Printer Friendly

A global soul in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong has this innate quality of

WHEN YOU go to Hong Kong, you'll start seeing a flying lizard -- a creature you aren't likely to run into on a normal day -- in a completely different light. As it stares at you balefully in its state of rigor mortis, you'll wonder why in God's not- so- green earth it was waiting to be eaten, tied on to a stick in the most insulting manner to another unfortunate member of its species.

We were at Hong Kong's famous dry food market on a teeming thoroughfare named Des Voeux Road West. Giving us company were various parts of various sea creatures, from fish maw ( the air bladder that helps fish to maintain their balance in the sea) to duck gizzard.

There were also what looked like clumps of hair, but actually were a vegetarian delicacy named fat choy. I was halfexpecting to see a snake's gall bladder, but our gregarious guide spared us that stomach- churning experience, though he insisted that the collagen- rich fish maw was the secret of his youthful skin.

As you must have guessed by now, he was quite popular among the girls. They kept calling him " 42, going on 28". Fish maw, and that other unmentionable thing -- frog's placenta ( which I had had the last time I was in Hong Kong), has turned the Chinese into a nation of ageless wonders.

There's something addictive about Hong Kong. It draws you into its mysterious layers springing a surprise each time you think you've had enough of it. It's a city where contradictions co- exist without any clash of civilisations or anything like that. My moment of truth came when an SLK vroomed into the narrow Gough Street, a tony neighbourhood with fashionable restaurants, disgorging a couple flashing designer labels ( the woman's skirt couldn't go up any further).

I expected them to go up to the chic burger restaurant in the neighbourhood, but they stood patiently for their turn in a lengthening queue outside a beehive of a dai pai dong ( a Chinese dhaba) managed by an elderly woman, whose temper kept pace with her efficiency. It turned out later that she wasn't ill- tempered as I thought she was -- she was just being Cantonese: even when they exchange sweet- nothings, they sound as if they're engaged in a cross- fire.

These decrepit places, where everyone sits outdoors on tables they share with strangers, attract Hong Kong's elite. As the afternoon progressed, the street metamorphosed into a display of luxury cars -- an S- Class, in this lineup, seemed like a poor cousin. Imagine this happening in Delhi -- the richie rich queuing up for tomato soup noodles dolled up with generous chunks of beef, pineapple bun in condensed milk, salted lime and Sprite, and voluminous glasses of yin- yang ( an iced drink with tea and coffee in equal measure).

That's Hong Kong for you. A city completely at ease with itself, without false pretences, or any cultivated inhibitions. And it's Asia's truly international city. In four days, I met an American woman from the frosty state of Vermont who taught English during the day and made some extra doing a particularly bad job at bartending in the night. Then I'd dinner with an Indian woman who had trained to be a chef ( she had even completed her industrial training at Mumbai's Indigo restaurant) but chose to become a development communicator in South Africa, before moving to Hong Kong to manage the media for an Indo- Italian restaurant ( imagine!) named Duetto. If there's a culinary equivalent of Indian politics, it's Duetto. I discovered uncanny similarities -- as in India, it's the Italian part that's the crowd- puller, especially now that they have a Florentine chef whose dishes ( I have never had tastier bruschetta) are as pleasing to the senses as his arias ( yes, he's a singing chef).

It was a Sindhi businessman, Ravi Gidumal, who made it a point to drive home Hong Kong's global, all- embracing character at what wine aficionados call a glass tasting -- actually, it is a marketing exercise to promote the ultrachic Riedel glasses. At one such tasting at the plush J. W. Marriott, Gidumal couldn't help pointing out that a person of Indian origin was talking about Riedel glasses, which are made in Austria, to journalists from India, France and the Philippines in the only hotel in Asia to have a dedicated Riedel Room. You can't get more international than that ( though, I must add, Gidumal blew it by confusing a Shiraz for a Cabernet Sauvignon).

Hong Kong's transnational character was in full flow at a lunch that the Four Seasons hotel had hosted for us at Lung King Heen, the world's only Michelin three- star Chinese restaurant. Our host for the day was a young woman from Yorkshire -- our guide insisted that she looked like Julia Roberts -- who was tickled at my imitation of G

Copyright 2009 India Today Group. All Rights Reserved.

Provided by an company
COPYRIGHT 2009 Al Bawaba (Middle East) Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2009 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Nov 8, 2009
Previous Article:RAISINA Tattle.
Next Article:In Coelho's Retreat.

Related Articles
Vodafone, China Mobile (H.K.) form strategic alliance.
H.K. to host next WTO ministerial conference.
Two HK-issued ETFs begin public trading on TWSE.
H.K. opens first bullion depository.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters