Hong Kong one last time

So I am off on my last visit to Hong Kong. Having retired in April and finished my commitments to teaching in HK last October, when we had a great celebration of ten years of the programme, this is a personal visit. I guess to say good bye to the place and to the people I have known and loved over 14 memorable years of visiting.
I am travelling first class, a unique experience though I did usually travel business class when flying for the university. An accumulation of air miles and a desire to treat myself and as I start this first blog of the trip I am relaxing in a chair wide enough for me, with a seat belt big enough for my rotund body without the extra piece I normally have to ask for and a promising personally cooked meal ahead. It feels like I am a bit of an interloper but I will enjoy. 
Travelling can be a bit of a challenge these days and I am conscious that my world is getting smaller. It’s a combination of age and health I think but I would not consider too many new international ventures for myself now and though excited by the prospect of this journey I am a little saddened it won’t happen again. In the last few years at work I got to travel a lot more than I had ever done. I got to New Zealand which I loved and went several times. I do not think I will get there again. 
But as the world closes in on me a bit it has the delightful edge of visiting somewhere which I know I am unlikely to come back to and therefore I have to treasure each moment, soak in the atmosphere and hopefully take some good photos to keep as a memory. Memories are important because as your world narrows you rely on that recall to relive experiences. Without that memory, without connecting to the many moments you have had, life can feel a little bereft. I enjoy the present and the act of living is an act of creating the past by its very operation but to recall your whole life makes history part of your very existence, your soul. ‘The past is what you take with you’ as Kate Atkinson said in her novel ‘Behind the Scenes at the Museum’. We treasure our memories not just out of nostalgia but because they give meaning to our life. I find that revisiting familiar places has that sense of renewal about it but also that each visit builds on the past. So I have always liked returning to where I have been. In fact now this gives me as much pleasure as venturing to new places. I guess my curiosity is sated and with diminishing time available I would rather renew than explore, though a visit to Brussels and Bruges a couple of months ago was very enjoyable. 
So I have slept now and am awaiting breakfast before we arrive in HK. Sleeping was ok, it’s never wonderful on the plane but staff were very helpful and I will have just 7/8 hours left in the day, HK being 8 hours ahead of the UK. 
It has a special place in my heart as it is the only place I have lived out of the UK. In fact apart from six years exiled in Suffolk in my teenage years, the only place out of Yorkshire. I came here on sabbatical for 7 months from October 2010 to May 2011. I came at the best time of year for the weather and stayed in a big flat on the university campus. Indeed this blog category was originally the site of blogging I did during those wonderful months. To live in a country as a normal citizen was a great joy and I learnt so much about myself and about HK. I did look at seeing out my career here and for a while it seemed a likely prospect before health problems intervened and took away that chance. Freed of my normal routines I was able to do what I love doing. I worked on academic articles, attended seminars, gave speeches, travelled to do some work in Singapore, Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand. I also read 35 novels spending 3/4 hours most evenings in Pacific Coffee watching the world go by with no pressure to leave. I became more relaxed than I had been for a long time and was so glad I had fought against senior management opposition to have the only sabbatical I enjoyed in 34 years at the university. Such was their level of interest I offered to do a seminar for the senior team which they ignored. I also ran a seminar at the faculty research conference to which only two other people attended both of whom were giving the other paper in the session. Still I got so much from it so who cares about them! 
I am here for nine days in total. I already have 7 lunches or dinners arranged with various colleagues. Lunching here is very much a positive tradition. You can always get yourself a lunch companion. I think partly they prefer to eat out as their homes are in general very small and not well catered for cooking. They are also very private and you rarely get an invite to their homes. But going to lunch is a different matter. They will find some wonderful restaurants in which, as a non-Cantonese speaking visitor, I would not be able to order. Knowing my preferences they unfailingly order superb food, always too much but showed me that Chinese food is so varied, so tasty and very communal and the MSG in the UK versions were unpalatable after these meals. Cuisines were varied too so I can enjoy everything from Vietnamese to Filipino. I hope my stomach is up for the challenge. 
But HK is so much more. Its striking architecture, its wonderful islands, its rural enclaves, its culture, its oriental overlay, its friendliness, its safety, its friendly people and in the wrong months its 98% humidity! I have chosen this time deliberately as the weather is great for me, a mildly warm summer’s day and no great humidity. So time to land soon. Watch out for further blogs as the time progresses. 
Now in the hotel and unpacking. I shall be going to bed after some food so i can hopefully sleep off any jet lag. Be back tomorrow.

3 thoughts on “Hong Kong one last time

  1. Great introduction to your blog Paul.
    Having been to HK twice, albeit, in the Nineties and just before it was handed over to the Chinese, it’s fascinating to read of your experiences.
    I’ll look forward to the rest x


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