Someone once told me a city is most beautiful in the morning. Today I view that as nothing but the truth. Imagine.
5am. Middle of the Summer. Heart of Hong Kong. It’s the time of the day when most of the city still lies in slumber. If you step outside, past the threshold of your door, into the empty streets, the first thing you notice is the air. It isn’t fresh, open and dewy like you might be used to. No, Hong Kong air is smothering. It’s thick with pollution and heavy, almost suffocating. You feel it, you smell it, and if you squint, maybe you can even see it. It envelopes you in a bouldering cloud of heat that will take getting used to. Later in the day, that heat will become borderline painful, but the sun has not yet climbed above the mountains, and after a few days, you will come to view the morning air as a comforting hug.The stillness of the morning allows you to admire the city in peace. Imagine blocks and blocks of apartments, shooting high up to meet the sky. Hong Kong is a city that is built upwards, buildings clustered next to each other, streaking up and up and up. When you look over and up at them, it’s wonderful and freeing, grand and protective. In the quiet, it’s like the whole city is looking over you.
But you are not the only one awake and outside at this hour. Perhaps, to your right, there is a grand, public park. And in this park, every morning, early as it is, the elderly are practicing the subtle art of tai chi. At this time of the day, tai chi is calming and focused, preparing for a busy day ahead. The quiet is grounding. The glows of 7-11 and Circle-K, Hong Kong’s 24-hour convenience stores, greet you with their gentle presence. Coming from your left then, you can hear the rumbling rattle of rails, the tell-tale signs of Hong Kong’s trains, and perhaps you can hear the sporadic sound of the buses too, already in motion. Hong Kong’s transport system is well-worked into the city, and the trembling of the trains barely ever stop.
In less than an hour, children will be getting up to go to morning school. Citizens will be rushing to catch their trains, or to set up their morning wet markets. In under an hour, the city will be bustling and full, a cacophony of flurried activity. In a city as illustrious as Hong Kong, it’s easy to forget the calming stillness of the morning.
So, imagine a while longer. Remember the details. If you’re ever lucky enough to travel there, take it all in.
I promise you.
You will feel alive.
By Daimee Ng