Don’t Get Me Wrong, Hong Kong
By Anju Gattani
What would it be like to return to the place where you grew up? For many returning to ‘home turf’ means rekindling fond, memories, revitalizing the senses – past flavors and emotions – and re-establishing your roots.
The nights when I do think of visiting Hong Kong SAR; the first thought that jolts me awake is the reminder that Hong Kong is a city that never sleeps.
On the southern-most tip of China, the city and country of Hong Kong (a two-in-one combo deal!) is divided by Victoria Harbor, a watery jewel that people fly down, world-over, to admire. Many would equate this to Sydney’s Darling Harbor or possibly the Hudson River along New York’s coastline. For me, however, Tsim Sha Tsui’s famous waterfront promenade is a reminder of the numerous times I’d walk or jog along this concrete trail, stretching from The Cultural Center to the Hong Kong Coliseum and overlooking The Convention Center, with a million thoughts running through my head.
So you can imagine my surprise when a recent google-search took me to ‘A Symphony of Lights’ where I learned that over 40 sky scrapers on both sides of this harbor now flash colored lights, laser beams and search lights in synchrony to music every night at 8pm to celebrate the energy, spirit and diversity of Hong Kong.
I stopped the search. Is this what I last remember? No. But it’s what the world now also recognizes Hong Kong for because this event has made it into the Guinness World Records for the ‘World’s Largest Permanent Light and Sound Show’.
I took a deep breath. Hong Kong can’t be all that different, I assured myself, because when I had last visited the city in 2003 it took a while to believe that ‘Water World’—Hong Kong’s only water theme park which I’d visited with friends and family on numerous occasions—had been completely washed off the city’s surface. In 2003 it was barren land, waiting for its fate to be determined. Now, apparently, it’s become Aqua City, an underwater lagoon filled with dancing fountains and the world’s first 360 degree water screen show.
Well… I continued the search, at least Ocean Park—Hong Kong’s theme park full of roller-coaster rides, exhibitions and tourist attractions—still hosts the world’s second longest outdoor escalator. At least that hasn’t changed. However, when I clicked the images… they were not what I remembered. Everything looked different.
How about the Clock Tower, a 44-meter red brick and granite structure on the Star Ferry pier, I could see every day from our living room window? Is the monument, a reminder of British Colonial Times, still there? I hit google search and breathed a sigh of relief. It is still there and now well overshadowed by the backdrop of the Hong Kong Cultural Center.
Surely, there’s got to be something which is the same, I continued the search. The famous Peak on Hong Kong Island and the tram—120 year- old mode of transportation—is still around. However, Madame Tussauds’ Wax Museum is apparently the highlight now with Lady Gaga, Nicole Kidman, Brad Pitt, Bruce Lee and Donnie Yen all posing under the same roof with Barack Obama.
I grit my teeth and sat back, well away from my laptop and mouse’s reach.
Is it even worth going back home, I asked myself? Nothing is what I remember it to be. Nothing looks familiar. Nothing feels the same. Even the name Hong Kong has the affix SAR attached to remind the world it’s a ‘Special Administrative Region’ after the handover from Britain to China in 1997.
“MOM!” My kids, 15 and 11, yelled from the family room outside. “Can you put your books somewhere else, please! They’re in the way. We can’t do our…”
I made my way to the TV Room and held my breath at the sight of 15 Advanced Reading Copies of my debut novel that had arrived several days ago from my publisher. I took a deep breath. Is this what I last remember? No. For over 15 years I was just a writer, a freelance journalist, who never gave up the dream to write the best book I could. Now here I finally was … a published author.
I returned to the laptop and continued the search on Hong Kong, holding a copy of the ARC in my hand. But this time instead of going back in time I decided to move forward. I googled some more, and learned though so much changes, so much remains the same.
Hong Kong is still the vibrant city it has always been, continuing to celebrate even today the energy, spirit and diversity of its people, both near and far.
It may look different.
It may feel different.
But the heart of the city beats to the same rhythm.
Author Bio: Anjana (Anju) Gattani is an international free-lance journalist and fiction author. Her debut novel DUTY AND DESIRE, Contemporary Women’s Fiction (with an international twist) is slated for release on Dec 1, 2011. She is a member of Georgia Romance Writers, Romance Writers of America, a columnist for ‘Khabar’ an Indo-American magazine and is at work on her third novel. Anju grew up in Hong Kong under a British education system; she has also lived in India, Singapore, Australia, New Jersey, Connecticut and Atlanta in the US. Anju hopes her novels will one day Bridge Cultures and Break Barriers. Visit Anju at www.anjugattani.com