New Year’s, Version 1.0
Living in Shenzhen is sort of like living in the suburbs of Hong Kong– not a completely accurate comparison since HK has its own ‘burbs and it’s not like you have to go through customs to get to most cities’ downtown area. Also, most suburbs don’t have populations of 13 million people. But for the purposes of argument, go with me for a second: HK is where the good food, good shopping, and great parties all happen. Shenzhen has its downtown area and a few great spots here and there (don’t get me wrong, it’s a fun place to live) but the nightlife in Hong Kong is truly enviable for those of us living in its mainland cousin. The nightlife is also prohibitively expensive for those making teachers’ salaries in RMB, but on occasion you gotta go where the party lives, and on such big nights as New Year’s Eve, that is definitely down on Hong Kong Island.
It’s one of the biggest party nights of the year for Westerners in the area, and I’m pretty sure the population of the Island doubles starting about 7pm on December 31st. We got into town a bit earlier than that, with the intention of grabbing early dinner and sorting out hostels before heading into the more crowded parts. It was a good thing, too– Lan Kwai Fong, the part of town into which we were headed, was completely packed by the time we got there. The city had put up gates around the area, and less than an hour after we arrived had shut off access to the neighborhood. I’m given to understand that the wait-time to get into LKF was about 2 hours by 9pm.
And it was just people everywhere. All the neighborhoods in Central district were filled to brimming with Westerners– I took a 2am walk around SoHo and the Mid-Levels and it was swarming with Australians, Europeans, Canadians, there was a group of people who were dressed in brightly-colored African garb… The bars were hopping, the clubs were hopping, there was dancing in the streets all over the place. Total madhouse. One of the main attractions is the midnight fireworks show– sadly, I missed it due to having to tend to a friend who wasn’t feeling so hot, but I’ll talk about Hong Kong fireworks in my Chinese New Year post. They are pretty worth it.
Many CTLCers wound up in HK for NYE, so I got to wander and hang out with a bunch of different people throughout the night, but the best part of the adventure (in my opinion) was at about 6 in the morning when my whole group managed to make our various ways back to the hostel, and we spent another hour talking and laughing and reviewing the year that had brought us all together. (There were some hijinks, too– one person fell off the bed with a loud thump and a curse, and that sent us all into giggles; at another point the boys absconded with a couple of bras that had been discarded in favor of pyjamas, and processed around the tiny hostel in a fashion show. Ya know. As we crazy kids do.) There was also a run for McDonald’s hashbrowns in there at some point– you know, I have never eaten so much McDonald’s in my life as I did during the week of Western Holiday Madness…
On perhaps 2 hours of sleep we checked out of the hostel and made our way to the Flying Pan for good, solid Western-style breakfast– they make amazing omelettes and absolutely to-die-for pancakes, not to mention a lox-and-bagel plate that brings tears to my eyes– and then set back out for the good ol’ SEZ. Some of my colleagues were lucky enough that their Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) break began that week– I had a Monday off to look forward to, and ostensibly two more weeks of teaching to get through before my vacation would begin.
But more on that later. As promised, next up: Spring Holiday– Thailand, Cambodia, and Hong Kong fireworks!