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« A walk with Jack | Main | Arrival! »
Friday
May182012

First morning in Hong Kong

The view from Joe's living room...looking down

Pleasantly energetic -- staying awake through most of the 24 hours of travel meant I slept hard last night and didn't wake up fully until about 7am. I'm not sure that's the typically recommended method of fighting jet lag, but my big brother takes care of me: he also stocked up on Sugar-Free Red Bull on my request. I normally steer clear of energy drinks, but this seems like a reasonable exception. And in case I woke up and wanted an early breakfast at home, Joe put away some bagels and lox. Not a bad sibling to have around.

We went to The Flying Pan for breakfast. You might roll your eyes and wonder why we got Western food, but that's one of the neat things about Hong Kong: it's a very international city. A former British colony (handed back to the Chinese in 1997), it still retains a lot of distinctly British quirks, but it's also overrun with Australians, mainland Chinese, Indians, and all varieties of other Asian cultures. The Flying Pan is a popular local diner with a few locations in HK that was started up by a couple of Australians, and features a full English breakfast. We went there on my birthday four years ago, when I was last in Hong Kong, so revisiting it was a cool way to kick off the trip.

Then, a morning of errands; after helping me change my money at his bank, Joe had to get a haircut so I wandered the surrounding blocks for 30 minutes. Joe lives in Central, a popular and bustling neighborhood on Hong Kong Island, just off the Mid-Levels escalator. Within a few blocks' radius, I learned where to optimize my Sol Wellness. Their answer: lose the "u."

After peering in a few storefronts boasting "mammoth ivory" goods (guffaw), I wandered into a little antiques store. An elegantly dressed, elderly white woman informed me she's been running the place for over 40 years. Her accent was American. She told me firmly that the tags stay the same and the prices never change; if something has one price on it and it never sells for 30 years, it will just sit there with the same price on it until someone pays. She also told me the wardrobe behind her was 50 years old. Her shop assistant, a Chinese man in his 60s, said it was from the 1930s, making it closer to 80 years old. The owner sat with a thoughtful look on her face. I wonder how long the thing's been sitting there.

The shop assistant, who was very friendly, showed me around the store, which was full of goods of questionable provenance on very dignified display. He said he'd been working in the store 26 years but had been in the antiques trade since the 1970s. He was born and lived his whole life in Hong Kong, but immediately after telling me this he said, "But don't ask me about it; I know nothing. Every day I learn something I did not know before."

With a little time left to kill, I left the shop and wandered down a side alley lined with produce, meat and fish stalls where housewives were busy haggling.

What is that?!This afternoon: Hong Kong International Art Fair!

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