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Hong Kong Revisited

I couldn't believe it.

Eighteen of the first twenty days I had ever spent in China were sunless (and on the other two, the sun was just teasing me).
Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Suzhou, Guanzhou - it didn't matter. Over the course of three years and all four seasons - rain, clouds, and pollution had conspired to hide any solar induced brightness from me.

But this time was different. I would get a chance to see a well-lit Hong Kong.
This was also my chance to see a Chinese-ruled Hong Kong.

You, of course, know the story.
Hong Kong was doomed, history, destined for disaster. China would ruin everything that 'the British had built' (no sarcasm necessary).

Well, as far as I could see, the only difference was that I needed sunglasses in Chinese Hong Kong.

Okay, I'm being flippant.
But to make a long story short - everything I saw on this trip further enforced my initial impression that Hong Kong belonged more with China, than with Britain (I'm ignoring the obvious self-rule option, since everyone else did...).

Thanks to our new friend Sean, we were able to explore some of the New Territories. We saw old clan houses, walked through orchards, and visited Kam Tim Walled City - where I photographed this Hakka woman for the bargain price of 10 HK dollars.

The other difference between this trip and my previous one, is that during the 18 months in-between, I had become addicted to Hong Kong cinema.
Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Jackie Chan, Leslie Cheung, Brigette Lin, Jet Li, Hsu Chi, and many others had become regular visitors to my TV set - thanks to heavy exposure from Singapore television.

I had been taking notes from these movies, and I had a lot of questions that needed answering. For example:

1. Is every woman in Hong Kong really beautiful?
2. Did every young guy own a knife and know martial arts?
3. Was every female from the mainland a ghost or a prostitute (or both)?
4. Do people really spurt blood in slow motion?
5. Does everyone talk out of sync?
6. Can the average woman really kick my ass all over the fruit market?
7. Are guns always hidden in bird cages?
8. Are 30% of males employed as professional hit men?

If you've watched enough Hong Kong movies, walking the streets is just like walking the back lots of Hollywood. So we wandered through our own movie.

We rode the double-decker tram that figured so prominently in "Odd One Dies".
We wandered the mid-level escalators, looking for the apartment from "Chungking Express".
And from the Cultural Center, which is the location of the final scene of "Mermaid Got Married", we watched boats and people during the day. At night, we enjoyed the view of the Hong Kong skyline.

Then there are the views that figure into almost any Hong Kong movie:
-The chaotic cacophony of the markets
-Flapping clothes hung from the windows of the cramped apartments

-The shimmering city lights seen from the Peak at night
-The throngs of shopaholics in malls or on Nathan Road
-Oppressively cold towering skyscrapers
-And the chirping birds that seem to be tucked into a cage in each  smallest corner of this city.

Only one view was missing, and sadly, it's the most distinctive of all Hong Kong cinematic images.
I really missed the sight of an airplane scooping low over the buildings of Kowloon as it arrived or departed from Kai Tak airport.
Some things just shouldn't be changed...

So after days of eating dim sum, seeing the sights, and buying way too many new movies on VCD, LD, and DVD - what was the biggest difference I found between the Hong Kong of the cinema and the Hong Kong of reality?

No subtitles. Seriously.

In regards to my other questions, here's what I found:

1. Not all, but many, Hong Kong women are beautiful.
2. If they do, they hide it well.
3. Well, if they're ghosts I didn't see them, and if they're prostitutes I didn't see them either (honest).
4. I didn't see anyone bleed, but I saw a lot of people hack and spit. I'm still having nightmares about it.
5. You know, they talk so fast that sometimes it seems like they're out of sync - but I think I'm just slow.
6. Probably.
7. I didn't have the balls to crack open a bird cage, because some woman would probably kick my ass all over the fruit market.
8. Well, as I walked down the street, I did get hit a lot - but they weren't very professional.

Hmmm, I'll have to try this next time I'm in Hollywood...