Today I have been sorting through the photos I took while we were in Hong Kong and loaded up an album on Facebook. It’s a very photogenic place; whether that has any connection with the vast number of camera shops, I’m not sure. Hong Kong is a place of contrasts, and the juxtaposition of old and new, trees and concrete, sea and highrise offices makes for some interesting compositions. It is also a colourful place, particularly at this time of the year, with market stalls heaving with decorations for Chinese New Year and malls, shops and offices decorated in anticipation of the festival.
While we were there, we made the effort to visit a number of the ‘must see’ tourist sights – taking the tram to the Peak, riding on the Star Ferry, standing with the crowds on the Harbour View Promenade for the ‘Symphony of Lights’ show. But there was lots we didn’t see – Ocean Park and a daytrip to Macau will have to wait for a future visit. We’re all just as interested as soaking in the atmosphere of the place, whether it is the shopping centres and malls, the old street markets dotted around Hong Kong Island, or enjoying a stroll round Kowloon Park.
So it was interesting to meet and talk with friends and acquaintances living in Hong Kong about their experiences of the city: Sue, who works in Hong Kong Central but has found a quiet escape living on car-less Lamma Island and travels to work on the ferry; Karen, who works long hours for an investment bank and is originally from Shanghai, and therefore a Mandarin-speaker in this centre of Cantonese culture; Marie, the daughter-in-law of a Filipino friend of ours, who works as a housekeeper and who for most of the year lives apart from her husband and family in the Philippines.
Mary Ann and I also had an interesting visit to the Methodist International Church (formerly the English-speaking Methodist Church) where we met the minister John Illsley. The recent story of MIC-HK is a fascinating tale of growth, as an English-speaking congregation of 20 or so has increased to 400 and the work amongst Filipinos has grown to such an extent that they have had to move off site for worship, with an attendance of some 700. We talked about the challenges of urban ministry and (of course) church politics. It’s a shame that we weren’t around over the weekend, as it would have been interesting to be part of the worshipping congregation, but this too will have to wait for a future visit.
It is an old cliche, but travelling really is about meeting people, not just seeing places.