In early January when heavy rain poured over Semarang on a daily basis, I was sitting in my room – sorting out photos for my future posts from the amazing trip to Bali and Timor-Leste with James last December – when an email arrived in my inbox. James told me that his parents invited me to come to Hong Kong for Chinese New Year. Excited, I prepared myself to redeem the rather foggy experience from my first trip to the city two years ago.
Knowing each other through the blogosphere and meeting up for the first time in Hong Kong just one week before 2012’s Chinese New Year holiday, my friendship with James was forged ever since. Only having one and a half days to show me around the last time I visited, he made sure I experienced Hong Kong’s great outdoors and less visited corners on my second visit.
During my two-week stay in the territory we went to Hong Kong Island’s own less-touristed beach at Shek O, visited deserted white sand beaches at Sai Kung in the New Territories, explored the fishing village of Tai O on Lantau Island, walked the historical Ping Shan trail and went hiking to the north to Lai Chi Wo, not far from the border with China.
We also went to Victoria Park where the annual Lunar New Year Fair – a colorful sprawling flower market – was held. Chinese people, known for their penchant for anything auspicious, bought flowers and fruits – particularly those considered bringing good things – to welcome the New Year. The word “tangerine”, for example, in Cantonese it is also a homonym for “lucky”. Hence the plethora of tangerine bushes sold at the market.
One day after the Chinese New Year I had my first experience of saying wishes in Cantonese to James’ grandparents and extended family. Practicing for two days to ensure I pronounced it correctly, “Wish you health and may your heartfelt wishes come true” rolled off my tongue quite smoothly on that day. Finally that night Hong Kong ushered in the Year of the Horse with festive explosions of colors over the harbor with a nearly half-hour pyrotechnic show. As expected, the number 8 – homophonous with the word “prosper” – also adorned the night sky along with other shapes.
Celebrating Chinese New Year with my travel companion who showed me the very best of Hong Kong’s four corners was such a fitting way to start galloping in the Year of the Horse, with new opportunities to seize and challenges to conquer.