In Hong Kong everything moves quickly. You have to tell the waiters to bring your food slowly if you don’t want to end your dining experience in 20 minutes, the vendors at the wet market keep “totalling” your bill while you shop as if they want to close the transaction and move on to the next customer immediately and the red taxis race around the island in a way reminiscent of the Montecarlo formula one race. We only arrived in Hong Kong this spring but the frantic tempo this city scrambles at makes it feels as though we’ve been here forever. The relatively small-scale of Hong Kong is in fact one of its greatest assets as it allows newcomers to find their way around their new hometown in no time.
Last Sunday’s tempests however reminded that no matter how well we know the public transportation, how to avoid lunch hour crowds in Central, or where to get the best curry in town, we have not yet spent a summer in Hong Kong so that alone still makes us newcomers. As the seasoned expats and locals keep telling me “you don’t know Hong Kong until you’ve spent an entire summer here”. This reminds me that no matter how quickly this city is engulfing us and making us one of her own, she is yet to test our patience unleashing her very best during the infamous months of June, July & August. I’m sure there will soon be days when the rain, humidity and heat will drive me up the walls of the highest building in sight, no small feat in this forest of skyscrapers. I am relying on my experience of living in Miami to get me through these next few months as the typhoon season seems to be a close relative of Southern Florida’s hurricane season .
Unlike other parts of the world also known to have a rainy season, Hong Kong’s tropic-like climate means the rains rarely go on for days on end, 24/7, as they might in regions characterised by monsoons for example. Here you can in fact get out and go about your business in a relatively normal fashion so long as you “always” have an umbrella on hand. I tend to keep a small one in my bag at all times however on days that heavy rains and thunderstorms are predicted I don’t leave home without my XL golf umbrella. As the clouds speed past us the sky will easily go from black with heavy showers to crisp blue and then back to black. Of course we all look funny toting large umbrella’s when the sun is shining but the reward is sweet once those same blue skies open up.
Although heavy storms had been forecast for days, it was only Sunday morning that central Hong Kong got it’s downpour. We awoke to a good old fashioned thunderstorm and sat back to enjoy the show over breakfast. The curious beast in me wondered what the online community in “Honkers” (slang for Hong Kong) would recommend as good indoor activities so I posted on one of the local expat forums.
By the end of the day the community had put together a pretty good list of Hong Kong rainy day activities that included amongst other things: indoor wall climbing, making pottery, cinema (specifically watching French movies), bowling, hiking in the rain and playing petanque (a French form of boules – I now know).
Whatever one chooses to do, it is important to remember when living in a place that has a climate known to throw the odd tantrum, sulk and generally misbehave, to choose activities wisely and not let the climate get in the way. When it’s sunny and the skies are blue I cannot get enough of the outdoors, so my camera and I are on hunting expeditions in the HK jungle looking for new scenes to shoot.
On the dull, cloudy ones, Hong Kong has a selection of minor and major museums worth visiting. They might not be on the same level as the MET in New York or the Louvre in Paris, but they always seem to have a surprise in store.
On this particular rainy day we wondered over to the Museum of Medical Sciences and were (really) surprised to see a completely unrelated exhibition of British born Hong Kong artist Simon Birch, which was small but wonderful. I cannot help but wonder if that is the right venue for this exhibition, but in a city where space is a luxury I am sure the artist is happy to be able to exhibit his large oil paintings in a location that allows enough space for the visitor to step back and let Birch’s vivid colours and brushstrokes come to life.
To get a good idea of what a Hong Kong Typhoon looks like, have a look at this timelapse video posted on youtube. Not only is it beautifully shot, it is also accompanied by a wonderful piece of music, so crank the volume up.