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Arriving in Hong Kong


As we step out of the airport at Hong Kong international airport, I’m hit with a wall of heat.  Its 10am, and the temperature already reads at 40C, over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, with what feels like 200% humidity.  We stumble out to the curb, barely able to think while our bodies adjust from the unnaturally cool air inside the airport, to the swamp outside.  I would come to grow more accustomed to this feeling the longer I stayed in Hong Kong. Store owners in Hong Kong, seemingly oblivious to the mounting energy crisis the small island faces, like to keep their businesses around a chilly 60F. This added to the Chinese custom of leaving shop doors open at all times, less people feel unwelcome, creates the strange effect of outside air-conditioning on the busier streets.  The street becomes a checkerboard of hots and colds, the smell of leather and plastic intermingled with noodles and roasting meat.

We jump into the first cab that stops, and we’re off. Chinese cabbies are something else.  The second he hears the name of our hotel, he slams on the gas, pressing us back against our seats, in a mixture of fear and awe, where we would stay for the rest of the ride.  Once you get used to it, there’s really a kind of elegance to the dance of the Hong Kong cab driver.  Through a mixture of high speeds, running red lights, swearing, and coming as close as possible to hitting every car and person that crosses their path, they get you where you’re going, and quick.  I never had any trouble with cabbies in china, but in the back of my mind I always assumed they were constantly crashing, this turns out not to be true.  Oddly enough, it’s safer to get into a Hong Kong cab than one in New York. 

When we arrive at the hotel I’m exhausted.  A 17-hour plane trip to arrive in a country where I can’t understand the signs, and a cab ride I was sure I wouldn’t survive, I want to relax.  I would grow to appreciate these cultural differences later, but now it’s nothing but a blur.  We walk into our hotel room, and I have my first whiff of the real china.  Hotel rooms in china all have the same smell.  I guess it’s the cleaning products they use, a mix of bleach, mold, and something hard to place, but most likely coming from the bathroom.  After a few weeks you get used to it, and even start to look forward to the smell that means a brief respite from the hectic street, but that first whiff hits hard.

I drop my bag and hit the bed, immediately falling fast asleep. In the next few weeks there will be guys named “cool” trying to sell me drugs, shaolin monks acting as bodyguards, Triads touting massage parlors, and so much more. But all that must wait.

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