First Person Perspective: Hong Kong and Me

Hong Kong.

Special contributor Marie-Noelle Anaella shares her growing love/hate relationship with Hong Kong.

It is fascinating to travel to Hong Kong. The city feels reborn, new, exciting, intriguing and is spectacular. Hong Kong and I have this love/hate relationship. You know that feeling when something makes you uncomfortable but yet you cannot stay away?  That is the relationship I have with Hong Kong.

Hong Kong at nightAfter visiting many countries in Asia, I have always overlooked Hong Kong even while growing up in China. Not intentionally but just because it was not ever on any of my travel itineraries. One day my friend decided to show me her country of origin and before I knew it we were flying to Hong Kong. I won’t forget my first impression when I saw the huge glass buildings and lights and I remembered asking myself if I had accidentally landed in the wrong country because I was surprised how modern the city was and I could not wait to see the rest. After we landed, we checked into our apartment and decided to go to bed and start our adventure the next morning. I remember how excited I was and ready to discover Hong Kong the next morning and since we were staying in Tai Po that afforded me an ideal opportunity to mingle with the locals and experience the culture first hand. At least I thought so……….

I won’t forget my first morning when we left our apartment and we showed our faces in the streets. The expression on the locals’ faces was priceless. The entire street was looking at us like we were aliens, seriously! Then my friend said “I’m guessing here that I’m not the center of attention since I’ve come here every year and have never been looked at this way. So I guess they are curious about you.” I remembered saying “Whatever” and just kept walking. But she was right, the attention was directed at me and this was confirmed when, at the market, I noticed people were staring at me, whispering and actually trying to touch me.  My first day was overwhelming and almost scary but I survived. Going to bed I remembered hoping to have a better day since the news of my presence had been spread around the community and would probably be ‘old news’ by the morning. 

Hong Kong streetHowever, that was definitely not the case.  The next morning greeted me with the same ‘welcome’ of stares and whispers; especially when I entered the metro station to travel to Kowloon.    Travelers who have been to Hong Kong know how busy the metro station can be so imagine how I felt with the countless stares I encountered.  I felt odd and to top everything off, the compartments in the metro in Hong Kong are open space with seats left and right facing each other, the middle is open and so I was in the clear view of everyone.  No one knew how to react to someone with my skin color and I encountered the same reaction wherever I went—the local market, the metro, the shopping mall, a temple.

I spent a month in Hong Kong and the reactions to me never changed.  I can’t say that I became accustomed to the constant stares, touches or requests by locals to take a photograph with me, but I did begin to see the interactions as my personal entertainment.  I began to wonder how many people had ever been around a black person.  I was the mysterious black girl and people were curious.  Although the experience made me uncomfortable, I began greeting everyone that looked at me with a smile and welcomed their curious approaches. 

As you can read, my first experience in Hong Kong was not quite positive but the city had something that intrigued me and showed me the innocence of the locals.  I saw something good in the people and I’m glad I decided to visit the city again. My second time was the best, the third time was spectacular and the fourth was just AMAZING. I seriously fell in love with the city after my fourth try. I guess it just grew on me. I loved the underground club scenes, the food, shopping, islands and interactions with the locals. Somehow, I learned to love Hong Kong as a girl learns to love a bad boy.

About the Author

Marie-Noelle Anaella

Marie-Noelle Anaella is a creative thinker who was born in Gabon, raised in China and is now based in the Netherlands where she spends her days merging work and volunteer activities across Africa.  She is a ”Third Culture Kid” and global citizen and these experiences have changed her view of the world and has taken her to a place with deeper meanings of life.  Read more about Marie-Noelle and her travel and life journeys at her site Marie Blogging.

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