Absorbing The Mania
I am an urbanite through and through, and I actually thrive in the cliched hustle and bustle. Hailing from Mumbai, you would think that I would prefer holidaying in some remote, serene, picture-postcard-perfect location. Nah! I can’t tolerate being away from civilization from more than a couple of days, it gives me the creeps. Give me a city- and I am set.
I wouldn’t call myself a traveler either, as I haven’t had much of an opportunity to go around, being at the mercy of my parents decisions. But I have enjoyed a few trips in the country as well as abroad. There’s always a downside when traveling with parents. There are some million restrictions which stops you from doing things that will scandalize them (you do get my drift, don’t you). But the upside when it comes to traveling with my folks is that they are as enthusiastic as I am, to EXPLORE, DISCOVER and ABSORB.
Which are after all the reasons why I like to travel.
My trip to Hong Kong last year is one such example.
For me a holiday doesn’t start when I reach the destination. It starts way before that. I find setting the date, making an itinerary, booking tickets, scouting hotels, packing, and the mere anticipation as exciting as the journey itself. I was traveling with my parents (obviously) and this trip was happening after a long time. So you can imagine the excitement!
The moment we landed there, we knew this was going to be the best one so far. A ginormous airport, wide roads, sky-scrapers, endless sea-links, towering neon office blocks, rapid and automatic transport systems shooting around everywhere, state of the art shopping malls – could it get any better?
We had chosen to stay on the Kowloon region, opposite the Hong Kong Island. Kowloon is as lively, if not more, than mainland Hong Kong, with loads of stuff going on, day or night. It seemed like we were a part of a mega fair, where at every junction there was some amazing spectacle.
Opting to use public transport to get around, their metro and bus service being impeccable, was another smart decision. Public transport is always a fun way to move around a new city. You fumble into finding your own way, get the opportunity to interact with people while asking for directions, etc (who were surprisingly enthusiastic compared to the snobs we thought they would be) and understand their eclectic life-style. They also have a computerized ticket-spewing machine which we learnt to use. These small exercises made us feel less of an outsider. I remember getting lost a couple of times but that was the whole point. That is how you get to explore places which are not the ‘usual’ sight-seeing locales on the itinerary, but are as interesting.
Hong Kong boasts of its own Disney Land, and I have not seen my parents get any younger. I think Disney does that to people.Visiting Disney Land was like stepping into a fairytale. The colours and the music and the adventure and the performances and not-so-unreal characters and the hospitality and the infrastructure was a work of sheer genius. It surely delivered the magic it promised and sang all along.
There were other memorable moments; like at the Victoria Peak where on the chilly, cloud covered viewing deck we were able to capture the beauty of the city; the ride up to the peak via tram which retained its old English feel, with bright red compartments, rosewood benches, small glass windows and ornate lamps; watching the Symphony Of Lights across the coast at night; enjoying the myriad wildlife and ocean-life at Ocean World Park; riding a cable-car over the city; strolling along the Avenue Of Stars; posing with our favourite celebrities in wax at Madame Tussauds; prospecting various museums of arts and science – Hong Kong had it all.
I dedicate part of my time to observe the locals. I’ve always found it an astonishing and entertaining activity.
One thing I discovered about the Hong Kongers, was that they are disciplinarians. Everyone has a fixed routine and they rarely get side-tracked- it’s like clock-work. And the other was their level of tolerance. In spite of being such a populous city, for the time I was there, I did not see a single scuffle or abusive behaviour or for that matter even a traffic jam – the outcome of regimented behaviour. No wonder, they are so proud of having the lowest crime-rate in the world.
Cleanliness is another priority. It was a treat to see the streets being scrubbed clean every morning with some gigantic machines.
Yet another aspect people take very seriously is, you guessed right – fashion! There is everything from flea markets to glitzy malls selling everything under the sun. Now I can go on and on about how absolutely, splendidly, awesome I found that to be, but I am just going to say this: if retail therapy can help get over ones woes, I managed to kick my non-existing woes to another planet.
A fairly new city, with not so much of history and culture, but vastly westernized, Hong Kong still possesses a pizzazz, an allurement. We couldn’t help but absorb the mania which is a part and parcel of a cosmopolitan, the pace, the orderliness, people’s avidity towards work, and the general sense of belonging to one another and the city.
It was an unforgettable trip, and I hope I can take it again someday.
If you have a memorable one too, please feel free to share!