A Hillsborough Community College Student Publication since 1978.
By Clare Edwards
The taxi door popped open to a busy metropolis that had little time or space for me. The stench of rotten fish and vegetables took my breath away. The eyes of ill-intentioned gang members stared from the street corners and alleys. The taxi driver smiled and said, “Welcome to Hong Kong.” Kowloon didn’t seem welcoming, but it eventually revealed a mixture of the good, the bad and the downright filthy. The barely noticeable good, however, made Kowloon worth the price of the danger and filth.
The inner city reeked of putrid fish. Once fresh poultry, spoiled and rancid from the direct rays of the sun, hung from large hooks and contributed to the stench in the air. Behind most restaurants were fish cleaning stations where cooks gutted fish and left the remains in the alley. The dumpsters burst with leftover vegetables that had spoiled in the restaurants and markets.
The back alleys were an open invitation to beggars looking for a free meal and they lined up next to trash receptacles searching for edible toss outs.
Another type of population lurked in the alleyways and on street corners. They were not beggars: they were thieves and members of the local gangs. Large tattoos and intimidating gestures fascinated and repelled tourists. These unholy alliances threatened non-residents with loss of property, limb, or life. Obscenities at police officers made me wonder who controlled the city. unsuspecting tourists often lost their passports at gunpoint or the threat of a baseball bat.
I ventured cautiously into the day and night markets and found the majority of Kowloon embraced tourists with hospitality. Curiosity permeated the citizens and they treasured learning about my homeland and were delighted to exchange stories about their own culture. Business owners accommodated my every need from translating menus to giving me free drinks. Hotel workers were swift to teach me how to get the best price in the local markets. I was waiting for a taxi when a street thief sauntered up to me. unsure of how to react, I simply smiled and said, “Hello.” unexpectedly he knew a small amount of English and for the price of a cigarette and conversation he offered me advice on protecting my passport. My wariness of him quickly turned into appreciation.
My first sight of Kowloon almost overwhelmed me so that I came close to missing its rewards. upon leaving I realized I would miss the laughter and stories that the locals loved to share. “I hope you enjoyed your stay and I hope to see you again,” the hotel receptionist beamed as he helped me with my luggage. I inhaled one last breath of the spoiled odor, grinned and replied, “You definitely will.”