Jetting off to Hong Kong and Singapore would not have been plausible if not for my “Delta Days” benefits. Free travel that accompanied employment with the airlines created an opportunity to fly on Singapore Airlines and make an introductory trip across the Pacific Ocean.
The trip occurred in 1987 and served as my inaugural and discovery trip to Asia. The destinations of Hong Kong and Singapore were chosen because 1) that is hub of the airline and 2) Hong Kong was the most exotic place I knew at the time.
Although both are Asian countries, Hong Kong and Singapore are drastically two different places. At the time of the trip, Hong Kong was still under British rule. My initial take on the two destinations was that Hong Kong was like an Asian New York City and that Singapore was like an Asian Fort Lauderdale.
The same still holds true or similar for Hong Kong, but Singapore has grown up into a much more significant metropolis serving as unique cultural and entertaining destination.
I had the opportunity to take this trip with two colleagues from work. The three of us were in agreement that we wanted to experience some of the waterside areas and apart from that were not sure what we wanted to do.
Walking along the waterways and navigating some of the markets was a highlight. I discovered even at this early age that I was game for exploring the cultural dining opportunities of markets and street vendors. One of my friends was Philippine, and she was always the targeted default when the local Asians tried to communicate with us and we didn’t understand. Her Asian heritage didn’t help a bit.
We never went hungry and we discovered that if we pointed at other dishes or types of food it would ultimately end in a dish to eat. Sometimes it was what we were looking for, and other times it was a culinary experiment that never seemed to disappoint.
One of the things that stood out in my memory was the elephant act. Something about “act” and zoo just don’t seem to go together. I wanted to see elephants living in their natural environment and being elephants versus entertaining us as if it was a circus.
It is my understanding that the zoo has changed dramatically since I was there. I hope to go back and discover that it is an investment in the animals versus a show for the people.
Off to Hong Kong
One of the highlights was taking the tram atop the mountain, which provided visitors with a view overlooking the city. This was one of the factors that led me to describe the city as an Asian New York City.
Looking out over the city was truly spectacular. Walking the city streets was even more intriguing and confirming that this was an Asian NYC. The local Chinese people owned the streets and sidewalks just like New Yorkers. It didn’t matter who had right of way between cars and pedestrians, if it was open off you went. As a visitor, if you stopped to look and admire the cityscape, you were going to get stepped on.
Another one of those “touristy” things was taking a water taxi out to the floating restaurant.
I must admit, although touristy, this was a lot of fun. The water taxi across the bay waters provided a unique view and perspective of the city on both sides as well as close encounters with the houseboats of the locals.
The food was also good and made for a special culinary encounter with Asian delicacies. English was more prevalent, but the locals would still default to my Philippine friend for expectations of easier communication.
Shopping in the market and backstreets of Hong Kong was absolutely fascinating. This is where I first learned the art of haggling. Not only was it allowed, it was expected.
Although I felt like I got some good deals, I am confident that they were better at negotiating than I was as a newbie.
The various Asian artifacts, street food vendors, and the backstreets of Hong Kong drew me in to engage this whole new cultural experience. It was here that I really started my appreciation for new cultures and different people.