The Girl who Led Me Astray
It's been a long time since I last came to Hong Kong. About 30 years, if the truth be known. In those days there was no MTR, no plethora of kitschy souvenir shops at the Peak, no hoards of Filipinos at virtually every street corner.
Filipinos – now that's something I simply wasn't expecting in such vast quantities. And yet I suddenly felt all at home after spending the last ten years in the Gulf where there seem to be more Filipinos per square inch than any other nationality. And just as in the UAE and Saudi, all the Filipinos I have met here are the friendliest, most caring people I know. And top of the list – for me at least – has to be my guide and mentor for the past week, Miam Medrano.
"Meet me under the large screen at the airport," she commanded when I told her I was on my way over to HK. And being one who (nearly) always does what he is told, I (almost) sat under the giant screen – in practice, about three metres away – and paid the price when poor Miam walked round and round for half an hour looking for the only guy on the airport concourse wearing a brick-red jacket. But it seems that those three metres was her undoing, and I felt suitably chastised when finally we met up.
I was taken to a barbeque at Stanley where I was introduced to nine of her friends and was fed the most wonderful delicacies (and it's no use telling me that anything tastes wonderful after the muck they serve you on Cathay Pacific – this was really good, believe me!). Daisy amused us all with her whit and banter, while Anne rolled her hips and fluttered her eyelashes in a way that would put any sexy pole dancer to shame, and all the while the food kept on coming and coming.
Now, I wonder what the opposite of a homing pigeon is? Because that would be a perfect description for the lovely Miam. We get to an MTR station and you can guarantee that if we should be going out one exit, she would instinctively lead me to one on totally the opposite side of the building; until, that is, I learned the rules of the game after which if she pointed in one direction, I would lead her the opposite way and all would be OK.
Yet, thinking of it, I shouldn't be surprised, given the confusing signs there are all over HK. "Stand on the right hold the handrail walk on the left" reads one confusing sign at Central MTR. Well how, I ask myself? Or "In case of fire do not use the lift" I am told at my hotel (but as my room is on the 16th floor I decide to take the risk and use the lift anyway). "Beware trucks" I am admonished in a pedestrian only zone at Tsim Sha Tsui (falling from above, perhaps?).
Miam took me to see the Giant Buddha at Ngong Ping on Lantau. Just as well I had skipped breakfast as the entrance fee includes lunch (whether you want it or not). We sat down at a table and a huge tureen of soup was brought over to us. We were just starting on our second bowl when the rest arrived – a pot of rice and plate-loads of vegetables of every description – literally enough for five people. How Miam must have wished she had brought plastic containers with her!
She took me to see the Symphony of Lights – not once, but twice – the first time from the Avenue of Stars and the second night from Wan Chai, from where you can see the show on both sides of the harbour.
We went to see not one museum, but four on the same day – a Wednesday – and discovered that museums are free to get into on Wednesdays.
We went to the beautiful Nan Lian Garden (no, Miam, let's try going in through the entrance!) and the not-so-beautiful Peak from where we were able to peer down through the mist to the harbour below.
And everywhere we went there would be Filipinas that would drift in and out of conversation with us as we passed on our merry way.
Yes, HK is a beautiful city, full of surprises, and full of lovely people. And a word to the wise: if you want a cheap date, ask your beloved if they would like to see the Giant Buddha anytime around lunchtime, and follow that with a tour of the museums – just so long as it is a Wednesday.
Oh yes, and if you accept an invitation from Miam to act as your guide, just remember to take along your GPS with you.