September 4, 2007
On Atmospheric Moisture and Stupidity or
Humidity and Dumbness
While taxis are far and away the preferred method of transportation on this island city of steep hills and mountainous staircases, I find that the more frequently chosen method by myself is walking.
In the morning it's not that bad. The city is still relatively cool from the night (say mid to high 70's with a lower humidity) and the downhill jaunt takes just about 15 minutes.
However at the end of the day, especially on occasions when I haven't been traipsing about, off hiking on some island all day, I will also walk back up the hill and home.
Maybe I want to save those $20, equivalent to about $3 US, maybe I like that invigorating cold shower the walk necessitates. At the end of the day though, I suspect I simply reason that it won't be that bad, it's not that far, and I can do it, so I should. And I do. And it is. And it is.
Central Hong Kong is set up with many large buildings connected so that you can actually walk across much of the neighborhood without leaving the comfort of the air conditioned walkways overlooking the congested bustling streets below However, without Renee as my guide, I can't make it through half of the correct length of the labyrinthine network before being spit out onto the crowded street several blocks from my intended destination, thus extending my walk through the soup. Onto the sidewalk I go, with aching lungs, walk shoulder to shoulder with the hawkers and fishwives who don't seem to mind the heat at all.
I sweat like a westerner. Despite the tropical heat waves of New York and Massachusetts which, over 25 years, I have learned to tolerate, never have I dealt with such a constant bombardment of condensed heat and humidity. The weather rarely changes in Hong Kong. It is almost always 86 degrees Fahrenheit, with scattered thunderstorms, and %10,000 humidity. I swear, one might contract pneumonia just by staying outside and breathing the moisture soaked air for a long enough period.
Renee's apartment is in the "Mid Levels" of Hong Kong. This is essentially what it sounds like. It is a neighborhood of snaky roads halfway up a mountain, Victoria Peak.
Today I went to a bookstore and planned the next leg of my trip in a Starbucks in the IFC Mall in Central. My body, my clothes, all were dry when I left. Within five minutes, the pattern of tiny dark pinpricks began to appear through my shirt and my arms began to glisten. Five more minutes and I came through the Botanical Gardens, halfway to the apartment, and the pattern was now a series of tiny light pinpricks of dryness on an otherwise soaked tee-shirt. The beaded sweat dripping from my arms and down off my hands.
The garden's Dandelion-like fountain tries to provoke me into the cool water and the garden workers, toiling to maintain the grounds seem to taunt me with their seemingly over-the-top dress, with their heavy work trousers and boots, longsleeve workshirts, cloth face masks, and wide-brimmed hats. I would pass out if I were to do heavy manual labor in conditions like that. They look like a budget HazMat cleanup crew.
Fortunately for me, the elevators in Renee's building have mirrored walls so I am able to see the sodden and bedraggled mess I have become in the short walk from the mall to the apartment. Shorts soaked through boxers, backpack soaked through shirt, and what hair hasn't become a Mike Brady in Hawaii curly mess of an afro, is plastered to my dripping forehead.
Every time. Because it's only a 15 minute walk. And it probably won't be that bad.