Last week, it was time for me to leave Thailand to renew my visa. I was excited to take a break from the elephant camp and experience something new. As I only had a couple of days before I had to re-enter Thailand, I couldn’t go anywhere too far or too ‘big’. Visiting Myanmar or Cambodia, for example, was not an option. As I was looking at a map, I realised Hong Kong wasn’t too far away. Even better, I discovered there are direct flights from Chiang Mai to Hong Kong. In addition, visiting Hong Kong doesn’t require applying for a visa… I booked my flights immediately. Then, a friend’s mother who lives in HK allowed me to stay with her. Things couldn’t have been more perfect, as accommodation is extremely expensive in HK.
I spent a total of 5 days in the city. While I didn’t fall in love with it, I did like it quite a lot. It reminded me of Singapore (modern skyscrapers, business atmosphere, fancy shopping malls, expensive restaurants, etc.) but then again, it was much noisier, dirtier, ‘messy’ and alive. Some parts reminded me of London while others were (obviously) very Chinese. I loved that there were so many ‘traditional’ street markets selling food (e.g. dried or fresh fish, fruits), clothes, electronics, etc. There were tons of people out on the street but I never felt unsafe and it was never too crowded (to be fair, the metro was quite packed during rush hour but that’s the same in every city, right?).
My favorite area was Mong Kok, HK’s most densely populated neighbourhood. I spent hours just wandering around, looking at shops specialised in selling kitchen utensils, Buddhist accessories, lights, etc. I absolutely loved Mong Kok’s flower market and had never seen so many orchids in one place. Every city should have a neighbourhood specialised in selling flowers. It smelled heavenly and looked beautiful!
I tried Dim Sum, of course, but wasn’t too impressed. In fact, I felt like the Chinese dishes that I tried all lacked some curry and spiciness… I definitely prefer Thai food! But I was happy to see Western coffee shops all over the place. As it is hard to get good coffee in Thailand, I would get a big cup every day and spend at least one hour reading in a coffee shop. Afterwards, I would continue to wander aimlessly around, taking in the city with every step.
Even though I visited most of HK’s biggest tourist attractions (skyline & Victoria harbor, The Peak, Chi Lin Nunnery & Nan Lian Garden, history museum), it was also important for me to relax, go shopping (hello Forever 21!), and catch up on sleep. Since I usually get up at 6.15am, I now made sure to sleep until 9.30am at least. I wanted my trip to be a real vacation. At the same time, I needed some time off to figure out what to do next. Things hadn’t been easy at the camp and I had almost packed my stuff several times. And so I also used my time to find out what my heart and gut were telling me to do.
Hong Kong has shown me that I miss big city life and that such a lifestyle is part of who I am. I love Pai and its small-town atmosphere, but it is time for me to start looking for a new place to call home. I cannot run away from who I am. I have also realised that I am ready to find a real job. At the same time, I have realised that I want to start working on ‘the big issues’ we face in this world. This year has changed my perspective. I feel like it is my duty to use my education and skills to achieve something meaningful. I was lucky enough to grow up in a well-developed country with access to almost everything. I know about problems all around the world. Isn’t it my responsibility to give something back? Shouldn’t there be more to work than just helping a company make profits? And so my job search has begun. I’m excited to see when and where I will start to work. Thanks, Hong Kong, for this breakthrough moment and for enriching my life in many respects. I will be back.