It’s more than a cliche to say you better be ready for anything when you travel around the world. And the way we do it, the unexpected can often come in torrents. A long flight from Chicago to Vancouver B.C. to Hong Kong ended with the added thrill of lost luggage as we stood and watched the carousel go round and round and people disappeared one by one. Stefanie picked up her backpack right away and that seemed like a good sign until we were left alone in the claim area with dying hopes. Nice way to kick it off, get the weirdness out of the way right up front so we won’t have to wonder when it’s coming. We filled out the forms and the nice men promised to call as soon as there was any news. I kind of kissed off seeing my little satchel until at least Bali since we are only here two days.
The last thing I’d do is let that kick my butt. I’m ready to enjoy this come hell or unavoidable consequence so we grabbed our bus into Kowloon and I fought hard to not let that loss break hard on me. Everything in the bag except my wedding ring can be replaced so what the heck, we got our health right? I went through the stages of grief as quickly as possible on the bus ride to the hotel because I wanted to get into the much-anticipated joy of arrival if at all possible. I managed to keep my pouting to a minimum and, for the most part, internal.
We tried to get a good night’s sleep after checking in to the hotel. Our room was tiny and the two single beds ate up all the maneuvering space so we had to take turns moving around as we settled in. The double dose of Sominex got me knocked out for a few hours but soon I was back to the insomnia as I wandered through plans to get on without my backpack.
Next morning we were up around nine, asking our hotel staff how to get to the wishing tree. Stef had her own reasons to make use of this Hong Kong custom and I just developed my own special need to make a wish regarding lost possessions. We mastered the Hong Kong rapid transit system and transferred our way up to a small town in the New Territories, the northern fringe of the former colonial region. After a quick cab ride we executed a commando raid on the wishing tree since we had only one day to see all of Hong Kong. The wishing tree custom involves tossing an orange tied to a scroll with your wish up into a tree, hopefully getting it lodged in the branches. You only get three tries. I got my two wishes written out and tossed into the trees. Stefanie got her bundles of wishes up too after buying one replacement for the second uncooperative orange.
Back down to Kowloon past the same lovely rural scenery we saw on the way up, we transferred onto the train that took us under the channel and on to the island of Hong Kong. The shiny, largely glass and metal city with its amazing blur of humanity rushing about greeted our rise from that submarine express. What at first I took to be frantic and oppressive actually grew on me fondly as the rest of the day progressed. The city is an elaborate 3-dimensional maze of triple-deck causeways and interlocking buildings. Often we wouldn?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t realize when a hall between two stores became a connection between them. At other times just finding our way back outside at street level was a challenge. ?¢‚Ç¨?ìJaw-dropping?¢‚Ç¨¬ù I kept repeating to myself. Like nothing I?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢d ever seen.
We had lunch with the locals in a noodle shop and then went from site to site, using our Xerox copies from the libraries guide book to lead us on. One of the only buildings older then fifty is the old Courthouse and we used the Statuary Square in front for a brief water break. We headed up through the HSBC building (a billion dollar wonder of exoskeletal construction) to gaze up twenty stories at into the hollowed out center atrium and then, through another causeway, headed out into a lovely tiered garden by the old Episcopal cathedral. After another short break in the lovely, cool interior with wood beamed and blue ceiling, we went up to take the tram up Victoria Peak. This famous overlook gave us our first overall look at this city and I agreed when Stefanie remarked, “modern architecture sometimes looks uniform and boring close up but from a distance the assembly can be very impressive”.
Our day ended back on the Kowloon side, sitting on the promenade doing some people watching while the sun went down over Hong Kong. The bus ride back to the airport in daylight revealed easily the largest harbor complex we?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢d ever seen. Miles of docks, cranes, freighters and container cargo, receeding of into the vast distance.
The luggage left behind was fast becoming symbolic of what we had tried to leave. We made a promise to travel lightly but we had no idea just how extreme that commitment was.