I’ve been in Hong Kong less than a week, and I’m already running into people I know around town.
Hong Kong is a giant city – and very dense. Everything here is packed to the brim, including the people. Crossing streets is a marathon affair. As I walk down the streets I feel like I’m avoiding a predator, zigzagging and weaving back and forth through the masses.
Despite the size and number of people, Hong Kong is turning out to be a rather intimate place. So far, I’ve had four encounters that were very sweet and made me feel like I wasn’t just another mass in the crowd. In fact, the city has been incredibly intimate – even beyond all the PDA that’s happening!
Encounter 1: The generous commuter
At the airport, I purchased a train ticket that would take me into the city. I showed them on the map where I wanted to go and got a single ride ticket. This would involve me making a few transfers to different train lines, but no big deal!
At my first transfer, I find my new train line and try to enter the gate, but my ticket doesn’t work when I tap it against the magnetic reader. I try again – still nothing. There’s a kid, about 20 walking up and I kind of hold my ticket out and give him a confused look.
He takes my ticket and says in perfect English “oh, this is just a one way ticket from the airport. You’ll have to buy another.” He escorts me to the self-serve ticket station and asks me where I’m going. We pick the destination on the map and the machine tells me I need to put in $12.
He asks me if I have money to pay for the fare as he starts to get his wallet out. I tell him yes but that I only have a $100. He takes money from his wallet and puts it in the machine, explaining that I won’t get change for a $100. Out pops my ticket, he helps me through the turnstile and then tells me to enjoy my stay in Hong Kong.
He didn’t even hesitate when helping me and readily paid for my ticket. His mother should be proud.
Hong Kong +10 points.
Encounter 2: The kind waiter
Being somewhere and not having enough money is my personal nightmare. Checking out at the grocery store, paying a friend back for something, wanting to purchase something at a yard sale etc.
My first night in Hong Kong I arrived late off the plane. After making it through immigration, finding my way to my hostel which was buried in some dark alley (not uncommon in Hong Kong), and ditching my stuff in my room I realized I was hungry.
I went outside and headed in some random direction. Despite being about 10 pm, the city was still poppin’! I continued wondering down the streets until I found an Indian restaurant that had free Wifi and yummy looking food.
Sitting down, I was greeted by a waiter with a big smile. He asked me what I wanted to order and teased me when I told him I couldn’t get the spicy sauce because I was a wimp. He placed my order and then came back and we chatted for a few minutes. All the usual things – where am I from, how long will I be here, how old am I (why do people ask this over here?). Turns out he was only a year older than me and had been living in Hong Kong for 10 years (from India originally).
My roasted lamb with chips (aka french fries) were delivered to my table, and as expected, it was scrumptious. After gobbling it down, I requested the check. To my complete terror, I was $4 short for the bill.
In other Asian countries so far, the price listed has been the price. Either no tax, or tax included I’m not sure but the price listed is what you pay. In Hong Kong, tax is added in addition with a dining in service fee.
I walked to the register, the lamb feeling like it was alive in my stomach – running, flipping and turning. I give him the check and all my money and say “I’m sorry, I’m $4 short.” He smiles at me – a real, genuine smile – and says “don’t worry about it!”
I tell him I can run to my room and get some money and come back, but instead he makes me agree to come back the next night so he can “cook for me again”.
I went back the next night, having another amazing meal. I paid in full for it, and tried to give him the $4 from the night before, but he wouldn’t take it. He smiled, shook my hand and told me again “don’t worry about it”.
+10 for Hong Kong in the generosity department once again.
Encounter 3: The hostel receptionist
One of my first days in Hong Kong, I went to the infamous Dim Sum restaurant, Tim Ho Wan. Coming back with a full belly, I boarded the bus and was greeted by a big smile saying “Hiya! Remember me?” Feeling terrible because I didn’t I just gave a confused look. The smile says “I’m the receptionist at the hostel! I recognize your hair!”
I still don’t remember, but go “ohhh yeah!”.
We talk on the bus the whole way back to the hostel, as she’s headed into work, but at a different location. We talk about school, Dim Sum, the weather and how it’s supposed to rain all week long. We get off at our stop, and the sky opens up. She pulls out her umbrella and puts it over us.
She asks me if I have an umbrella and I tell her that I do, but just not with me. She tries to hand me her umbrella, inviting me to take it. I politely decline, but touched by her kindness. She offers once again, telling me that my hair is so awesome it shouldn’t have to be in the rain. At the intersection now, I laugh and tell her that I’m about to shower anyway, and we go our separate ways.
Encounter 4: The Dog Cafe employee
I spent a night hanging out with the adorable pack at a doge cafe the other night. The employees and other patrons were very nice and sociable. I ended up talking with two of the employees for some time about my plans for Hong Kong and what I wanted to do.
I mentioned that I’d like to go to the track to see some horse racing. I had gone previously but on account of rain the races were canceled – bummer! The website for the races isn’t the most user friendly and I was having a hard time figuring out when the next races were.
The two girls immediately whipped out their cell phones and began searching the site for me. Being just as confused as I was, one of them called her dad to ask on my behalf. You know dads – they know everything. When in doubt, call dad. It was so sweet. We found that there would indeed be a race happening the next day if I wanted to attend!
I chatted with the girls for the rest of my stay and they answered all my questions, helped me look up ferry timetables and we’re even friends on Facebook now so you know it’s official!
My last day in Hong Kong
Today is my last day in Hong Kong. I lost a few days with my knee sliding out, but I still had a wonderful, very fulfilling time. Since I didn’t do too many touristy things, the people that I’ve met and the friends I know now truly made my visit special.
It’s been great Hong Kong, I can’t wait until we hang out again!
Do you have interactions like this in your home town? Is your town big or small? How do you think that contributes to the ability to make new friends?