28.11.2014 - 28.11.2014
An entire day has slipped under me as I begin to stir in the newness of a rumpled bed, laid out like one of the smoked fish that spill from every storefront on the road below me. I have made my way along the island's coast to the up-and-coming neighbourhood of Sheung Wan, in which I reside in a small but effective apartment with more window real estate than floorspace. Harbour views tease to my left even at this early hour, as concrete monoliths slumber in every other opposing position. Having had my day to unpack and cure in the hotbox around me, it is time to move unencumbered around Asia’s self-proclaimed First City. Two tries is more than enough to determine that the bathroom is not interested in my cranial well-being, the tiny shelves poised over the sink catching me again as I try to pre-emptively lift the grime from my face. Off to the kitchen I go, a surely better example of Feng Shui, where I find the basin and headroom makes for a better workspace. The plan is vague, a small list of Hong Kong essentials the roughest of road maps to shape my steps after bolting the thick iron door that secures apartment 6F in the Ka Yue building. I opt for the stairs, deciding that ten floors of dusty stone and worn reed baskets is just the starter I need to face the rougher edges of my sky city.
I do a small circle in the domain of smoked, pickled, preserved and generally lifeless seafood before making a few blocks over to the harbour side walk, taking in a beautiful vista of Kowloon where glass visions rise and fall like sheet music. The crowning glory is surely the International Commerce Centre where my siren's song of a hotel, the Ritz Carlton, is perched from floors 102 to 118.
Sootin' on the Ritz
Heat and uncertainty moving me along at something between a saunter and a scamper, I can see the ferry terminal to Macau up ahead. I toy with the idea of an impromptu trip, mulling it over in the coolness of the attached IFC mall, before making a different course down to the subterranean pull of the MRT. A small service desk is where I nab the apropos Octopus card, loaded with HK$100, a lengthy lifeline in this superb and affordable transit system. Nabbing a train to Central, I switch to another, moved blissfully by the crowd, only vaguely cognizant of moving to the Kowloon side of the harbour. When I bubble up it is in the Tsim Sha Tsui district, the heart of tourist town with it's island views and neon facings. At mid-day it is not especially busy nor compelling, the urge to explore sated quickly as the temperature rises to a mid-day crescendo. Perched atop a cement encirclement by a theatre I look directly to the Star Ferry terminal, a venerable HK institution and next port of call.
The charge falls lightly on the flush tendril of the Octopus and I take a seat near the back, enjoying surprisingly fresh sea air as we make the brief crossing. Docked and locked, the manageable afternoon crowd disembarks through Central pier where my eye draws me to another HK staple, Kee Wah bakery. Settling on a spicy tuna pastry and requisite pineapple tart, I sink into subway splendour, only minutes away from my Sheung Wan terminus, soft shoe-ing it past soft shell crabs to find the discreet building door tucked between colourful shops. The heat and humidity have left me strength only for a kitchen-sink scrub down and pastry party, buttery flakes melting away under the spotlight of a Hong Kong winter.