We always feel a little sad when we leave Hong Kong. I’m not sure why, but packing our bags feels like we’re saying goodbye to an old friend. We love this city, but this trip felt different. It was special, somehow. Comfortable and familiar, like being home. Maybe we’re just older and more comfortable traveling, or maybe this time we had Google maps and smart phones with us, giving us a false sense of knowing where we are (when we really don’t). More likely, our time here was indelibly marked by the kindness and generosity of friends Mark, Dora and Cheuk.
I don’t even know when I really met Mark. It was through watches, knives or other things we both collected at the time. We got to chatting occasionally at some point on Facebook a few years ago when he found out I was Canadian living in Toronto. Though he’s lived in Hong Kong for many years, he spent his youth (and then some) in Toronto. He was affable and generous with advice when I wanted to buy a camera two years ago. He’s a pro photographer, mainly in the fashion industry. I always appreciated it when he would post an encouraging comment on a photo I posted somewhere. He now also runs a great custom knife business here in Hong Kong called Wan Chai Customs – see facebook page by clicking here.
I traveled over to the Island to meet him on our second day here, while Karen was working. We’d never actually met, but as we shook hands, it kind of felt like I was meeting up with an old friend again.
We went to his studio, which he now uses to customize knife scales, and to make small custom metal tools. He’s given me tips on great places for photography in the city, and even took me to a couple of terrific spots I would never have found without help. On one visit, we zoomed around Hong Kong on a motor bike, going from location to location until we finally went back to Kowloon to pick up Karen.
Mark then took us to a Sichuan restaurant in Kwun Tong that specializes in chillies and cumin in their dishes. It’s a unique flavour and the dinner was one of the best meals we’ve had in a long time.
On our last lunch with Mark, he wanted burgers. So we did that at a fabulous burger joint in Wan Chai, around the block from his studio. He even gave us a beautiful copper-scaled little Wenger utility knife he customized, which is packed in our check luggage, so I’ll post a photo later. It’s designed to hang on your keys. We don’t have any keys, so we’ll hang a small flashlight on it. A perfect combo. We’d spent a total of a few hours with Mark over three visits. And yet, both Karen and I feel like we’ve known him for a lot longer. We hope we get to see our friend again soon.
Dora works with Karen at CCO. She’s on maternity leave right now and is staying with family here in Hong Kong along with her husband Cheuk and their adorable two-year old son. Though they live out of the city centre, they generously came to Kowloon twice to meet and show us around. We saw a lot of Mong Kok and Sham Shui Po, including many of their favourite hot spots. They’ve helped us with directions, dozens of restaurant recommendations, transit apps, and shopping advice. I’ve been hearing about Dora for a year and a half, so it was wonderful to get the chance to meet her and her family in person. It is no wonder she’s a big favourite of Karen’s. Gregarious and lovely, she and her husband are great friends, just like us. Hanging out with them felt easy. And a lot of fun.
Almost always we feel terribly lucky. More often than not, we end up connected to people kind and generous, and who care about others. It’s better than winning a lottery.
Today we fly to Japan. Obviously, that is exciting. Japan has been on our list of places to visit for more than a decade. But this time, it is really hard to say goodbye to Hong Kong. For now… here are some photos from our time in this wonderful city.
Wan Chai Customs in action