Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Time for the thank yous

Of course I'm changing my tune! Hong Kong is amazing. And I am grateful for having had the opportunity to experience life here.

Especially Sham Shui Po, one of my favourite places on earth.

The geeks know this Chinese district of Hong Kong for the computer centre. Leave them in there. Come out on the streets with me. Messy, noisy, dirty, overcrowded, with rat warning notices everywhere. I love it.

If you are a dedicated crafter, maker or doer, it is nirvana, and you will never want to leave.

There are shops here like Lewis's wardrobe. Pass by each doorway, cluttered with buckets of beads, and you will wind your way into a labyrinth of buckle, button, trim, zip, sparkle, ribbon, sequin, decorative metal, and thread.

The only lion and witch you will encounter are inside your own head, struggling for control of your purse, because $4 for a bag of yellow sequins is a bargain, but since you already spent $200 on novelty buttons, maybe it is time to go home.

Forget it. Down the road you can acquire more trim, fastenings, and cloth.

Here, amongst the fabric merchants, you will pass the fashion designer, searching out the composition you'll be wearing in Spring 2013.

For the dolly dressers crawling at snail's pace behind you, it is all an Aladdin's cave. Should she choose the pink sparkle or the purple sparkle? (At HK$10 a yard, I know that never again will I be able to pay Hobbycraft prices without a shop-floor brawl.)

I will miss all Sham Shui Po, and the street sights it offers.

Yes, that's grandma, pushing a few crates up the main road. To help her out, the family have strapped some nylon cord round her body and attached a few crates at her rear, too.

It tells me there's a different work ethic here in Hong Kong from Essex! Here the Chinese don't expect benefits at all. Just carry on working until they fall over.

I think grandma is worth another view; she came back round the block again in the 10 minutes I stood there, waiting for Squirrel to choose between silver or not-quite silver thread.

And the cafe culture.

I will miss Starbucks and Ditta egging me on, that much is true. I will also miss watching the trade of the street-cookers. Here's one of my favourite restaurants. It occupies half a road in Sham Shui Po and is always busy with street-eaters perched at rickety plastic tables. To pass down the street, pedestrians must first be submerged in the noise of Cantonese and the clip of chopsticks against large plastic dinner bowls of soup, rice, noodles and tofu with green peppers in sticky sweet black oyster sauce.

As you tread a careful path, feel the pavement clinging to your feet with chicken fat, be careful of the gas flames roaring and hissing and the clouds of hot steam rising from wide, bubbling woks. You can smell the burning peanut oil, hear the cleavers chop on worn wooden boards, and hope that the entire structure, leaning thirty degrees to the left, doesn't collapse on top of you as you push your way out.

After watching the meat cleaver come down on the chicken head, Tony's hired burger van just isn't going to be the same.

Thank you, Sham Shui Po. You occupy a special place in my heart.


sharon said...

I knew it wasn't all bad, I bet even Tiger will miss some aspects of your life in HK - even if it is only the cheap sparkly stuff ;-)

Nora said...

There will even be a day when you will look back in fondness.