Hong Kong 1995

Like snakes of glowing magma

(Extract from the diary)

Once upon our arrival at Victoria Park, we are able to watch the unique, sensational and spectacular sunset over the skyline of the six-million city of Hong Kong, a city which obviously, due to lack of space, needs to expand upwards instead of breadthways. The golden light of the setting fire ball spreads over the concrete, steel and glass buildings, and gives them an unreal, yes almost romantic flair. Tanja and I are stunned, and admire the scene, which to us appears like a surreal, far out vision of the future. With the last ray of the sun slowly disappearing, the one or other artificial light is being switched on. And then, as the darkness of the night more and more swallows the light of the day, a spectacle beyond comparison takes its course, a spectacle hardly to be seen anywhere else on earth in this manner.

More and more lights are being switched on, one after the other, like gigantic fireworks. Slowly at first, but getting faster by the second, little and large sources of light appear at all ends. The variety of colours of this spectacle even tops the impressive diversity of a carnival. The haze as well as the darkness make the flashing lights look like a huge colourful paint box with mingling pigments. As if an alien force was splotching colours over the gaping night. I am spellbound as I watch a crimson colour climbing up the skyscraper below us. White dots sprinkle an over dimensioned cube. They seem to augment to infinity. Unexpectedly, the white colour turns into amber, which now shines into the deep night until it mixes with a dark crimson beaming over from a gigantic illuminated advertising. In a distant corner I recognise apple green changing to sky-blue and shortly after to a bright purple. The colours of this dream world start dancing and flickering, bouncing, hopping and flowing in front of our eyes. As if by a ghost’s hand, the millions and millions of lights keep being separated and reunited by some wide and some narrow stripes – one smoky black, one greyish black, and one bluish black. Endlessly long streams flow along the gullies and depths of the all embracing blackness, like glowing magma. Like igneous wyverns with thousands of eyes they wriggle along the bare ferroconcrete walls, growing larger and larger instead of coming to a halt. This is how we experience the awakening of the night life in the cosmopolitan city of Hong Kong…

Slimy worms on our spoons
Contented, we return to Kowloon. We are hungry and look out for a Chinese restaurant. With a smile, Tanja orders a “hot-and-sour-soup”. “Bon appétit!” I say to her as the waitress serves a huge bowl of Tanja’s favourite soup. “Hmmm, excellent,” she replies after having tasted a spoonful. I’m glad she likes it, and take a spoonful, too. It doesn’t really hit my taste though. I’m not what you’d call fussy, and I’ve eaten plenty of unidentifiable stuff, but here I’m faced with having to fish disgusting, transparent stripes out of the soup. I know they are no worms, but I’ve heard so many horrible stories about the eating habits of the Chinese, that my stomach begins to turn at the sight of these disgusting things. Half heartedly, I peck at my soup, and keep finding wobbly white pieces of fat and huge slimy mushrooms, or something looking like mushrooms anyway. The bare act of putting them into my mouth makes my hair stand on end. Inconspicuously and in disgust, I let this uneatable, slimy piece of something slide back onto my spoon and put it next to all the already sorted, transparent, wormlike stripes plus the white pieces of fat at the side of my plate. My search through the pretty pricey family bowl results in an accumulation of garbage on my saucer, the sight of which makes me break out in a sweat.

Full of pity, I watch Tanja from the corner of my eyes. She looks pleased, though, as she follows Chinese habits and fills her soup from the large bowl into her small bowl. She sees me picking at my food and asks “Don’t you like your soup?” “No, not at all. I’ve never had such a terrible soup in my life,” I answer discontented. “It looks good, though” she says, chewing pleasurably. “It looks good? It looks awful! And it tastes just as disgusting as these horrible things here,” I answer, pointing at my plate with my spoon. “Would you like some of my soup?” she asks with a motherly voice. “Oh yes, please!” While Tanja excuses herself to go to the bathroom, I keenly pitch into her hot-and-sour-soup. It only takes me two spoonfuls though to discover these wormy white stripes in this soup too, and, accidentally, I even swallow one of them. With increasing disgust, I can feel it gliding down my throat and through my gullet, finally landing at the bottom of my stomach. I shudder, and push Tanja’s family bowl over to her side of the table before rinsing my throat with a good zip of beer. Tanja returns shortly afterwards. She looks at me in astonishment. “Have you had enough or don’t you like my soup either?” “Hmm, I think I’ve had enough,” I lie to her, not wanting to spoil her appetite. I’m amazed when I see her enjoying one spoonful after the other again, with the same appetite as before. “Why are you looking at me like that?” she asks and suggests “If you’re still hungry, why don’t you order something else.” “No, no , I’ve had enough.” I say meekly. I’m not sure whether she’s discovered those unidentifiable things in her soup or not. After a while I am so curious, I can’t help but ask her. “Tanja,” I start with an innocent smile. “Don’t you mind those slimy things in your soup at all? Or do you actually like them?” “Which slimy things?”, she wonders critically. Just as she’s about to take another spoonful of slimy worms, she suddenly pauses for a moment. Her eyes focus on one of the horrible and ugly creepy creatures on her spoon. Slowly, she puts down her spoon, and says: “You’re right! They really look like yucky slimy worms.” “Yes, they do”, I agree, but, considering she’s still eating, I don’t want to carry on about it. Only minutes later, she has accumulated an equally large heap of garbage on her plate. She says: “I think this was my first and last hot-and-sour-soup in Hong Kong.” Regarding the fact that we are planning to travel to China and through the Taklamakan Desert within only a few weeks, Tanja wonders “Do you think they also eat slimy worms in China?” “I have no idea. But let’s leave this place now. I can’t even stand the smell of it any more,” I answer, pushing to go. Tanja absolutely agrees…

 


Hong Kong 1985/1986/1995

Exciting Hong Kong. Metropolis of all superlatives. Breathtaking skyline. Hectic activities unifying the unique mixture of old and new, Far East and Western cultures. A thrilling place for Tanja and Denis Katzer’s stopovers on their travels.