skins hanging in in the store front, all delicately arranged around a giant worm statues.I am still hot on my pursuit of becoming a non-smoker. each day i slip once or twice – mostly from boredom or sometimes because it feels like the only “normal” thing i have in my life. I noticed one of the medicine stores claim to cure smokers of this terrible addiction. I figure I’ll either come home a non-smoker – or bald.
Each shop has a small alter for burning incense, bringing good fortune and luck for the day for each merchant. I am loving how easily this complicated culture can so easily mix business and spiritual belief.
Its a weird place for me though – as a person who practices Tibetan Buddhism and loves the teachings of the Dalai Lama – China is a two edged sword. So, my own little attempt at “bringing compassion” to this place that has caused such damage to its Buddhist brothers and sisters in Nepal and Tibet I did an open meditation on the busy road of incoming morning traffic sitting under a tree on the sidewalk quietly breathing peace into this space – just like H.H. would have wanted to do himself. .
And so – it begins.