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HK before the emergency

By MANILA BULLETIN LIFESTYLE

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The purpose of this piece is documentation. A year or years from now, who knows what Hong Kong, a popular travel destination of Filipinos, will be like? Will Hong Kong, a city that never stopped reinventing its look, its mood, its culture, its collective psychology, continue to be as dynamic as its mercantile character goes? Or went.

Tons of comparisons have been made of Hong Kong before and Hong Kong after the pro-democracy protests—an eight-month-long phenomenon—and how the indefatigable, committed protesters have changed the face of Hong Kong, which is to say, the business of Hong Kong. For the first time in years, the city by the Fragrant Harbor and its Nine Dragons experienced a budget deficit last December. Tourism and its sisters, shopping, restaurants, sightseeing have been going downhill. Now a double whammy has been dealt.

Enter the Metal Rat with the N-CoV aka novel coronavirus, forcing city executive Carrie Lam to declare a state of emergency. All of a sudden, Hong Kongers have to put on another face, one with nose and mouth shielded by a mask. As part of one country (China) with two systems (communism, capitalism), Hong Kong presents an interesting study for travel writers and political and financial analysts, not to mention anthropologists.

Not being any of the above, I will content myself with the thought that the old Hong Kong deserves to be missed; I was nine on my first trip there. Yet a part of me tells me that Hong Kong and Kowloon will recover and come up with an unfolding version, like a silk scroll, that will once again surprise visitors. The big question is when? True, how much less frenetic and frantic HK has become! Is it a bad thing? I rather enjoyed it, being able to walk at a more leisurely pace without fear of being bumped by someone carrying multiple shopping bags or wearing a formidable backpack. The long queues of Chinese shoppers waiting to be let into the luxury boutiques are a thing of the past, whether in the shopping district or at the duty-free section of the
airport. The restaurants are full, but it’s easier now to grab a table. A pot of tea promising serenity never looked so appealing.

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The Heritage hotel’s square is a quiet place to admire its architecture and fancily dressed shop windows on a Sunday afternoon.

I will look at these pictures to remind myself that when I was there days before the Chinese New Year, Jan. 18 to 20, 2020, I was actually caught between two sensational eras: the protest movement and the NcoV emergency. We left HK on Jan. 20, four days before the Chinese New Year, always a big deal for Hong Kongers who feel it their duty to visit the old folks back home in China or to give themselves a break in some tropical paradise called Cebu or Boracay. Five days later, on Jan. 25, Chinese New Year’s Day no less, the HK government described the outbreak of the mysterious, highly infectious virus as an emergency.
Originating in China just minutes and miles away, the virus forced authorities to close down Disneyland and Ocean Park (but why not the crowd-friendly malls also?).

There’s no argument that HK will beat the virus, the way it did SARS in 2003. Hmm, whensoever that will happen, it should be an airtight excuse to go back and check how the protesters are faring under the cloud of an emergency.

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Ducks all in a row, each waiting to be turned into a dish of Peking duck.

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What looks like a hairnet holds noodles together, another HK innovation.

 



Source: Manila Bulletin

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