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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Traveling to my second home planet: Hong Kong

Nicole Lee
A collage of some of the dimsum dishes I ate in Hong Kong.

Even just 10 steps away from the airport’s sliding glass doors, I can immediately recognize an extreme change in the atmosphere that heralds my arrival into Hong Kong, a city that packs 7.4 million citizens into 426 square miles. 

Not only do the 80- to 90-degree temperatures make me feel like I’ve just stepped into an island-sized sauna, but the surrounding moisture also creates a sticky sensation in the air, as if I’ve finished swimming at the beach and the salt water has only partially dried off. If you’ve chosen to take the extra step of applying sunscreen, you’ll be in for a treat — Hong Kong’s humidity is a vastly different experience from California’s usually arid climate. 

During the few years before the pandemic, my family consistently visited Hong Kong during either summer or winter break. After most of Hong Kong’s COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, this family tradition resumed, and I finally got to see my grandparents and cousins this summer after four years of social distancing. 

Although I initially felt a bit out of place from the drastic change in language and social norms, I got over it within a week and quickly took advantage of the easily accessible malls.

As opposed to the transit-bare nature of Saratoga and surrounding cities, Hong Kong offers an extensive metro system that my parents let me use on my own. I could go to the mall neighboring my grandpa’s apartment complex in a heartbeat for delicious siu-mai, a traditional Chinese dumpling typically filled with shrimp, and afterwards, I could head to the metro stations and meet up with my parents in another district within half an hour.

Knowing my 21 days in Hong Kong were numbered, I ate so much food that I was absolutely stuffed to the point that I got indigestion. Although some of my favorites included egg waffles, soup, mochi and the classics — dim-sum, pig intestines and other street food — I would be lying if I said there was any meal I ate in Hong Kong that I didn’t love.

In every moment I spent in Hong Kong, I was brimming with excitement as I reminisced childhood memories of every location I visited, from Sham Shui Po (a street marketplace where I remember buying lots of street food and where my dad showed me the art of bargaining) to Choi Hung (the city of my grandpa’s apartment) or Mong Kok (where most of the malls I visited were located). 

While walking around the streets of Sham Shui Po, for example, I recalled several significant moments that took place throughout my previous trips: When I was lost in the streets as a 4-year-old, a kind grandpa helped me by yelling around the street to find my family. 

More recently in Mong Kok, my dad led me down the street called 金魚街 Jīnyú jiē (which directly translates to “goldfish street”), which was filled with different dogs, cats, rabbits and fish that people could buy. I remember being fascinated by the street when I visited in elementary school, which was filled with only fish at the time. I also visited 球鞋街 Qiúxié jiē (which translates to “sports shoes street”), where I bought a new pair of shoes to aid my feet in the day-long shopping sprees my mom would bring me on.

My knowledge of Cantonese — small, but mighty — made the metro system seem like a constant adventure. I could go wherever I wanted and communicate with people if they asked questions; my accent was minor enough that people understood what I was saying. Over the years, my sense of independence has grown with my excitement in exploring a whole new, yet familiar, world of people and social norms. 

Visiting Hong Kong turned out to be the most comforting and fulfilling experience I have had over the past few summers, and I hope to continue my family tradition for years.

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