Now that I’ve begun blogging, I headed into the weekend consciously looking for a blog-able Hong Kong moment. Perhaps I was trying too hard.
Friday night, for example, I got together with a colleague, Tim Hamlett, and his friends to sample a dying breed of local dining: the open-air restaurant. In a working-class district, in the parking lot of a busy bus station – but amid festive neon – we tore into juicy roasted pigeons with our hands, batted our eye-lashes at the “beer girl” who encouraged us to refill our beer bucket, and enjoyed a nice chat. Good time, but not a full blog post.
On Saturday afternoon, I met with another colleague, Robin Ewing, for a tasty Pakistani lunch inside an HK landmark: Chungking Mansions, immortalized by the film Chungking Express. The “mansions” bit is tongue-in-cheek. It’s actually a notorious tenement in downtown Tsim Sha Tsui, at once hailed for its vast ethnic diversity and decried for drug-dealing, prostitution and fire hazards. Maybe next time, blog-worthy.
Around midnight, I headed home, walking through the Temple Street night market. Inspired by the scene, I sat for a beer at one of the sidewalk eateries. To my left, an old-timer gorged on three dozen snails, using a long toothpick to pry the suckers out. To my right, a younger fellow noisily slurped oysters from the shell. As the vendors packed up their Chinese knick-knacks (a painted Mao plate for just 20 bucks!), off-key karaoke escaped the nightclub behind me.
I pulled out my laptop, as I often do. This peculiar behavior drew the eye of my waitress, wearing a Mickey Mouse t-shirt. Smitten with my gear, but speaking only Cantonese, she jotted something on a piece of paper: $1,000. She wanted my computer for the HK equivalent of U.S. $125. “No, no,” I said. But she took this as my opening gambit in “the haggle.” She wrote another figure: $3,000. (U.S. $375.) Again, I refused. She thought I was playing hardball: $8,000!
I then realized that on the street, I’d somehow picked up wireless. Lo and behold, my wife popped up on Skype, asking if we could try the camera she’d just gotten. Within seconds, I was seeing my 8-month-old daughter for the first time in three weeks.
I wasn’t the only one delighted. The waitress grew so animated, a crowd gathered. With my daughter looking befuddled, half a dozen Chinese waved excitedly at her: “Hel-lo, bay-bee! Bay-bee!”
Now this, I thought, is a blog-able moment. Even a great ad for Skype video.