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Hong Kong with author Anju Gattani

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.

A view of the Hong Kong skyline from the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront promenade… looking out to Hong Kong Island. The Star Ferry boats (left) run between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island in frequent intervals.

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.

The clock tower on the Star Ferry pier, Kowloon, once marked the end of the Kowloon – Canton Railway line which transported people from Hong Kong to China and back.

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.

Hong Kong’s busy ‘Nathan Road’ offers tourists a never-ending shopping fare from cheap imitation goods to high-class couture. The ever creeping neon signs come alive at night, vying for your attention.



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


Going to Visit Travel the World - October 23, 2011 - 3:15 am

[…] encircling the metropolis had been drained by means of the new Habsburg governor, General Mercy.The first record of the metropolis of Timisoara, constructed on the site relating to a historical Ro…discover by walking. If you should become exhausted, a tram can be with you in a short time; the […]

Shanon Grey - October 23, 2011 - 9:51 am

What a wonderful post. You are, indeed, a phenomenal writer. Thank you.

Walt M - October 23, 2011 - 9:59 am

You should write for the HK Tourism Board.

During my four years in Japan, the one regret I’ve always had was never getting over to visit Hong Kong. (I saw Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Korea in addition to traveling all over Japan.)

Grace Burrowes - October 23, 2011 - 10:02 am

Beautiful pics Anju, and if the spirit of home is the same, it’s still home, even when you return there to do a book tour for your fifteenth blockbuster bestseller.

Tami Brothers - October 23, 2011 - 11:10 am

What a great look into your memories of Hong Kong and the changes that have taken place over the years. As a visitor, we only see what is meant to be seen in that one snapshot of time. We never really stop to look at what was once there.

Thanks for a great post. Looking forward to reading Duty and Desire.


Haywood - October 23, 2011 - 11:14 am

Going home means going where my son and grandchildren are. It could be anywhere in the world, as long as I am close to them. I had a great home in Boston for over two years, and loved that, too.

The Atlanta I grew up in is not the one that exists now. It’s too big and dirty, so I don’t think I’d ever want to live there again. I like it out in the country, where we are.

Marilyn Baron - October 23, 2011 - 11:35 am


I enjoyed your post. Unfortunately, I have never been to Hong Kong. My husband has and loved it. Maybe one day. It’s nice seeing it through your eyes. I don’t have to wait for your book because I am one of the lucky ones with an ARC and I’ve finished the book and can’t wait to write my review. Thanks for blogging with us.

Pam Asberry - October 23, 2011 - 11:48 am

What a wonderful post. I hope to make it to Hong Kong one day. I think I’ll add that to my bucket list. I’m jealous of Marilyn, but that’s okay, I’ll get an autographed copy of your beautiful book in my hands soon enough. Thank you for being here today.

Anju Gattani - October 23, 2011 - 12:11 pm

Hi Shannon & Grace,
Thanks for reading and sharing the value of going back home… having lived in so many places… home has a new meaning everytime. Including the new ones just made and left behind.

Anju Gattani - October 23, 2011 - 12:12 pm

Hi Walt & Grace,
I’v never visited Japan and Korea but my dad learned Japanese and had a lot of business running there in the 70s. My husband has worked in Korea and I too wish I can go there someday. There’s so much to learn from people world over! Thanks for reading and your support!

Anju Gattani - October 23, 2011 - 12:14 pm

Hi Haywood,
I remember when you moved to Boston and we moved to Connecticut shortly after… it was such a change from the south to the north east… one you understand only with experience. You’d think the whole of the US is the same… but it changes so much from state to state. Thanks for sharing with me today!

Anju Gattani - October 23, 2011 - 12:16 pm

Hi Marilyn & Pam,
You are amazing writers and I enjoy reading your posts too. I’m so honored you’ve read the book, Marilyn… I know how much travel and work you always have… so thanks for taking out the time for me. Pam… thanks for always being there for me with a smile… I hope to get an autographed copy of your debut novel one day. Marilyn, will download your books on my Kindle this week – can’t wait to read!

Sandra Elzie - October 23, 2011 - 12:21 pm

Thanks for joining us today! What a great view of Hong Kong. I’ve never been, but it sounds lovely.


Anju Gattani - October 23, 2011 - 12:23 pm

Hi Sandy,
Thanks for stopping by to read on this beautiful Sunday. Hong Kong is one gorgeous Chinese Dragon in two words… I do miss it big time but know how much it must have already changed with the years!

Anju Gattani - October 23, 2011 - 12:24 pm

HI Tami,
Yes, we never stop to think of what was once there but soak it all in just one snapshot… so beautifully said. Thanks for reading and having my on your blog… you guys are truly a wonderful bunch to share with!

Debbie Kaufman - October 23, 2011 - 5:33 pm

Hi Anju,
Your post brings back fond memories. I haven’t been to Hong Kong since 1995, pre-SAR. Even then, I only got to see a few sites since it was a way station in or out of China with my adoptive families. We hope to travel to China next summer and take my daughter back to her roots. I definitely plan to include Hong Kong in that trip. Thanks for the post!

Linsey Lanier - October 23, 2011 - 5:48 pm

Anju, as soon as I opened this post and saw that picture, I said “Oh, how gorgeous.” I didn’t know Hong Kong was so colorful at night. I’d love to see that light show. Your post reminded me of a Barry Eisler book I recently listened to, set in various spots in Asia. I’m more fascinated than ever, though it’s sad things change so much. I guess people all over the world have that experience when they go home.

