When my partner and I first moved to Sai Ying Pun ten months ago, I thought I’d miss our old neighborhood. We had lived on Star Street in Wanchai for over two years. There, funky furniture shops mixed with art galleries and trendy restaurants. The quiet of the street broken only by the occasional toddler or drunk. But when Tyler Brulee decided to put his Monocle shop near our building, we knew it was time to leave. That and I was becoming increasingly convinced that I was going to kill our landlady and serve her to stray cats.

Now that we live in Sai Ying Pun, we rarely visit our old neighborhood. Even our favorite restaurant in the area, Cine Citta, has moved out. Now, when I step out of my apartment building, I’m no longer greeted by French bankers and cigarette smoke but by pig entrails and fresh tofu. I figure I traded the frog for the pig. That’s fair.

On a typical Monday summer morning, I leave our flat with a bag of dirty laundry and a canvas grocery bag. The doormen smile as they open the door. I say “good morning” and “thank you” because I’m not an asshole–like some of my neighbors. Out on the sidewalk, I see elderly locals buying fresh (bloody) pork, Filipina nannies taking their “kids” to school, men in tank tops lifting bags of rice onto flatbed trollies, and I smile.

Sai Ying Pun makes Star Street look like Walla Walla, Washington by comparison. I love the energy, the commotion, the pulse of my new neighborhood. Middle-age daredevils with canes and walkers dash across oncoming traffic. Mangoes and bananas are sold by the kilo to passersby. Dark puddles of water mixed with the grime and chaos of Hong Kong pool in potholes and near sidewalks. I dart across the street with a ragtag group of locals and we barely miss getting hit by a taxi, the morning sun set to broil.

By the time I reach my dry cleaners, my brow is already starting to sweat. I say hello and dump off whatever I have to be laundered or cleaned with the nice, elderly couple who run the shop. Their Scottish Terrier comes out to say hello. I pet his rump to get his hind leg shaking. This dog is so cute I want to knock out the nice, elderly couple with a karate chop and run back home with their pride and joy.

I walk up the steep slope of the hill and pop into Pacific Coffee for my ice soya latte and to read the morning paper. The woman working the counter knows my order, so I just show up with my face aglow with sweat, 32 Hong Kong dollars in hand. Afterwards I head to the ATM machine and later the International supermarket near Hong Kong University. Tofu, tortillas and tampons and I’m good to go. OK, not the tampons.

Making my way down the hill, I stop into the local bakery to pick up some wheat bread. I like that it’s not a chain and so I forgive the middle-age prig behind the counter who needs to get laid worse than Sarah Palin needs to get a clue. Further down the hill, I pick up my flowers, usually orchids and maybe some hydrangeas or Calla lilies if they look good. Further down still, my banana lady smiles as she brings down the bananas I’ve chosen. She displays them on these hooks, like they’ve been bad or something. Maybe she’s seen Texas Chainsaw Massacre too many times.

Finally, I make my way to the large market across the street from my building, but only to the produce section on the first floor. The stuff upstairs make the pig parts on my street look like child’s play. Come to think of it, my banana lady must go up there to get ideas on how to display her bananas. I even took my carnivore partner up there once just for shits and kicks. He saw a barrel of frogs staring up at him, freaked out and wanted to leave. Sissy.

I like to get my peppers and tomatoes from this little person who runs a stall smack dab in the middle of all the chaos. I figure she has to work extra hard to keep up with her competitors. It’s not easy when you sometimes can’t reach what you’re trying to sell. She’s a real trooper–got good produce too.

By the time I make it back to my building, I’m drenched in sweat, carrying a heavy canvas bag, flowers, and whatever wouldn’t fit inside said bag. The doorman smiles as he opens the door. I smile back and make my way up to my air-conditioned apartment, views of the harbor greet me as I open the door. I’m home.

Advertisements