On Hong Kong

I’ve been trying to find the words to write about my recent trip to Hong Kong, where I rang in the New Year almost exactly one year after my first trip there for Hong Kong Fashion Week.

The Lost in Translation feeling is real. It doesn’t matter what the clock says; your body will sleep when it wants to sleep when you cross a dozen time zones. And after 24 hours of flight time home only to leave again for a frenetic business trip in New York, it’s been tough to find the words for much of anything.

Truthfully, though, it’s not just the jet lag. How do I write about Hong Kong? I’ve only spent 13 days there, ever, but in some ways, it feels more comfortable than even Washington, where I’ve lived my entire cognizant life. I’ve learned my way around too easily. I have my streets, my shops, my restaurants–even my cocktail bar, a bar I crave when I have yet another uninspired drink in Washington, a bar where we made friends.

I like the way it looks, with the green space and the colorful streets and the colonial buildings interspersed with skyscrapers. It’s the perfect ratio of green space to concrete, for me, anyway. I yearn to downsize to a microscopic yet modern apartment, with minimalist furniture and contraband Mao kitsch from the stall on Hollywood Road, and look out my window to see Cantonese characters on neon signs, artwork on the ever-changing, exotic sidewalks. I like the way it smells, too, with blooming parks thanks to the mild weather and smoky food stalls and the fragrant harbor and everything.

Even with the fog in my head, I’ve experienced some of my most significant career successes in Hong Kong. Even when the fog refuses to clear, I jump out of bed there, ready to see what I’ll find around the corner on some hidden street, such as a political protest with marching bands, or the best dumplings in the world.

I did find the words, though, because right after I got back, the Hong Kong Dance Company came to town to perform a work honoring Hong Kong’s long Chinese heritage. The show, “Qingming Riverside,” brought to life a traditional Chinese painting depicting life in the Song era, one of the more progressive, prosperous eras in Chinese history, and earned a place in my weekly column. It’s that mix of tradition and modernity that makes Hong Kong so intoxicating–and though I couldn’t get tickets, I’m happy to have any reminder of my 13 fleeting days there.