“Every inch of space was used. As the road narrowed, signs receded upwards and changed to the vertical. Businesses simply soared from ground level and hung out vaster, more fascinatingly illuminated shingles than competitors. We were still in a traffic tangle, but now the road curved. Shops crowded the pavements and became homelier. Vegetables, spices, grocery produce in boxes or hanging from shop lintels, meats adangle – as always, my ultimate ghastliness. And markets everywhere. To the right, cramped streets sloped down to the harbor. To the left, as we meandered along the tramlines through sudden dense markets of hawkers’ barrows, the streets turned abruptly into flights of steps careering upwards into a bluish mist of domestic smoke, clouds of washing on poles, and climbing. Hong Kong had the knack of building where others wouldn’t dare.”
~ Jonathan Gash
Hong Kong feels empty right now. So few people. Empty shops and restaurants. Quiet streets.
From my room on the 27th floor I watched an eagle swoop down and snatch a pigeon from a whirling flock. I saw children in neat school uniforms playing handball in their lunch break. Elderly people came out to sit on benches in the parks, warming themselves in the winter sun.
Meanwhile I sat at my desk and wrote, taking time to sip tea and look out my window when I needed a break.
We went for a walk yesterday afternoon, around the streets near my hotel.
I have seen few signs of Hong Kong’s ongoing troubles, apart from some spray-painted slogans that say FREE HONG KONG, and some boarded-up shop windows. And, of course, the emptiness where usually there is a crazy mix of traffic and crowds.
I notice the difference in the people, since I was last here two years ago. No-one makes eye contact. People hurry on their way. People seem stressed and on edge. Distrustful. Until you smile and talk to them – then the friendliness returns, and that deep-seated spirit of hospitality.
We stopped for tea, and soup noodles.
Then we walked some more.
At the markets I bought fruit and snacks.
Everyone was grateful for my purchases, and asked me to come again.
As the sun set all the neon lights came on – a riot of Christmas colour.
I love the heart of this place, and the rich heritage and mix of cultures. I hope Hong Kong finds a way forward that maintains her special character and that restores peace and optimism for the future.
Much love to you, Nicole xx