&: Diary (7)
Flew in to Shenzhen, took a taxi to a hotel, got to Luohu, didn't bother sleeping, got a drink at a bar in Guomao instead, and walked across the border when the sun came up. I've never walked across a border before, I don't think. What a strange feeling that is. Not much of a border, though, and I was only crossing into a Special Administrative Region, but still... The border is upstairs in what feels like any rundown mall in Shenzhen. There's a sign: 往香港 TO HONG KONG. I felt the difference as soon as I crossed, even if my first glimpse of Hong Kong was just a water buffalo in a lush drainage ditch, humid jungle rising behind, a Kubota excavator dumped in a parking lot with its operator relaxing in the shade beside it. Not much different from anywhere else in the south, I guess, but I could feel it in the cleanliness, the people on the train, the smell...
Got into the city at East Tsim Sha Tsui Station, walked up Nathan Road looking for Chungking Mansions, missed it and kept going, past all the Chow Tai Fook doorways blowing mustardy airconditioning, dried scallops in baskets, Burger King, hawkers on PAs calling in the tourists... Went all the way past Jordan, and Yau Ma Tei, Mong Kok, turned toward Sham Shui Po, making notes in my head of market streets and fake fur shops and grey Mitsubishi airconditioners and Toyota taxis and pretty girls, and then finally took a taxi back down, dropped off in front of Chungking Mansions, this time, and ate a meal of Nepali food, browsed wholesale flip phones and shortwave radios, bought a bit of shitty hash. Took the train across to Admiralty Station, then down to Wan Chai Station. Not sure exactly where to go, I stood for a long time outside a curry fishball noodles stall, smoking cigarettes, watching girls in hospital blue school uniforms and period drama heroine hairstyles taking gasps of curry steam mixed with winter night humidity. And I took out my map and headed toward where I had to pick up my visa, managed to head down Lockhart Road, lined with clubs, New Makati and WILD CAT, Southeast Asian girls in gold lamé bikini tops and short skirts, men in rugby jerseys, Vietnamese restaurants, Irish pubs. And this is the Ming Court Hotel, where, thank God, the women at the desk speak Mandarin, and they rent me a room overnight. The walls and roof are the same floral wallpaper and I can see myself in two mirrors at every moment, unless I lay flat on my back. I went out earlier, no lock on the door, except for the chain inside, so I left it open, told the woman at the desk that I would be back in fifteen, twenty minutes. Picked up a tuna wrap and a bottle of chocolate milk, loaded the tip of a cigarette with a bit of hash and smoked it on the sidewalk. I think she was surprised to see me come back alone.
Last night and this morning again, I thought to myself: I could stay in Hong Kong forever. On a street in Wanchai lined with sweet viburnum, banyans, weeping fig, hawkers, taxis going by, a tiny single room, way up high. It's a beautiful city but when you look up, you see that you are in a ravine of stucco and streaky windows, open windows with houseplants and bedding. hanging out. What the hell would I do, though? In my fantasy, I tend bar or something and publish a book of short stories that leads to a deal for a novel, marry some American girl that went to international school in Bangkok, daughter of a diplomat, and works for Citibank. I know the city won't be like this forever, though. I'd probably end up teaching English, best possible option, and living way out in Tuen Mun or something, or I wonder if I could live in Shenzhen and hop across everyday. I could just live in a love hotel.
I can't even wrap my head around what I like so much about the place. The combination of real, loud Chinese city and Hong Kong's underlying orderliness, I guess, and the density of the place, all those escalators and secret passageways, ravines of grey concrete.
Went out to handle the visa situation, then sat in a netbar in Mong Kok, emailed Xinran in Guizhou, P***** in Bangkok (his only memory of Hong Kong was eating spaghetti and meatballs for the first time and playing Columns in an expensive hotel room), Alice in Richmond. Invited out by a friend of a friend who's in Hong Kong right now, wants to see Deerhoof, but I have to ration my remaining cash. Going back to Ming Court.
I'm writing this in Shenzhen. I've got my visa. I'm going back to Dalian, for a while, at least. Maybe I can get to Guizhou for Spring Festival, or fly down to see Pietro in Bangkok. Not looking forward to flying back to the north.