Familiarity was everywhere and yet nowhere as I made my way around Hong Kong all these years later. The long- dormant meaning of once-frequented places emerged slowly, as though through a cloud. First would come the sensation of knowing a place, followed by the visual reveal, and finally the sprint through mental files to where memories were found, orderly and untouched.
One thing I knew for certain was that bus 13 would get me from where I was staying in Mid-Levels to Central. Central is then connected by every form of transportation to everything else in the city.
A smile spread across my face as I watched life outside my window — a life that had once been my life. Descending, lush green hills gave way to glittering architecture as we left the residential hillside and emerged into the city’s commercial center. Hong Kong is the perfect study in opposites. Old and new, east and west, traditional and cutting edge.
I switched to the subway, or MTR, and took the train to Admiralty. I was reminded again of how forward-thinking Hong Kong is when it comes to design. Even in the subway, and then through the avant-garde shopping mall, there was a display of clean lines and awe-inspiring attention to detail.
Keeping to the theme of contrasts, I hopped on the slowest form of transportation — the tram (endearingly called the ‘ding ding’ in Cantonese). I wanted to see my old neighborhood known as Western. I sat on the upper level near the front where an open window allowed a gentle breeze to flow and gave me a high view of street life below. Ribbons of scent floated up from the Chinese medicine shops, and workers pushing carts darted between the traffic with ease.
I stepped foot in the building where I used to work, then walked past the apartment hi-rise where I had lived on the 11th floor. It was then that I was reminded of a small noodle shop that was tucked away in an alley nearby. But where? I walked and hoped a memory would be triggered. I passed flower stands, vegetable carts, clothing shops. Then I saw the small opening between buildings and remembered something. I turned left down the alley, then right. And there it was. I sat at one of only four or five small tables and ordered simple soup noodles and plain vegetables (choi sum). Better than finding the restaurant was the fact that the same petite woman who worked there serving noodles all those years ago was still there!
After my afternoon in one of Hong Kong’s oldest and most visually stimulating neighborhoods, I bookended the day with a tram ride back to Central and then bus 13 back to Mid-Levels.
I have decided the bus 13 trip has some kind of auspicious correlation to the year 2013.