Also looking forward to Duty and Desire.

Sia Huff - October 23, 2011 - 5:54 pm

Hong Kong sounds vibrant like New York City. Your pictures are beautiful. Changes really is constant, isn’t it?
Thanks for blogging with us today.

Victoria Dixon - October 23, 2011 - 8:25 pm

I’m not fond of big cities, so Hong Kong is usually more a threat to me than a temptation. I must say, though that your descriptions really add to the temptations!

Anju Gattani - October 23, 2011 - 9:37 pm

Hi Debbie & Sia,
Hong Kong is very close to New York… a smaller and more compact version of the financial, residential and night life city all wrapped in one. I sure hope you can include HK in your trip, Debbie… it’s an experience you’ll never forget!

Anju Gattani - October 23, 2011 - 9:39 pm

Hi Linsey,
Thanks for reading and yes, HK is absolutely gorgeous at night. It’s amazing with a skyline that beats NY city. You should see it at Christmas when the city goes all out to deck and spruce up… I can see it now with my eyes closed. :)

Anju Gattani - October 23, 2011 - 9:39 pm

Hi Victoria,
glad you could join me… perhaps NY city would be a good first step since it’s local… and then you can move on to the dragon!

Carol Burnside / Annie Rayburn - October 23, 2011 - 11:08 pm

Very nice write-up, Anju. I enjoyed your memories vs. today’s reality.

Congrats on the book and having the ARC’s in hand. Nice!

Sarita - October 24, 2011 - 4:27 am

Hi Annu,
Surprised to know its been so long since you have visited HKG .I too went there after a long time to drop my son at HKUST & couldn’t agree better with your write up. But then dear change is a way of life & old things have to give way to the new to give the city a modern look.the best example of this is the HKUST which though it existed then was not very popular but now is one of the best in Asia coz of its modern approach.
All said HKG is still a very vibrant city,always enticing you with its beauty& culture.So my advice to you is to stop googling & book the next flight to HKG soon to experience the whole thing in person.

Victoria Dixon - October 24, 2011 - 7:28 am

Yeah, I’ve been to New York and I enjoyed it, but wouldn’t want to stay for any length of time. Too crowded and jostly and that was before I had a toddler to look after. I think if I ever get to Hong Kong, it will have to be when the kidlit is grown. That much “busy” just gets on my nerves and having a child to take care of too would mean I would be worn out within an hour. I just don’t hold up well around that many people. :(

Rashda?Mina - October 24, 2011 - 8:41 am

Hi Anju! Wow, what a great post. You have me wanting to travel to Hong Kong this very minute!

Enjoy the arcs! And best of luck with the book :)

Shruti - October 24, 2011 - 10:56 am

Wow! Really well written. Used to feel the same when I first left HK but I now enjoy discovering something new each time I visit. Especially shops, provided clothes there still fit me :-P

Never knew there was an Aqua City – must check it out during my HK trip next year!

Anju Gattani - October 24, 2011 - 11:18 am

Hi Carol,
Thanks for sharing and your support!

Anju Gattani - October 24, 2011 - 11:20 am

Hi Sarita J,
Thanks for joining me all the way from Dubai! Yes, I think that’s what I should do. Plan a trip and take a flight to experience it for myself! It’s been toooo long and I do feel homesick so many times!
Would love to see the HKUST… there were so few option for studying further – tertiary education – when we were younger!

Anju Gattani - October 24, 2011 - 11:21 am

Hi Rashda,
Thanks for visiting and I can’t wait to watch your book trailer… it’s on my to-do list. Thanks for your support and joining me!

Tarah Scott - October 24, 2011 - 4:28 pm

They say you can’t go home again. Thankfully, as we age, we learn that home is where the heart is, where we are at that moment, where are loved ones are. We are, in truth, always home.

Susan Carlisle - October 24, 2011 - 4:51 pm

I would love to go to Hong Kong. My mother went a number of years ago and loved it. I would also like to walk on the Great Wall of China while I was in the area. Wonderful post.

Susan Blumberg-Kason - October 24, 2011 - 8:04 pm

Boy does this hit home! I only lived in HK for five years, but often think about it and wonder what I’d recognize and what I wouldn’t. I lived there for a year in 1990-91 and then came back in 1994 for four years. I remember my first day back in 1994. I started on Waterloo Road and Nathan Road and walked down to the Star Ferry, checking to see what all was still there (so much of that has changed now, I’m sure!). After crossing the harbour, I walked from Central to Western and then back toward Causeway Bay. It took a whole day, but I had to see what had changed and what had stayed the same. That day I didn’t even make it up to the NTs, which is where I lived that first year (and subsequent ones). No place melts my heart like HK!

Anju Gattani - October 25, 2011 - 10:57 am

Hi Tarah,
Thanks for joining me… and yes… home is where your loved ones are… as Haywood Smith said too. I guess when we’re at peace we are ‘at home’….

Anju Gattani - October 25, 2011 - 10:58 am

Hi Susan,
I haven’t seen the Great Wall myself, but my husband did and he said it is absolutely phenomenal! I hope to see it myself one day.

Anju Gattani - October 25, 2011 - 11:01 am

Hi Susan,
I’d have done exactly the same thing. A tour down memory land by foot… it’s the way to go in HK and beats everything else. No place melts my heart either… no place comes close to HK… I’m sure you can understand what I mean… :)

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