They say what really makes a trip to any destination memorable is the people you end up interacting with.
In this respect, Hong Kong can prove to be quite a challenge, especially for us desi folk who have a built-in love for casual chit-chat — a mechanism which runs in direct contrast to the Hong Kong citizen’s love of utility, function and no-nonsense communication. Here is a collection of just a few interactions from Hong Kong, a city I fell in love with for its refreshing, albeit short, dialogue.
Exchanging money at the airport
Me: Hi, I would like to change US$200 please.
Cashier: *Nods in agreement*
Me: So, is the exchange rate any good at the airport?
Cashier: NO TALKING! NO TALKING HERE. PLEASE NO TALKING. THANK YOU.
First trip to the MTR train station
Me: Hi, can you help me, please? Where do I have to go to board the Tung Chung line?
Information booth guy: To.
Me: To Tung Chung. I need to get to Tung Chung to go see the giant Buddha? You know, the giant Buddha? *flapping arms*
Information booth guy: TO.
Me: TO TUNG CHUNG.
Information booth guy: TWO! *Angrily pointing to a big sign which says ‘Lane 2’*
Admiring the giant Buddha on Lantau
Me: This Buddha statue is amazing, isn’t it? How many steps did I just climb?
Irate stall lady: Yes, very nice, thank you. Please choose your free ice-cream.
Me: Do you enjoy your job? It must be kind of boring coming up here daily, huh?
Irate stall lady: Yes, you want chocolate, vanilla, strawberry?
Visiting The Peak
Me: Wow! Holy crap, this climb is so steep the buildings are all crooked! Look, look!
Chinese tourist: Yes very nice.
Me: Have you taken this tram ride before? You don’t seem nervous or excited at all.
Chinese tourist: It’s okay. I take picture for you?
Me: Yeah could you? I only have my BlackBerry [Curve 8900] though, no camera.
Chinese tourist: BlackBerry? *laughs* So bad phone. Very outdated.
*End of conversation*
Losing a Star Ferry ticket
Random guy: *Snaps fingers*
Random guy: *Snap snap, points behind me*
Me: I’m sorry, I don’t get you. You want me to go back?
Random guy: *Snap snap, points harder*
Me: But I just got my ticket. I don’t want to go back!
Random guy (in crisp English): You. Have. Dropped. Your. Ticket. On. The. Floor.
Shopping in Temple Street Market
Me: How much for this diary?
Shopkeeper: For you special price — 90 dollar.
Me: What? I saw this same diary for 60 two stalls back.
Shopkeeper: Wise guy, you go buy somewhere else.
Me: Okay, well, what’s the price of this slightly smaller diary then?
Shopkeeper: For you? Seven hundred dollar. Go away.
Smoking in the Empire Hotel
Me: Can I smoke indoors?
Reception guy: NO. No smoking here.
Me: Do you have any designated smoking spot?
Reception guy: No no no. No smoking here.
Me: Can I at least smoke in my room?
Reception guy: Noooo. *Frustration apparent*
Me on phone (after discovering ashtray in my room): Hey, is this ashtray here for decoration or can I actually smoke in the room?
Reception guy: Just one minute. *whisper whisper* Okay you smoke. Thank you goodbye.
Trapped by ‘Olina’, a call-girl in shady Wan Chai district
Olina: Take my picture, you me, only 20 dollars! *Grabs arm, refuses to let go*
Me: No! I’m not interested!
Olina: Okay no problem! You buy me drink for 20 dollars?
Me: No! I’m not into that!
Olina: You tallest man in Hong Kong — six feet long! Buy Olina drink!
Me: Fine. One drink. But that’s all.
Wake-up call for last day of Hong Kong trip
Me: Hi, can I get a wake-up call in the morning, please? Around 6:30 am?
Phone operator: Yes sir, 6:30 am thank you please, goodbye.
Phone in the morning: This is your wake-up call. This is your wake-up call. This is your wake-up call. *recorded message on infinite loop*