Hong Kong: Not Such A Good Place For Spontaneity

The crowds in Mong Kok, Hong Kong.

It’s a Friday night in Hong Kong and Sam and I find ourselves sitting on the bleachers in what can be dubbed a ‘park’ by metropolitan standards. The park calls itself Macpherson Playground and it even appears as a green box when you look it up on GoogleMaps, however, there isn’t a single blade of grass here. Instead, a soccer team runs back and forth on the concrete field which has been painted green, while an indifferent crowd hangs out on the benches; a group of men play cards a few steps up to my left, another man in a fedora scrolls through his smartphone, and two girls catch up over take-out just two steps below me.

I doubt any of them would be able to tell you the score because no one is here to watch the game.

I can’t blame them; I’m not here to watch the game either. In a city where you are always surrounded by masses and there is almost nowhere to escape, this excuse for a park has become my zen space.

But why am I hanging out here on a Friday night when I could be having a martini at the highest bar in the world, watching the light show at Victoria Harbour, or eating dim sum at my favourite joint – Tim Ho Wan?

Well, the thing is that Hong Kong is just a really bad place for spontaneity.

You see, earlier this night Sam and I had decided we would go watch a movie at Langham Place. The shopping centre is just down the street so rather than looking up the movie schedule online, we figured we would walk over and see what was available. We should have known better – Friday night in Hong Kong? Not a chance! After having to wade our way through a dense crowd down Sai Yeung Choi Street South, we rode various escalators to reach the 8th floor at Langham, only to discover that the English movies were all sold out. It was 7:30 pm, but already most seats for the midnight screenings were gone and the next best thing was watching a movie at 2 am.

Perhaps not.

Since we couldn’t watch a movie, we decided we would get ice cream. Hello, Häagen-Dazs! Raspberry sorbet, strawberry cheesecake, double fudge brownie. I was starting to salivate at the thought of my waffle cone until I got to the counter and was given a number to go wait in another line. A very long line!

After standing around and seeing that we weren’t getting any closer to our dessert, we scrapped that idea.

This isn’t the first time we’ve had trouble ‘being spontaneous’ in Hong Kong. There was also the time we got all dressed up on a Saturday afternoon and went down to the Peninsula Hotel to have afternoon tea. That very lavish affair included waiting in line for 2 hours. But that’s how things roll in Hong Kong…plan ahead or plan to wait.

So that is how we ended up spending our Friday night sitting in a little concrete oasis in the heart of Mong Kok, drinking ‘milk tea with pearls’ and trying to see if we could spot people doing strange things in the apartments around us. (Oh shush, you know you do that too, people!)

Has a city ever thwarted your Friday night plans?

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