It was some day in 1995, or maybe 1996, definitely before Hong Kong became Chinese, I’m not really sure about the exact year, when a life changing decision was made. Not made by myself, as at that time all important decisions were made by my parents for me. My mum decided I had to accompany her on a Hong Kong trip as a English German translator.
View from Hong Kong peak, taken on in 2008. My old Hong Kong photos are all printed on paper.
I had a number of serious concerns, mostly because I didn’t know better. I only knew China from news reports, where they showed some hungry souls. I didn’t even know Hong Kong was not China at that time. So I thought our holiday would be without electricity, water, heating or eatable food. I even was concerned if we were going to stay in a hotel room or under the open sky. Furthermore, I was seriously concerned about becoming a political prisoner at my young age. Why? Because China imprisons people randomly, they said on TV. See what TV propaganda can make young people believe! At that time there was no wikipedia to check facts. We didn’t even have internet in our house at all. Maybe we were the backward people.
We did make a democratic voting: I voted for staying at home. Two other people of my family voted for me to go on this trip. Me going to China had won the elections. My dad stayed at home. He didn’t want to go, although he voted for me going there. So my mum and me joined a travel group of about 20 people visiting Hong Kong.
As I said I’m not sure if it was 1995 or 1996, but I do know it was December around Christmas time and we would spend the new year in Hong Kong. We flew from Zurich, Switzerland and the first surprise was that the airline fucked up big time. We had to wait at the airport the whole day. But we did get a reward for all the waiting, as we were told later.
For all those Hong Kong-greenhorns reading my blog: At that time the international airport of Hong Kong was Kai Tak (启德机场 – cantonese: Kai2 dak1 gei1 coeng4), which indeed was the most exiting airport that ever existed. And in retrospect I’m so happy that I could land there, sitting at the window at the right side of the plane. Seconds before the landing the plane makes an 50 degree turn to the right, the right wing pointing seriously to the ground. It seems like the buildings at the side of the plane are higher, than the plane itself is flying. I didn’t have any digital camera equipment at that time, let alone a mobile phone, but someone else did:
There’s no other airport than Kai Tak where the plane makes a 50 degree turn to the right seconds before landing
When I looked out of the window while flying over the city of Hong Kong I was positively surprised. No farms! Instead modern multistory buildings, some with luxury swimming pools on the top. On the first day this city took over my mind. I was seriously impressed. Everything was so modern, compared to Germany. The weather was awesome. Hot and humid in mid December. And you can buy all the cool fashion for fair prices.
I was also surprised how beautiful the women of China are. So much better than the German women. And the clothes they are wearing are also much skimpier, which could be result of the hot weather and the lack of unhealthy fast food. Equal to the beauty of the women was the taste of the local food. Strangely I was the only one of our travel group, who ate everything that was put on the table.
Then there was the new year party. As I mentioned previously, the airline had a few hours delay and therefore they sponsored a full blow new years party in a luxury restaurant including a all you can eat buffet of lobster and many other delicious specialties. I wonder why I didn’t get the same treatment when I got delayed 12 hours on my Chengdu trip 2007.
We also made a short trip to Guangzhou (广州), a real communist city at that time. This communist city impressed me the least. When I was standing in front of our Guangzhou hotel, I could barely see the top floor because there was only little air between all those dust particles in the atmosphere. Our tour guide said it was a natural phenomenon, not man made. I guess he was right: Naturally coming out of all the fires burning along the railroad track that brought us to Guangzhou. On the positive side, Guangzhou was the place where I fell in love with authentic Chinese food. I can’t remember what was on the table, but I can say for sure: It tasted great.
Although this trip was overwhelmingly impressive, my memories got blurry after a while, yet I never totally forgot about the trip. It took about ten years until I finally started to learn Chinese, and I’m sure that this China trip played a major role in my decision to learn Chinese. Therefore I’m really thankful that I could make that trip. This is how I discovered China. To everyone reading this: If you haven’t visited China yet, go there immediately. It could also change your life.