January 2, 2016

High Contrast Holiday Season

Hong Kong doesn't do anything halfway. It shamelessly goes all in--from the tallest, biggest, shiniest skyscrapers to the stalls that sell only one variety of eggy waffles. There are entire streets lined with what looks like the exact same shop, one selling linoleum, one with pipes, one with paint. There are clothing streets, pet streets, furniture streets, coffee streets... it's overwhelming.

When you're in the city here, you are in. the. city. Crowded, loud, traffic, people everywhere. But in just minutes, you can be in the jungle or on a boat bound for a quiet island. Like mainland China, there is no in between here. Mediocrity is something that can only exist within the confines of one's home.

True to the nature of this city, ringing in the New Year was absolutely filled with amazing contrasts. The last week of 2015 was spent at home in North Dakota, on the snow-covered, frigid prairie with my family. A quick 25-hour jaunt across the Pacific landed me back in balmy Hong Kong  at 11 p.m. on a Monday. I was at  work by 9 a.m. on Tuesday. Not my most productive day... but a sharp move to get over jet lag as quickly as possible. 

Contrast 1: night and day. The 13-hour time difference from North Dakota makes for a perfectly opposite day-to-night schedule. This time around, the jet lag subsided after three nights (both in the US and when I returned to Hong Kong). Coffee and electrolyte drinks in the morning, exercise in the day, and melatonin at night for the first few days is my jet lag recovery cocktail. 

Contrast 2: North Dakota vs. Hong Kong (essentially, night and day). This photo says it all. Two absolutely completely different worlds. I quite like them both.

Contrast 3: New Year's Eve. Since this was my first New Year's in Hong Kong, I wanted to go out and experience the city. While my scope of reference is small, it seems as though on New Year's, you  either go out-- sequins, suits, champagne-crowded decadence--or you stay in, dinner with friends  and a quiet countdown at home. If there's an in-between, I didn't hear about it. 

Somewhere around the corner from Armani and a few floors above Gucci was the club where I landed. Everyone was pretty--everyone! All were dressed to the nines and drinking top shelf gin and tonics or vodka sodas from the open bar. It was a grown up Neverland and a far cry from the Teacher's Lounge in Fortuna, N.D. where I was just days before. My inner farm kid always feels a bit self-conscious in that environment, but as I get older, I'm finding more amusement in the whole showcase of it.

Don't worry mom and grandma, I didn't do anything that night that would make you cringe.

Contrast 4: Remote island on Jan. 1. I was absolutely part of the global hangover and woke up with a splitting headache on New Year's Day. It was quickly remedied by a foot massage and piping hot bowl of ramen (no, not the $0.25 packet from the grocery store).

Since moving to Seattle, I started a tradition of finding a beach on New Year's Day. On the west coast, that meant dressing in several layers and biking miles to Golden Gardens. In Hong Kong, it meant hopping on a ferry, somewhat unsure of what was awaiting at the other side.

A friend and I went to Lamma Island, which is ~45 boat ride from Central in Hong Kong. Prior to going, the only thing I knew about it was that hippies, farmers and  fisherman live there--a bit like Vashon Island in the Puget Sound. 

There are no cars on the island, the air is fresh[ish], and the birds sing songs of absolute joy to have gotten out of the city and found the place. We arrived at a small fishing village that was ~200 yards of seafood restaurants. I'm not sure if people actually even live in the village, or if it's just restaurants waiting to catch hungry ferry-goers. 

A short 20 minute walk through jungle and small garden plots of veggies led us to a sugar sand beach. The sun was shining, it was 72, and the beach was relatively empty. The raucous of the night before evaporated and was a world away from the serene shore. 

That evening, I once again found myself thrust through a 180 change, going from small fishing boats on Vashon Island to a big wooden junk boat in Victoria Harbor to see the skyline. 

Here's to 2016--a year that's bound to be a good shake up of experiences. I hope that in the new year you too can find experiences that defy mediocrity. 

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