So it is in a state of Hong Kong article fatigue that I have to carve out and define my own, modest experience. I am here in Hong Kong because it is a city and I do cities; I have therefore to be there at least once in my life. So it was in this frame of mind, a state of febrile expectation that on arrival I hit the ground running. I have had it all in my head for years, a composite of films, postcards, dreams. On the bus from the airport, caught in a tremendous jam, it was with familiarity that I looked up the streets in the dreary yellow light through the drizzle and felt sick with emotion at the sight of the tenements,
the great raddled, fretted facades lining the streets, blocks barely even old, thirty or forty years at least but so pitted and scarred in this brief time, punctured at random by aircon units, bolt on balconies, lean-tos festooned with neon. The epic mournfulness of these great mansions brought tears to my eyes as I was decanted out at Nathan Road, profoundly moved, sticky and hotel-less, ending up in a rather pleasantly dank room in the overpriced International Hotel, a sludge green deco-ish wedge in Cameron Road. My first
evening I walked five kilometres of Nathan Road through crowds so thick that in a couple of hours I could have passed the population of a large town. I returned to my hotel in a state of visceral imbalance; I have been to bigger cities by far, wickeder ones, ones with taller buildings, more marvellous architecture, more beautiful people, more dangerous streets, more splendid shops; but this was something apart because of the intense drama of its very existence, the improbability of its origin and growth, the absolute and undissimulated nakedness of its principles, the breathtakingly indecent self-exposure of its cash obsessions.
In Wardour Street London there is a restaurant famous for its astonishing rudeness. Woe betide he who makes tracks for his own little table in the corner for he will be abruptly removed to a twenty seater, with complete strangers. Woe betide that out-of-town relative you take to this restaurant ("Such fun") when she turns sweetly to the waiter and says "Ah, no 45, that sounds nice. What is Tae Cheun Noodle exactly?"
For Hong Kong is this restaurant. That is why you are simply asking for insolence if you go into a shop and ask in your linguistically over-upholstered European way "Er, I was wondering if...?" Count yourself very privileged if you get just "No" or it could be a peremptory "No money. No talk."