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Notes on Hong Kong

That's a panorama of the Harbour Bay sunset, a view of the Hong Kong Island skyline from Kowloon. A lovely picturesque sight, for this city-loving (and thriving) girl. It's easily one of my favorite photos from the hundreds I took on this trip.

I went to Hong Kong with my mom about a week ago, a much needed vacation for the two of us, a pre-requisite to the tabula rasa of sorts we were seeking after the devastation that was the first half of 2015. We went to HK to kind of run away from our sadness, but ended up coming to terms with it, and accepting it with not much of a choice. We both had great memories of Hong Kong with my aunt - my mom last met up with her there when they were both on separate trips at the same time coincidentally in 2014 (mom was with pop; Tita was with her friend), and my first time in Hong Kong, in 2003, she was initiating me to the world of shopping. So you can say that this year's trip was not one without tears or long silent pauses while sitting in the middle of a hotel lobby, imagining what she would say if she saw us moping instead of shopping.

I remember coming across something written by Alain de Botton about the art of travel back in college, for a non-fiction class. 

“The pleasure we derive from journeys is perhaps dependent more on the mindset with which we travel than on the destination we travel to.” 

This rings truest for this particular trip, for Hong Kong is not a new territory for both my mom and I. It's not our first time (it's my third time and I believe it is her fifth), so we went there not as wide-eyed tourists eager for the place to thrill us. For the most part, we went there for the familiarity - the comfort in knowing that we're already acquainted with the place, that we won't get lost, but that there is also a lot more to be found: places, yes, but parts of ourselves too, apparently.

They say travel is many things: challenging, mind-altering, and even a panacea for some. And indeed, Hong Kong was a huge giant pill of mefenamic acid for us, in many ways.

I saw Disneyland again after three years, and even at twenty-three I can still say that I will never, ever get tired of such a magical place. Throw stones all you want, but Walt Disney is my hero, and for every single day I choose to believe in kindness and magic and love, you can say it's all his fault. I could only dream to write stories and ignite someone's imagination as vividly as he did (and still does.) I'm a child of his stories, and being in Disneyland - well, it's like coming home. I looked forward to this part of the trip the most because it's the one place in the world I could be a kid again, and never worry about the repercussions of acting like such. 

But navigating Disneyland was the easy part; I knew it like the back of my hand. It was going to new territory or visiting ones I have long forgotten that proved challenging. Here I was, at 23, riding trains and buses whose routes I've never tried before, and finding other means of getting to destinations aside from what's written in the books or my dad's emails. I was leading my mom to places we knew through ways we've never tried. We knew what the place looked like, but will we get there? It was exciting and exhilarating.

And we did. Every single day we relied merely on maps and lucky guesses (and a bit of Google research), and we got to where we wanted with no delay and no hassle. And in less cumbersome ways too, other than those proposed to tourists. In other words, we rode and traveled like locals. This is such a big deal for us, because it's our first time to be alone on a trip, without my dad or my aunt serving as our "leaders," and yet, there we were capable of being by ourselves. Granted, it's Hong Kong, a small island with very efficient means of transportation. But victories are victories, big or small. 

It's bittersweet, in many ways. My mom and I, we're both independent. As individuals, we can function separately - we are very different people and we have our own way of doing things. But when we are together, and especially in travel, we also enjoy "deferring" to the "alphas" in our lives, especially my aunt. I've traveled with my tita more (because Papa can't always go on leave from work), and she is the most perfect travel companion because she knows how to get to anywhere from anywhere. We trust her guts; we follow her itinerary with no complaints, simply because it's easier to be the fish following ger current. And so we miss my tita telling us where to go, we miss her shaking her head when she thinks something isn't a good buy. This time, we went to Hong Kong, I guess, to accept whatever independence we now have to deal with after my tita's passing. My dad can't always go on leave from work; and my aunt's now on a... permanent vacation from life. And my mom and I now have to come to terms with the fact that travelling may now be just the two of us. It's sad, but it's also freeing, in a lot of ways. It's nostalgic, to be going back to all these places peppered by the memory of my aunt. But it's also great to be making new memories in these places. Now we can look back on Hong Kong with pictures of us, just us; places only the two of us have visited; sunsets only our eyes have seen.

It's time to make new memories, that's what I'm getting at. I'm just glad we have those to keep us together until the next one.


(The other photos, I'll post in a while! Just let me get to arranging them all in my hard drive :P )