In the summer of 2011 I spent a few days in Italy which gave me the chance to revisit Venice, one of my favorite places in the world. Almost two decades before, at the first trip abroad after growing up under dictatorship,  Venice was this magical place where every little thing was a source of wonder feeding my curiosity. I was eager to revisit it and see how my feelings about it stood the test of time. I wandered on the same streets, stopped at the same corners, took (almost) the same pictures, but something was missing, not that I could figure it out at the time. I could not believe it. Did I become this skeptical, numb,  ``saw it all'' person, no longer enthusiastic and curious about the world? It's true, I grew up, changed my life in ways years ago sitting across Piazza San Marco I could have never dreamt about, moved to a different country, found my place, traveled the world. And what about Venice? Well, she changed too, but what's two decades for a 1500 years old beauty? A few scratches here and there. In the right light, from the right angles, she still  looked perfect in pictures.

Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong

I realized what I was missing about 2 weeks later after landing in Hong Kong, my first time in Asia. There the old and the new mixed in surprising ways, the 500 years old temple in Tai O could coexist with the much newer (1990s) Giant Budha statue at Po Lin monastery or the old dry seafood markets and houses built on water from Aberdeen and Tai O fishing villages contrasted with the state-of-the-art malls and brands stores from Nathan Road and Canton Road. Everything was ``the first'', ``the biggest'', ``the tallest'', ``the longest'', in a city that kept building and did not seem to shut down ever (except during typhoons, I heard). Even the Hong Kong airport, yes, award-winning too, operated 24 hours a day. As I was there at the end of June beginning of July, I was able to also witness the annual July 1st  protest, whose origins lie in the handover of Hong Kong to China and the  establishment of HKSAR, and I was extremely impressed by the order of the rally and the passion of the participants.

Tai O
Not everything was perfect. According to Ms. K., our guide on the Lantau tour, there were three things they struggled with in Hong Kong: water, real estate prices, and lack of eligible men :). They dealt with the first by relying on 17 reservoirs and by importing the rest from China; they counted on the government to deal with the second; the third problem though, even in Hong Kong they did not figure out how to solve. The weather was not easy to bear either, very hot and very humid; to fight it, cold air was blowing in every building or transportation means.

View from Victoria Peak
There are many things that I loved about Hong Kong, but ultimately I think I loved its contagious and extraordinary energy. It showed me that my curiosity for the world did not change, it just needed the
``right now'', the ``happening'', to contemplate just the past was no longer enough.  So the wiser and more-traveled me, watching the Symphony of Lights show as it colored the Hong Kong skyline across the Victoria Harbour, found herself in the same awe as ages ago watching Piazza San Marco across Canale della Giudecca. While once upon a time a glimpse to the structured elegant beauty of the past took my breath away, I was now starstruck by the raw making of the future.

July 2011


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