Ring the bells! String up the bunting! Gird your loins! Today marks an anniversary, of sorts: 3 years to the day since I arrived in Hong Kong. March 28th 2012, sometime around 9pm, on a iron-bird from Dubai.
Except time difference makes it a weird anniversary (if indeed it is any kind of anniversary at all) to mark. I could just as easily commemorate March 27th as the day I left the UK behind. I remember it well: the train ride from Edinburgh to Manchester Airport, the countryside blazing in freakishly gorgeous spring sunshine. It was as if dear old Blighty was putting on a show – a kind of ‘look what you’ll be missing!’ – to make me think twice. Except, when I returned for a visit, exactly a year later, I was met with a snow and -6 degrees welcome that made me desperate to return to the steamy tropics.I could now write about ‘what I’ve learned’ in these 3 years, or make a listicle type thing of my ‘Top 5’ moments, but instead I’m going to remember the Swiss guy I sat next to on the final leg of my journey, from Dubai to HK, three years ago. He was my age, maybe a bit younger, and he was arriving without a fixed plan, no hotel booking, without any idea of how long he would stay in the city, hoping to meet with a friend and asking me where the best places to booze it up in Hong Kong were. He seemed to think that I, having visited once previously, was some sort of oracle on Hong Kong nightlife and I told him, very vaguely, that Wan Chai was the best place to go out. And it turns out it kind of is, if you have fairly low-brow expectations of a night out (which I’m guessing this guy did have – no offence, my Swiss friend.) We said goodbye at the baggage carousel, and I’ve not thought about him much over these past three years. But thinking about that journey reminded me of him, and I’ve been wondering where he went, if he ever met up with his friend, and how long he ended up staying here. Maybe he’s still here, visa long expired, wandering the back-streets of Wan Chai, several debts owed to various scary triads, cursing that twat from the plane who ever put the idea of coming here in his mind. Maybe. Anyway, to celebrate this semi-important anniversary I’m going to see a Spanish language film then have a German dinner. Which could be argued is the least ‘Hong Kong’ thing to do with your Saturday evening – I should have hot-pot and play a round of mahjong – but could also be argued is an incredibly ‘Hong Kong’ thing to do because here you may be in China, but it also often feels like you’re at the centre of the world.