Hong Kong’s air generally has more in common with something you’d expect to be used on prisoners at Guantanamo Bay than anything you’d actually want in your lungs. Seriously – visibility in Hong Kong most of the year is about 5 miles.
So I was more than a little startled, and thrilled (once I’d assured myself the pilot hadn’t touched down in the wrong place), when we arrived to crystal clear air, with nary a hint of haze or pollution. In nearly three decades of visiting this great city I don’t think I’ve ever seen it so clear.
This is a fact about which I apparently found it impossible to stop talking. After a few hours, and a dozen uttering’s of “I can’t believe how clear it is!” Soo announced that if I mentioned it again she was going to shove me up the tailpipe of one of Hong Kong’s old, tiny taxis.
This would have been a shame, because then I would have been robbed of the opportunity of being fleeced by one of those haggling taxi drivers later that night.
On my last trip to Hong Kong I had a lousy experience at Café Deco, atop Victoria Peak, and vowed never to return.
The air was so pristine this trip I decided that I could forgive Café Deco their crap food and worse service in exchange for their stunning panoramic views of the city at night.
So Soo and I grabbed our friend Sia and headed to the top, for shopping, stunning sceneryand dreadful food.
My meal surprised me by being just north of edible. Soo’ and Sia’s meals surprised no one by being borderline offensive. But the proprietors have boldly embraced the truth, and printed the following on their menus:
“We know it’s shit. But look out the window!”
Ok, that last part might not be entirely accurate. Or true at all. But I’d have left a bigger tip if it had been.
And the view made the horrid food and laughable service completely worthwhile. I could have licked the bottom of my shoe all night while staring out at that magnificent vista and been happy.
Hong Kong is a city like no other, a smorgasbord of brightly-lit skyscrapers, each trying to outdo the other, nestled in among hills and mountains straddling Victoria Harbor. It’s as exciting and vibrant a place as I’ve ever been.
Some hours later, drunk on the view and vodka (you get tipsy faster when you can’t stomach the food) we stumbled downstairs, intending to take the tram to the bottom of Victoria’s Peak.
The line was shocking, a wait of easily an hour, so we continued on to the taxi stand, which never has a line.
If anything, the line of tourists waiting for a cab was longer than that waiting for the tram, and the cab drivers, in a fit of capitalist glee, had latched on to this as a money-making opportunity. Instead of pulling up to the front of the line as they are supposed to do, they stopped at the back of the line, offering an early escape to anyone willing to pay four times the normal rate.
What was most surprising about this, upon later and more sober reflection, wasn’t the cabbies’ eagerness to scalp potential clients. What was most surprising was the fact that we agreed to be raped without hesitation, then spent the entire drive down the mountain congratulating ourselves on getting out of the line.
Really. (We did, willingly, eat at Café Deco again. See? Stupid.)
The next day was ever so much better. The weather was still remarkably clear, and some of our friends from the mainland who had flown over to spend the day with us and suggested lunch at Hutong, a spectacular traditional-Cantonese restaurant atop 1 Peking Road.
The food was nearly the equal of the view, and the chef knew it, judging by what he charged. But this place was amazing, and I can’t imagine ever visiting Hong Kong again without dining here.
At night our friends and colleagues took us to Kee Club, a super trendy (and super popular) spot on Hong Kong Island featuring three floors of dining, clubbing and entertainment.
From what I recall I had a blast.
Our colleagues knew the owner, so our service was exemplary (though my impression is that’s the norm.) Kee is a bit of a sexist place (only the menus handed to men had prices on them), and I’m told that for five hours we dined on things like melon and champagne soup (yum) and huge rock lobster. We danced (not a good idea for me), drank (occasionally a good idea for me) and smoked Cuban cigars (always a good idea for me.)
By night’s end my lungs probably looked like Hong Kong on a typical day, but it was oh-so worth it.
I do love this remarkable city.