Saturday, June 11, 2011

Spirited Times

Hong Kong hostels
I'm a terrible tourist, sincerely and truly I am the worst. I'd known for 60 days when my next visa run would be and still I waited until only 8 were left before booking my flight. I was even worse with the my room at the hostel...they replied "all full" only 22 hours before my arrival on the Dragon Boat festival holiday weekend.

And I somehow decided the rest of my preparations were "complete" with a single page Google Maps printout of hostels in the target neighborhood and a copy of Wikitravel's article on Hong Kong saved to my laptop.

I could claim that I had been too busy finishing my rebuild of The Monkey Zone, but the truth is I saw all my inactions along the way and I was silently approving them in favor of a new experience.

The hostel was indeed full - showing up at the door and exchanging some very bad Mandarin for the receptionist's Cantonese didn't change anything. So up and down the 14 floors I rode, swapping between the even and odd elevators at ground level while hearing "sorry, no rooms" again and again at each new attempt.

Finally the security guard - no doubt impressed by my tenacity and childlike way of calling out each new floor in Chinese - took pity on me and made my remaining rounds on his cell phone, securing for me the last available bed in the building within minutes.

After depositing my affairs and washing away the layers of sweat my room had cost me, I made my way back down to explore the city. And when I saw the guard on my way out of the building "謝謝您!" burst in full bloom from my heart as I spontaneously clasped my hands and performed my first formal bow in Asia.

I didn't know where I was going that day, or at any other moment really during this trip, other than the visa office. And while this method is characteristic of my bad tourist skills, the deliberate lack of intention that began my trip carried through as I wandered the streets, removing my mind's habitual distractions and worries, and allowing my feet to spirit me away.

Open air market
I passed below signs strung so far across boulevards they formed a lighted canopy for the evening shoppers. I weaved in and out of the drops rained by air conditioners hundreds of feet above at the edge of each sidewalk, while watching bamboo scaffolds be erected across the street one hand-carried bundle of sticks at a time up the sides of 20-story structures.

But most of all I let myself be bumped and jostled from one end of Hong Kong island to the other on the second story of a wooden trolley car that charged less than $0.25 USD for the 2 hour ride. And that, my dear friends, is the way to see any new city.

Open windows to invite in all the sounds and smells of the communities. A remarkably slow speed from an old-fashioned form of transportation that simply settles everything down to the proper pace of a holiday. And people everywhere...some looking up to see the out-of-place foreigner, some busy making deliveries in the unrelenting heat, some out for important business affairs and others for shopping, but all going about their lives for me to watch quietly for more than 2 hours.

I'm not sure I'll always opt for this "New City, No Plan" method to break out of my usual mental tracks as a tourist, but this time it worked. This time my feet carried on just fine with little more than my Spirit to guide them.

1 comment:

  1. It's really delighting to hear that you're not a usual tourist.Like You mentioned in your post you're terrible at this.and this is the key to your success.Hope to see more from you.