Behold Hong Kong.
Whether you are coming in from Hong Kong International Airport (HKG), crossing the border via bus from Shenzhen, China, or making your way over water via a ferry from Macau, arriving in Hong Kong is nothing short of magical. The only other city that compares is Las Vegas. The energy and excitement that comes from staring out an airplane window and seeing the bright lights of the Vegas Strip never gets old much like the moment of arrival in 香港。
The first time I went to Hong Kong was October 30,, 2009. At the time, I was living in Shanghai, China and a friend of mine told me there was a group of Italian exchange students headed to Hong Kong and Macau for the Halloween festivities.
“They’ll meet you in the airport in Shenzhen, be sure to bring your tuxedo.” Puzzled as to why Halloween weekend was a black tie event, I visited my favorite tailor located at Lujiabang Lu 陆家浜路站 to get fitted for the ball.
007 tux in hand, I arrived at the airport and found my new friends at the universal meet up place, McDonald’s. We exchanged the usual pleasantries and took a bus bound for Macau Ferry Station. The plan was to party Vegas style in Macau the night before Halloween and then head back to Hong Kong for the main event.
We suited up and headed to the world’s largest casino, the Venetian Macau. Picture walking into the Bellagio in Las Vegas: You immediately hear the ringing of the casino slots, the shouts of the winners [and losers], and the inevitable drunkard yelling, “Vegas baby!”
Now, hit the mute button. Welcome to Macau.
While the city had the bright lights of Las Vegas, it did not have the party. The rapture had taken the atmosphere of Las Vegas and left behind boring, rich businessmen betting with $25,000 chips with no emotion regardless if they won or lost. In the middle of this glorified retirement home/bingo hall was seven Italians and one American, overdressed and underwhelmed.
After an uneventful night, we took the ferry to Hong Kong the next day. Since most of the world does not celebrate Halloween the way we do in the US and after being duped by Asia’s Vegas, my expectations were low.
Before the party began, I had to procure the final piece of my costume, a requisite hat that had fallen out of my bag in the airport. I went to the night market but stall after stall, merchant after merchant, but still left empty handed, though I was offered many “bags ‘a’ watches” for “best price”. Hours later, the search had come up empty. Frustrated, I was about to head back to the ‘Mansion’ rationalizing that not having a Halloween costume was not that big of a deal. Then I saw a welcoming, familiar sign that read: Pho- Delight Vietnamese Cuisine.
“Table for one please,” I said while pointing to the picture on the menu while making a gesture for a ‘big bowl’. A few moments later, the bowl arrived along with fresh spring rolls. Finally, I had found the comforts of home. It was a cathartic experience to squeeze the Siracha and Hoisin sauce into the steaming hot broth in preparation for a relaxing meal. Even with this rich, playful bowl in front of me, something was amiss. I couldn’t help but think about my incomplete Halloween costume. Sensing my apprehension, the kind waiter brought me more fresh sprouts.
Once again, my world was in balance. Upon emerging from my blackout of beef and broth, I found myself back in the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong. Bowl empty, belly full, I headed back out and double downed my efforts to find that elusive, mythological hat.
“Mission accomplished!” I said to the merchant as I handed over a fistful of Hong Kong dollars.
Dressed as shifu 师傅, a master of Kung Fu, I, along with my friends made our way to the party district of Lan Kwai Fong. While walking among the hundreds of thousands of partygoers, we found ourselves swarmed by paparazzi bombarding us with flashes from photos. What followed was the greatest Halloween party the world has ever seen.
This was a Halloween weekend that I surely will never forget.
Hong Kong- Treat