April 8th: Eating Locally, Hong Kong Style (Part 2)

Times Square

Times Square

Hong Kong offers those tourists not willing to go the extra mile a glimpse into Chinese life. But to suggest to the locals that they are identical in behaviour or culture to their mainland neighbours is akin to calling a Scouser a Manc (OK, not quite that bad). The Hongkongese speak Cantonese, not Mandarin; they rarely spit in the streets; they do not incessantly beep their horns. They’re fiercely protective of life as they’ve become accustomed; reluctant to change and suspicious of any attempts to get them to do so. It is a very different experience to mainland China, but does that make it in any way better? I’ll leave that one alone…

Adam, Heather, Bron and Me overlooking the Kowloon skyline

Adam, Heather, Bron and Me overlooking the Kowloon skyline

Our arrival into Hong Kong was less than ideal – a delayed flight resulting in a 1.30am Saturday arrival. Since we’d arrived from Shanghai, home of H7N9, the passengers were greeted by a man aiming a temperature gun at their foreheads. Never mind immigration, I’m convinced a reading above 37c would have resulted in refused permission to proceed beyond the exit of the contraption* leading from the plane to the airport gate. Hong Kong airport has a convenient train to take passengers from remote gates to immigration; this train stops running at 12.30am. So we arrived at the hotel around 3am, tired, grumpy and a little disturbed at the vision of the future Hong Kong offers – where surgical face masks are commonplace and social interaction via facial expressions is limited to interpretation of eye movements and intense study of dancing eyebrows. There’s a joke in there somewhere: a man and a woman both wears surgical masks go on a date…

I would like to know what happens when mask wearers are eating? Or do they never eat in public?

Me, Bron, Danny and Carmen... Happy despite the very dull Liverpool game.

Me, Bron, Danny and Carmen… Happy despite the very dull Liverpool game.

Ours was a somewhat enforced trip, but we took advantage of the opportunity to say goodbye to Heather & Adam and Carmen & Danny. Heather taking us to experience some fine barbecued Hong Kong food on Saturday night followed by a traditional Sunday dim sum; Carmen taking us back to the first restaurant we ever visited in Hong Kong. Very fitting as a first and probably last dinner in Hong Kong.

*I’m sure it has a technical term. “Contraption” probably isn’t it.

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January 20th: The Hong Kong Musical Family

I’m going to try and write this without it sounding like a tribute to Abba’s “Thankyou for the music”, although of course please feel free to hum along as you read.

The Bride and Groom

The Bride and Groom

In the past, I’ve been to weddings where the bride, groom, or perhaps one of the guests has performed a song, but nothing quite like this before.  Over the weekend, Bron and I have been in Hong Kong to attend the wedding of Heather and Adam.  A wedding where it felt like half the guests contributed to the entertainment by singing or playing instruments. And this wasn’t karaoke style amateur singing – all performers had perfect voices, perfect harmonies and sang without ever straying into vocal gymnastic territory  ( (c) Mark Radcliffe I think). Guitarists playing so effortlessly that it took us a while to realise one of players was quite happily still sat at his dining table, avoiding the attention of the stage.

My personal highlight – “Uncle Danny”, with his five-song-in-one tribute to the newly married couple.  A man so talented he can hum a trumpet impersonation  whilst playing the guitar, and reappear later on on the keyboards.  And the drums.

With the groom sporting a bright yellow Mohican-style hairdo and the bride opting for blue hair, this was never going to be a traditional wedding.  Ending the night in a bright-red rockabilly-style dress (her third outfit of the night), Heather looked fantastic.

Heather, Me and Bron after the do

Heather, Me and Bron after the do

I have never been to a wedding quite like it.  And although some of the music isn’t what I’d choose to listen to at home, it was sang and performed with such passion that even I managed to temporarily discard my musical shackles and enjoy it.  This was a wedding without awkward silences or restless attendees, so enthralled were the guests by superb performance after performance. To be an architect of skyscrapers, a top executive, a millionaire banker: these are jobs people aspire to, skills people long to learn.  But nothing can bring such simultaneous joy to a room full of people as can music**.   As Adam’s Dad (keyboard player extraordinaire) said to me after I revealed I played the guitar “Whatever else you do in life, don’t ever stop making music”.

Shackles are back now though.  Abba, you can b*gger off.

A great reason to visit Hong Kong, with our three night stay compensating for our very brief previous trip (about 4 rushed hours with JB on the way to Macaw).  Carmen entertained us on Friday night with a visit to another great seafood restaurant and an excellent, smokeless* whiskey bar. A balmy 18 degrees meant t-shirt weather for me and a cold-weather warning for the locals.

Hong Kong's Avenue of Stars

Hong Kong’s Avenue of Stars

On Tuesday, our favourite loony hyperactive American returned from her extended holiday in the US, so a spicy celebration was in order over at Sichuan Citizen.  Shanghai without Rachel is far too safe and sensible – where else would you find a lady who washes dishes wearing sandwich bags to avoid damaging her hands (but still managed to cut a finger on a glass)?  Rachel describes it as being part of a little Shanghai family.  Definitely a weird family, on extended holiday in a strange but brilliant country.

And with yet another Wednesday evening defeat to JB at pool, Shanghai once again settles into relative normality.

*Take note Shanghai small bar establishments: I will drink more if I can actually breathe.

** One day I’ll do a comparison of my blogs written outside of airports with those written in a heightened emotional state in airport lounges.  Written as my  conscious brain tries to ignore the message of panic being offered up by my primeval subconscious given the journey that is about to take place.  All whilst never quite ignoring the irony that this feeling is known as “fight or flight” syndrome.