desi Goes for Half Day Tour of Hong Kong
What is it with travel that makes you addicted? Is it the new places you discover? Or is it the small treasures you keep on accumulating from one flea market in a distant town to another? Or is it the bragging rights one gets for the number of vivid stamps on the passport? Or is it the collage of photos clicked by strangers for you that gives one high that can beat the evening tipple? Well, I guess it is all or a mixture of all of them. For me personally, it is the people I get to meet in different places and rediscovery of bonds sans borders that keeps me pulling towards newer ports.
When I saw the Expedia contest on Indiblogger to write about interesting people one has met while traveling it took me down the memory lane thinking about all the people I had found to be interesting during my journeys. So I started wondering whom to write about? The beautiful girl I met in Las Vegas who lived only 7 KM from my parents home in Delhi? The shopkeeper in Amsterdam who laughed his heart out at my ignorance when I wanted to buy some cacti seeds in his shop when the Seed signs on the signboard meant seeds of hemp or grass as it is commonly called. But why go so far let me write about “ Hastrekha visheshagya (palm reader)”, who predicted in Tinsukia Express that my class fellow Pankaj will never make it to the army as he does not have what it takes to make it to the armed forces. But why write about “ Hastrekha visheshagya ” who was proven to be wrong by Pankaj’s last attempt at CDS exams and who today boasts of a shining medal on his chest gallantly won during the Kargil War?
And then I remembered about my trip to Hong Kong in 2007 and a simple encounter with Willie the guide brought a smile on my face and an avalanche of memories.
It was a trip that was meant to be a filler, I was returning from a visit to Orange County in California and had a layover of more than 12 hours in Hong Kong. So I decided to make the best of the same and take the half day tour the Hong Kong tourism board offers. The tour is a simple half day tour in which an AC bus with a tour guide takes you to some top attractions in Hong Kong with an English speaking guide. Once the tour is over you board a train back to the airport whose ticket is part of the package.
Once I bought the ticket and was waiting for the bus to come to pick us up 3 more Indians joined me in the waiting area and soon I realized we 4 would be the only 4 tourists for the day. Even stranger was the fact that the other three were all named Sanjay. Every time a good looking girl passed we wished she would be our tour guide. But the tourism gods had other plans for us, soon a 60+-year-old man appeared and flashed his infectious smile on in process displaying the oral cavity with many missing teeth.
Indeeans? He asked we all nodded trying to avoid catching the infectious smile that he was spreading with no regards for our disappointment on seeing him.
“I Willie” he introduced himself, the infectious smile getting harder to resist with each word he spoke.
The disappointment vanished when he said, “Willie likes Indeeans, Smart people, smart software, China people good hardware, we Friends” With this international peace treaty announcement on software and hardware expertise on the two Asian neighbors, he became our best friend for next few hours. His stammering English was suddenly amusing rather than irritating.
He appeared to be popular fellow no matter where we went, the boat captain offered him a cigar, the sales girl at the antique shop offered him a smile accompanied with soup and the policemen at the crossing waved at him. I just dismissed this popularity with the hypothesis that he comes there every day so everybody knows him. But the nobody was bothered about the other guides that were coming with other groups.
Soon we were on the bus and Willie started telling us about the tour and the city. I was amazed at the pride he took in explaining about everything around him, not just the tourist spots but everything else that was in Hong Kong. He told us about the skyscrapers all around us, the bridge we were crossing. What caught me by surprise was the pride with he spoke about Hong Kong and China his voice especially resonating when giving details of how Hong Kong became part of the mother land.We were very impressed by his knowledge and energy level by the time we reached the avenue of stars. At Avenue of Stars, the larger than life statue of Hong Kong movie star Bruce Lee is almost a pilgrimage point. There are also handprints of other prominent movie stars from Hong Kong like Jackie Chan, Jet Li etc.
I was thoroughly impressed with the city of Hong Kong; the city full of people blends the natural beauty of the sea & skyscrapers with the hills seamlessly that surround the town everywhere. The sea and the hills are like long lost lovers in Hong Kong embracing each other at every opportunity. But the most amazing feature to me was this 60+-year-old man who was still full of more energy than the 4 of us combined and we were less than half his age. I jokingly asked him the name of secret Chinese herb he takes to keep all that energy, he said he will tell us about the same at the end of the tour if we are still interested in knowing his secret.
Soon we immersed ourselves in the hustle bustle of the Hong Kong harbor while Willie was sitting in the shadow of the statue of the long-legged beauty that symbolizes the Hong Kong movie industry. We winked at each other on seeing this as if we have discovered the secret sauce that Willie took to maintain his energy levels. Willie was oblivious of our talks and was talking to somebody in what we believed was Chinese. Soon the time to say goodbye came and the bus took us to the gate of the metro station from where we were to catch our train back to the airport.
I jokingly asked Willie if he wants to give his secret Chinese herb to us so that we can have the same energy as he enjoys in his ripe old age. He again spread his infectious smile and gave us his secret in his stammering English.
“Willie walk as 10-year-old boy from motherland to Hong Kong”
“Willie makes it big in Hong Kong”
“Willie not guide for dollars, Willie guide for love”
“Willie retire as director from big company, Willie bored to death at home”
“Willie doesn’t know what to do?”
“Willie joins as tour guide”
“Willie gets paid to move around the city he loves”
“Willie gets tips to see what he wants to see!”
“Willie Ok to not get Tip, but Willie more ok to get Tip”
Suddenly we understood why he was not just telling us about the places in the brochure of the tour but also other interesting facts about simple things in the city of Hong Kong. Willie was hopelessly in love with the beautiful city of Hong Kong and he just could not sit in retirement on the balcony of his apartment, he had to go out and enjoy the aroma, the foods, the noise and the life of the arguably one of the most vibrant cities not only in Asia but whole of the world. I truly understood the meaning of the saying ” If you do something you love and you will never have to work for a day in your life”
I had a smile on my face when I handed over the few dollars I was left with from my trip to the US. He smilingly accepted them. Later on my flight back to Delhi, I was smiling even more on realizing how the wily old Willie has hinted us about his expectation of a good tip. But I was too smitten by the charms, energy, and knowledge of the old man that it too was a lesson for me that while one may work for love, but one still needs a good reward for the labor of love.
So, my dear reader, next time you are in Hong Kong and have some time with you do go ahead and take the day tour of the city, and if you are lucky you will get Willie the guide to take you around, please say my hi to him and send me a picture of his. As Unfortunately, I lost my photos that I took of a hard disc crash some years later, but I have given links at various places that you can click and check photos clicked by others. I am myself planning to go back to Hong Kong not only has sea, skyscrapers, smiles and awesome food it also has Disneyland, which I am sure my kids would love to visit.