Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What Country Am I In? or Hong Kong Highlights

Landing in Hong Kong after a 5 hour flight from Mumbai, the first thing I was struck by was the cleanliness of the city. You could eat off the pavement! There is no trash anywhere in Hong Kong, except in the trash bins. Everything is also very modern looking, the buildings are all glass and metal, and almost nothing looks more then 20 years old.
I was met at the airport by my friend Swati, after a long bus ride through the city, I was welcomed into her house by her family and especially her mom. This was amazing. It is always nice to stay with people in a new city, but it also gave me a lot of time to practice my Hindi since Swati and her family are Indian and their first language is Hindi. So my visiting gift of Indian methi (sweets) was greatly appreciated, but this also meant that I ate a lot of Indian food and spoke a lot of Hindi in Hong Kong.
After trying to get over some intense jet lag Swati and I went to explore Hong Kong city, as we traveled around the markets we used our Hindi skills to discuss prices of bags and shirts. It was kind of like having a secret language, we would decide what we thought the price should be (or what we were willing to pay) and then tell the shopkeeper in English or Swati's Chinese. This made bargaining much easier.
Being shown around the city by Swati, her friends and her family, I spent a lot of time talking in Hindi and trying to remember where I was. I woke up in the morning to Swati's mother and brother watching the news in Hindi (thanks to Star World TV), but would venture out into a city of mostly East Asians, which looked nothing like an Indian city. So it was a bit of a confusing experience, although also clearly a good one.
During the trip:
I ate a lot of Chinese food on my own, according to Swati's family, Chinese food "has no taste," I think everyone had a good time. By the way when I asked what, "no taste" meant, I was told it was too light and not spicy, so basically it does not taste like Indian food. Which after a year in India, was exciting to me.
I also took a lot of pictures, everyone in Hong Kong carries a camera, even people who live there, Swati pointed this out to me on the first day. That was actually kind of nice, because it was never inappropriate to take a picture.
And because Swati and I are the kind of people who cannot sit still and do nothing, I hiked, walked and boated my way around Hong Kong, seeing, not only the city parts, but the country/village parts too.

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