Twenty-Four Hours in Hong Kong
At about 3 PM local time, Emirates Flight EK382 touched down at Hong Kong International Airport to commence my bicycle journey back home to Europe. These past twenty four hours have been some of the most intense travel related times in my life. Never before did I live, travel or work in a country with a culture that is so different from anything that I am used to. I feel like an alien creature in this vast concrete jungle. My spirit gets nourished like it is a biological need to seek the challenges that come of being in a place where nobody knows me. Learning goes on every second of the day. Every breath has infinite potential, every subsequent movement contributes to the design of what will ultimately become my day. Yet, I cannot control what the day might bring. That is why I enjoy bicycle touring so much. I float. I randomly talk to strangers. I get lost. I backtrack. And ultimately, I ramble my way back home.
My time in Hong Kong started at the Airport, where I picked up the bike and started putting it together in a quiet corner. I purposely chose an empty spot at the airport where I would not attract too much attention. Yet I did not even finish pumping up one wheel when airport employees started cleaning up my bike box and packing material. I would have done it myself, no worries, but they were a lot faster than me. Once I was done putting together the bike, I wanted to make my way to meet my host just outside of the airport. However, it proved to be quite difficult to find the exit of the airport that I could use with my bicycle. Escalators did not seem to work with a loaded bike and all the other exits were either train stations or train stations ooor train stations. I was so proud that I did not attract any attention while setting up the bike in my corner spot, but by pushing the bike around the airport several rounds I made sure everyone had seen ‘that tall girl with her strange-looking bike’.
Anyway, I managed to find an exit that looked suitable to take and I started to follow some pedestrian paths towards my hosts office. What should have been a 10 to 15 minute bike ride turned into a little adventure, because the roads along the airport were under construction. I was on a road parallel to the one I had to be on, but there seemed to be no way of getting to the right, and most importantly, save road to cycle on. So I did not see any other way but to lift up the bike and carry it over a few fences to cross the construction side, while all the workers stared at me rather confused. I am petty sure I was not supposed to be climbing around construction sites, but I am also sure that they were way too surprised to engage me in a conversation about Chinese laws regarding a bicycle on a construction site.
After successfully crossing all the fences, there were a few sets of stairs to get passed also, but they seemed to be no difficult obstacle. It is always amazing to me how empowering traveling via bicycle is. You seem to grow with every challenge there is. Maybe that us why I am so tall? You stop worrying about things because, in the end, everything always works out just right.
Kindness and Trust Go a Long Way
After a lot more than 15 minutes I made it to the place where my warmshowers host Szofia works. She met me with a big, welcoming smile and we decided to grab some lunch before I head to the apartment. I left my bike and gear in the parking lot, no need to worry about thieves according to Szofia. I love places that I can trust. We had lunch along with a great conversation about bike touring, and then Szofia gave me the key to her apartment to get settled. Trust is an amazing thing.
Fast forward to the next day. I woke up early and rather jetlagged to find a note that asked me to hang up some of Szofia’s laundry, since she was already at work. What a great opportunity to give back some of the kindness she showed by letting me, a complete stranger, stay at her place. I proceeded to make breakfast followed by some tea. Did you ever wonder what it tastes like to use salt in your tea? Well, I took two spoons of salt instead of sugar for my tea this morning… lets just say I was awake and ready to go after that. So I went to take the elevator back down to find the train station. However, I could not get the elevator to go down. Just picture this giant, foreign looking girl on an elevator which would not move. After about 5 minutes, it suddenly went up to floor 47, so I knew right away I had to play it cool now. When another lady entered the elevator, I made sue to watch what she did to get out of this building. Learning by watching…
Hong Kong itself is an amazing city. It is very vibrant, bizarre in some places, yet it takes you in. I was in awe most of the day walking and exploring this place. A video with digital impressions will follow soon. Now I am off to mainland China tomorrow, where I will most likely be without internet for a while. Facebook is blocked in China.