Hong Kong in the Clouds

Su and I came out of another staycation yesterday. We had lunch in the hotel – which was part of a packaged fare of four items, viz., breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and hors-d’oeuvres each of which can be consumed once on either of the two days, together between the two of us – which was good value for money. Except for the breakfast, the staff offered free flow of champagne or house wines throughout, so that by the time we checked out our systems were not fit for more food consumption. We skipped dinner and I slept until 6:15 am with a break of 30 minutes around 2 am to reply to a few messages, to con friends into believing that I worked late. I returned home after Mass at Ricci and a short session at KCC to find Su already checking for slots in my diary for another staycation, lest the City might be facing another lockdown in a possibly sixth wave, which was what Professor Gabriel Leung was alluding to in his latest assessment.

Ritz Carlton is in ICC, that tall structure which I can see on clear days from my study in Mei Foo. But we had had bad weather for most of last week, including two days of continuing thunderstorms and amber and yellow rainstorms, coupled with landslide warnings, so that thoughts of abandoning the staycation had continued to creep up. Eventually, the lady with the steel nerves and indefatigable willpower called the shot to go ahead. Packing began after I returned Friday night from my Rotary Club meeting. It had stopped raining for some time, which was a good sign. We cleared off from Mei Foo early Saturday morning before noon. The plan was to check in early so that we could make our regular lunch at CRC in Tai Hang. We made it alright, but we could hardly see anything from the hotel windows at Level 112 when we checked in. It might clear up, Jamie said rather comfortingly and reassuringly. She also booked us two sessions to the pool, 90 minutes each, adding that there would be no need to book the gym.

Su had booked a corner suite with 65 sq. m and we could see Mei Foo, Kwai Chung, Tsing Ma Bridge and beyond on one side, the entire waterfront of the Hong Kong Island from East to West on the other side, including the Convention and Exhibition Centre, the Jardine House and the Shun Tak Centre, and even most of the buildings in the Mid-levels, including the Peak; but only when the weather permits. As it happened, we were surrounded by clouds a lot of the times during our stay.  Clouds are funny things and they can move very fast; and when they do, spectacular views presented themselves unannounced that would make anyone who sees them the first time speechless. Every view was different and unique, unique to Hong Kong and the World. The approach roads to and from the Western Harbour Crossing were right under our nose, as were some of the structures and buildings of the West Kowloon Culture Centre. It was the first time we looked at Mei Foo from this angle. We had always looked from the other side. It was so close; indeed, too close to be real. But everything would be lost and obliterated in split seconds by the fast-moving clouds. Indeed, we couldn’t even make out the birthday balloons hanging inside the room next door.

We lost count of the number of times we tried to pick up our handphones or Su’s camera for such views, only to be disappointed that the movements were too fast for us. Maybe we should have tried the video mode. I was resigned to standing in front of the windows looking at the fast-moving clouds to find out what views would come up and to being content with what I saw. Isn’t this what life and living is all about?

Apart from anticipating such spectacular sights – which by the way would become less so as familiarity sets in – we had spent a lot of the time eating and drinking, sometimes in-room, but more often in other eating venues on different levels. The hotel staff of different departments had tried their best to pamper us – Su in particular – with birthday cards, birthday cakes and other surprises. It was all very pleasant experience. The views on different floors and from different angles are necessarily different; and I had a clash course of the neighbouring geography, locating KCC and other buildings we had been to. Su was able to discern the properties she owns on Hong Kong Island; while I was somewhat surprised that the tall and vast buildings along Canton Road in Tsim Sha Tsui looked so tiny from ICC. It’s all a question of relativity and perspective – another lesson in mindfulness training and awareness of the impermanence of life.

It cleared up somewhat after breakfast the next day, so much so that Su managed to take more photos of our great City; and more selfies with her SLR camera of both of us together in more formal attires. The salient point is we had a good time; or more importantly, she had a good time. She had made me pack more clothes for the photo sessions, having seen what other people had been able to do in similar circumstances and backgrounds.

Yesterday, we skipped breakfast, after a sumptuous birthday dinner at KCC – to save costs – with Francis and his wife, my nephew and his wife and my niece, and after the drinks at Ozone and more bubblies in-room. Su was hoping my niece would join her for some photo sessions; but the weather was not that conducive. I went for the gym on Level 118. Their windows opened up to some deck chairs in the open, so that I could see clearly the rain coming down. Again, the view there was different.

Su posted photos and thoughts on the social media, with remarks that we were beginning to learn this staycation game. Now, looking from my study, ICC stands tall and clear with nothing blocking and no clouds surrounding. It appears so close, but it doesn’t appear real, which is what life is all about.

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