Writer on Location – Hong Kong: fish balls and macarons

I’ve finally done it.. I set my first step outside Europe! And not just in any place..

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From the 10th till the 18th of April I got the chance to discover Hong Kong as part of a research exchange with students from Hong Kong University. Visiting China had been on my wish list since I was a little girl in primary school when I fell in love with those fairylike landscapes and gorgeous kimono’s. (Little did I know that those geisha’s I had in mind actually originated from Japan, nor did I even realize the difference between Japan and China..) Well, it all didn’t matter, I just wanted to go to Asia! And there I finally went.

Squeezed between two tall men and no leg space, I started my twelve hour flight, wondering what I was going to experience and trying not to think about my muscles slowly cramping up.. Luckily the time flew by quicker than expected, and after having slept during most of the flight, I felt pretty good for 4am Dutch time -> 10am Hong Kong time, so time to work!

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Work? Yes, it wasn’t just a holiday for me, we actually filled the whole week with a set of collaborative events that we organized in collaboration with the HKU students. Think about debates, conversations with refugee organizations and the Dutch Consulate, film screenings, an architectural city tour and collaborations with the current art festival in Hong Kong. But while hopping from location to location, I still got a pretty good view of this impressive city.

And impressive it was definitely! Never have I ever seen so much diversity in one city. With the view changing from the skyscrapers in the famous skyline to colorful fishing boats, mountains and rainforest, and western and Asian elements alternating in every street, this city managed to truly surprise me.

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Being a tall and blonde Dutchie I expected to attract quite some attention. Luckily enough this wasn’t the case at all. This big trade territory appeared to attract a huge international population, wherein I wasn’t even immediately seen as a tourist. Very nice, as I normally hate to be associated with the average embarrassing tourist that walks around with socks in sandals and a huge camera around the neck, ready to be attacked by pickpockets.. This mix of backgrounds also reflected itself in a great amount of contrasts throughout the city. From the cleanest mall I’ve ever seen, filled with all the popular western brands and ‘hipster’ coffee shops (pretty comparable with those in Utrecht), I would walk out in a typical Chinese shopping street with around a thousand signboards. Not to forget the crazy food contrasts in the streets, where typical Hong Kong street food stalls could easily alternate some classy French cake shops. From street to street even the language spoken and written switched from English to Cantonese and back. And then the nightlife… After not having seen a single bar or club in the streets after three days, I started to wonder what the Hong Kong nightlife would be like.. Did they even go out? And would they dance? Well, Wednesday night we found out. We took a cab to a neighborhood called LKF, and found ourselves in the middle of a crazy party district, filled with fancy bars and clubs with techno music blasting through the speakers.

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Well, I can say that my first step outside Europe was a very successful one. One with many surprises, some hard work and a lot of fun.

By Melodie Zöllner

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