It started off with sweat and chaos, the sting of sunscreen in my eyes, milling crowds and pushy parents: the annual school sports day.
Then, my muscles aching and nerves shredded, it was time for an evening of luxury. My partner and I had decided to use up some gift certificates for the Mandarin Oriental Hotel’s spa. Sinking into the tiled jacuzzi, in a dimly-lit and windowless warren of plushly carpeted corridors, I exhaled. The steamroom glowed green and red, as plumes of cinammon-scented steam rose out of a rotating metal dish, and a shipping heir and Hong Kong’s representative to the International Olympic Committee wandered in and out. We were massaged in a suite looking out over the harbour, the neon ferris wheel, the-not-so distant Kowloon shore, and then ate figs from a little tray, reclining. When it was over, we sat in the hotel’s lobby, unwilling to leave, while handsome men with rugby player looks wandered in and out. It was a little taste of heaven.
The next day I had some small domestic chores to accomplish – a watch battery to purchase and a key to have cut – and I decided to head to the pushing crowds of King’s Road between Fortress Hill and North Point where I (astutely) surmised I would be able to have these done. While I waited for the key to be cut, I wandered through alleyways and in strange little shabby shopping arcades. There were shops selling software and shoes, tiny glass walled fashion stores in nineteen eighties corridor. In the gloom of the old State Theatre building, rows of brightly lit shops sold boots and slippers in otherwise dank passageways. Old people played mahjong in odd corners. A woman slept in front of a whirring fan.
I descended to a subterranean passage filled with smoke from a games arcade, the chatter of Indonesian helpers milling about a domestic work agency and stray cats. This was the home of Sam Kee – a second hand bookstore known as a refuge for alleycats. Felines lay dozing everywhere, on the shelves and on piles of books, and stalked the aisles which were musty with dust and cats’ piss.
That night we went to see a movie, “Don’t Breathe”. It turned out to be terrifyingly claustrophobic and so we followed it up by knocking back a drink at the skyscraper-top gay bar Circo to recover our nerves, looking down over the Causeway Bay streets through big, dark windows.
Finally, there was a delicious dim sum at “West Villa,” an upscale yum cha restaurant also in Causeway Bay serving pulped pomelo skin in shrimp sauce, taro balls and raddish cakes, delicious noodles and almond paste buns, goose webs and turtles, which clambered in a bucket near the entrance.
A quick twilight run over the ridge from Pok Fu Lam to Kennedy Town in the breezy early-Autumn evening, and a perfect Hong Kong weekend had come to an end.