I checked e-mail first thing this morning, as I do every day, and was excited to see an alert from The New York Times, informing me of an article in today’s paper about Hong Kong.
So when I clicked on the link and saw the article was from the travel section, about Wan Chai, one of my favorite areas in Hong Kong, I put the computer down and grabbed the paper my husband had just retrieved from our frozen driveway.
I loved Wan Chai back in the 90s for its Suzy Wong seediness. I enjoyed roaming its streets, peering into rattan shops where Suzy probably bought her wicker purses. I can still taste the dan dan mian, or spicy sesame noodles, my friends and I slurped at our favorite noodle stand. When my then-husband worked on Sundays, I climbed Wan Chai side streets to discover hidden white-washed colonial homes.
One day as my friend Annie and I peered into a crumbling blue house in Wan Chai, the owners invited us in. I would never enter a strange house in the US, but in Hong Kong, it seemed like an honor to be invited inside. We only stayed for a couple minutes, thanking the owners in broken Cantonese for allowing us to see their house. It was as dark and sparse as an old opium den.
I’m happy to read that old buildings in Wan Chai have been restored, like the 19th century structure housing The Pawn, a funky gastropub reminiscent of old Hong Kong. Or that shops like The Book Attic, a second hand book store, are thriving amidst a developing art district.