A Gweilo in 1980s China – pt. 13
Written by Tai Pan
If you haven’t had yet the chance to read the previous episodes, I suggest you do so by going to the ‘Story of my life’ section and starting from part 1!
CHAPTER 13 – HONG KONG
On the third day of our trip to Canton, we left to go to Hong Kong. I must to say that leaving that wonderful city cheered me up and made me sad at the same time, as I was going to fly back to my home country, Italy, but I was also leaving the beautiful Chinese landscapes behind.
Then I reminded myself that my trip to China was actually the first of a long series of trips there, and so I was actually able to bear the departure from that magical country.
Canton’s airport was better equipped than Changsha’s one: indeed, there was much more ‘traffic’ of both passengers and airplanes, than in the previous airport.Contrary to Changsha, our plane from Canton to Hong Kong was not a propeller, so this time I was more calmed and relax during the flight. The only thing I ‘feared’ was the landing in Hong Kong, as I explained in chapter 1, residential buildings were built right next to airport, and whenever a plane would land, the aricraft would fly really near to the houses.
As soon as the plane took off I went into a sort of ‘trans’, re-living in my head all the episodes and emotions I went through during my trips to Shanghai and rural China. I saw the unforgettable awakening of the first day, I re-lived my first business negotiation, the hilarious toilet episode, and even the equally hilarious and grotesque bus ride that my colleague took during when we were staying in Shanghai. However, the most excitingmemory out all that I had store in my head, was the meeting with the restaurant manager of the Jin Jiang Club. I remembered his sad story of the piano during the Cultural Revolution – the same story that I wrote about in chapter 8. Remembering that young guy that had to give up his dream because of the revolution, made me feel really bad, and so while I was flying to Hong Kong I promised to myself that on my next trip back to China, I would have gone check on that fellow at the Jin Jang Club.
Whilst I was being overwhelmed by thoughts and memories, I did not notice that we had started descending towards Hong Kong’s airport.The plane almost touched the buildings, but at least it landed without any problems!I reached Hong Kong in the early morning, even thou my flight back to Italy was only in the late evening, at around 10.40pm. So the other two Italians and I decided to then wander around the city.We planned the day in Hong Kong according to the suggestions that some Chinese gave us on the plane: in the morning we went to Kowloon; lunch was at the ‘legendary’ Mandarin Oriental Hotel, then walking and shopping in the afternoon, to finally return to the airport in the early evening. The streets of Hong Kong were so lively and cahotic that they had a very particular and unique charm.
A Chinese I met during one of the business meetings I had, told me all about Hong Kong, defining it as “a city where every day half of the populationg is selling something, and the other half is buying something”, but only when I went there and I walked around those streets, I actually understood what he meant. The roads were crowded with people, both locals and tourists.Looking up at the sky was almost impossible, as there were posters and signings advertising stores and products everywhere. Electronic shops were the most popular ones in Hong Kong: stereos, cameras and anything technological at that time was sold in those crowded stores.I have always been a big music fan, and when in Hong Kong, I found different music-cassettes of artists and groups that were not being sold in Italy – yes, in those ancient days we would listen to music with music-cassettes, we still didn’t have cds, mp3, or ipods…
When we went to the Mandarin Oriental for lunch, I finally realised why it was called that way.It was absolutely wonderful: black marbles and luxury velvet and wooden furniture were decorating the interior of the hotel, which was packed with people and which looked absolutely elegant and sophisticated, with an ‘oriental’ feel.All the guests seemed to be very refined, but also unpleasantly snob, especially when addressing to the Chinese staff. It was actually pretty annoying to watch…
The food and the service were both eccelent, and once we finished there, we left to go visit the Pagoda at Ocean Park, which, quite frankly, I did not like that much! After the beautiful buildings I saw in rural China, Hong Kong looked modern and technological to me, I didn’t not think it was as historically charming as Canton and Shanghai.
After visiting the pagoda we ended up in a shopping mall. For a young Italian in 1983, a shopping mall was something absolutely new and avant-garde!I was impressed by the large and well-organized structure in which, during the hottest time of the year, a lot of Chinese families would go to enjoy the excellent air conditioning system. Incredible!Time to head back to the airport came so quickly, so we jumped on a taxi and drove to Kai Tak Airport to check-in.Our flight was ready to board after just few minutes we entered the departing area, and while I was walking to my seat I began to reflect and think about that first experience in that charming country. I realized how much that trip actually ‘enriched’ my soul: I realised how much I had changed, and how much wiser I became in such a short period of time! I felt like I had completely changed my perspective on life, and I realised that China enchanted me so much, that I completely and madly fell in love with its people, traditions and culture.
When the Cathay Pacific’s plane took off, the a young Italian Gweilo that was looking outside the window (me), felt sorry and sad that he was going home leaving that magical country behind. So he made a promise to himself, he promised he would have returned to China as soon as possible.
Dear readers be patient, as I would have gone back to China relatively soon after my departure. So I will see you next week!
(All photos are from Google.com, and they all belong to their original owners)