Hong Kong. Located east of the Pearl River estuary, they say people have been on that tiny island for more than 35,000 years.
It came under Chinese control for the first time more than 2,200 years ago under the Qin Dynasty. Then came the British in the 1800s when the island was ceded to them after winning the First Opium War.
Our family visited the place many years ago. Our boy desperately wanted to go, ever since he found out his favourite carer at day care was from Hong Kong. This was the year he finally saw the place and he was thrilled.
We were there only a short time. A bustling island hub in Asia that once provided a link between East and West. It was bursting with people and activity. Perhaps it was the brightly lit streets or the shops that were open until late, but I felt safe wandering the streets, even at night.
It was a place vastly different to our home in Australia, yet I felt oddly comfortable there. Most people spoke Cantonese, although many service staff spoke to us in Mandarin. One could, however, get away with speaking English most of the time. Crowded it may be, but it was also easy using public transport to move from place to place.
We had to queue for most places, but we were warned about that, so it wasn’t a surprise.
We visited the tourist sites. Waited in line to head to the Peak. I saw the signs warning people the wait was going to be at least an hour. But it wasn’t going to deter my son and husband.
“Come on, Aggie,” my husband implored. “We won’t be able to experience something like this for a long time. Let’s go see the Peak.”
So we did. And it was beautiful to see Hong Kong and its buildings lit up against the night sky. The milling crowd was part of the experience.
We took a day trip to Macau. We hopped on the ferry, crossed the seas and were in another special administrative region in no time. The land was leased to Portugal in 1557 by the Ming Dynasty to be used as a trading port. Sovereignty over the place was handed to China on 20 December 1999.
We wandered around the sites; visited the ruins of St Paul’s Cathedral; and tried their Portuguese tarts. They were fresh and warm in the paper bag. Sweet and egg-y, they were delicious. I scoffed my portion down before you could blink. My two menfolk didn’t enjoy them as much. I didn’t mind. It meant that I could have their portion as well.
We heard about the Australia Dairy Company in the heart of Jordan. I had read the reviews and I wanted to see if it met up to the hype. Apparently it was the best breakfast place for your money in Hong Kong.
The queue once again was long. We waited. Finally, we made it to the door. They found us a table and ushered us to our seats. There was noise all around us. People were talking, calling orders and concentrating on eating so they could leave quickly. The space was busy with people starting their day.
Our son tried toast drizzled with condensed milk for the first time at the Australia Dairy Company. To this day, when we ask him what he remembers most about Hong Kong, he says “Toast and condensed milk.”
There are some trips that reveal things. It mirrors our thoughts or challenges our prejudices as we explore the new environment. We are either overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of an unfamiliar place or excited by it.
But Hong Kong didn’t have a pointed lesson for me this time. I just came home with some lovely memories.