“It must be the fifteen hour flight…” I tell myself as I stare at nothing.
I’m blinded by the white light and the weight of my luggage…
Some time around 7pm, I walk through customs unscathed, bloated and disoriented. Not too long ago I was standing still inside a shuttle bus surrounded by Japanese transfers and Canton dialects all crammed together like fish in a net. Together, we shuffle through one tight space unto another before we huddled even more closely along the escalator up.
Anyways, I’m free now and I’m outside the threshold looking out for a familiar face…haha, a familiar face in Hong Kong, yes a family friend who I barely remember. When was the last time I’ve seen Eddie Li?
What does he even look like?
“Remember, he’s bald, and kind of tall…might be your height even.”
Adjacent to me on the other side of the gate, a tall balding Asian wearing pink looking pajamas calls out, “Raquel! It’s Eddie!” He waves his arms over his head and calls out again, smiling.
I return the gesture, “Hai!” I call out. Rushing to the other side, I am greeted with a great hug and the assurance of good hospitality. I like this immediate satisfaction business.
It’s by reputation that Eddie will always provide you with the best food you’ll ever try, but also the most strange and bizarre food you’ll ever see. You never ask him where he’s going to take you. All you can guess is that its going to be great. Can’t wait!
“So are you hungry?” he asks as we enter his Mercedez.
I sit on the left hand side and he drives on the right. I buckle my seat and say, “yes! What are we eating tonight?”
He smiles and says, “let me call Viola”
Its dark now and though I cannot really get a good impression of the city with the smog and night lights, I do, however, get a pleasant gut feeling as we soar through the highway. As if we were caught up in some kind of motorcycle chase scene in the Matrix, the winding roads create are exaggerated in my mind’s eye and I am caught up in the heat of the fast paced grunge city scape.
High rise-apartment after high rise apartment, Eddie briefly explains the status of high density living:
“Hong Kong is geographically small. Land is limited and it is an expensive place to live. No one really owns anything because it is so pricey. Everything has to be built on top of each other because there is not enough room. Very vertical, yes, we live in a vertical world…now, here we are, dinner at Mong Kok. Do you know what that means?”
“It means old city. We are in Kowloon right now, the other side of the harbor is actually Hong Kong. We’re going to eat at the Hotel.”
I catch the name outside and make a mental note: Langham.
Remember, this is Eddie we’re talking about. He’s a family friend from Hong Kong and he drives a Mercedez. He’s wearing these pink looking pajamas, but he looks pretty damn good for a 50–60-ish year old man…he takes me into a high end looking restaurant that definitely doesn’t fit my normal budget, but that’s okay, I know I’m in good hands!
“As your first night here in Hong Kong, I want to introduce you to traditional Cantonese cuisine.”
Right now, everything is moving so terribly fast. I went from Miami to New York to Hong Kong airport to Eddie in a car to a 5-star hotel that hovers over the night markets and hustle-bustling life down below. My head is in a whirlwind of light, color, smell and disorientation. I’m eating things that I have never seen before and they are all delicious: lotus root, crispy-fried giant shrimp (you eat the head, eyes, everything, like a crispy nugget), green veggies, mushrooms of varied textures and types, so on and so forth.
For dessert, I was offered a cold mango flavored soup. Absolutely delicious. The taste will probably never go away.
11pm-ish: Sleep Sleep
Eddie drops me off at the YWCA Hotel. For two weeks, that is where us UF students will stay…I’m too tired to acknowledge the sweet set up. I just want to sleep… everything is moving fast and I doubt things are ever going to slow down.
In my head lights flash:
Welcome to Hong Kong.
“Rocky, you’re not in Kansas anymore….”