It’s already starting to feel like a hallucination. The constant sweat, the blazing sunshine alternating with roaring thunderstorms, the impossible stacking of shops, the endless procession of perfect legs.
The shopping felt like madness, a frenzy that threatened to consume you until you to gave in, picked something, queued, handed over money and felt the reassuring weight of a shopping bag. The jostling and crowding in the hundreds of small shops, the elbowing to hand over cash, and the mental proliferation as you imagine the scene repeated endlessly in thousands of similar shopping malls all over the peninsula.
The cosmetics you were charged with buying were called ‘fresh’ and Kiehl’s’ – “fresh kill” sounds appropriate for shopping as vicious scavenging. Each of the shops was careful in presenting its brand, the window dressing that convinces you that the liquids contained within the bottles and jars were worth the price.
At ‘fresh’, an old typewriter sat to one side, with a diary entry that had been tapped out upon a single sheet of paper and left as though the writer had been interrupted. The text presented a vision of nakedness interacting with nature – mist against the skin, the crystal waters of a lake, moss between the toes. Second hand books (never to be read) rested alongside on the shelf – their hard covers, their foreignness and their age were the vital points. Below them, labelled wooden drawers as in an apothecary featured prominently. What the denizens of the grimy, sweaty, polluted metropoles want above all else is authentic natural ingredients and they are willing to pay extraordinary prices for them. That payment is only possible by working in or borrowing from a highly developed urban system that estranges you from nature in the first place.
Outside the mall, the view of the harbour was the greatest thing about Hong Kong. Surprisingly clean water, hundreds of skyscrapers and then the sky. A live postcard. Lovely to look at, inspiring a feeling of prosperity by dint of standing in front of it, but somehow there’s nothing else to say. It may be the prospect of all the millions, billions and trillions that those buildings represent, and the knowledge that gazing upon them makes you no richer. in fact, getting among them will only make you poorer. Still there is magnificence in that view across the bay. Something like Dumas’ description of Paris from the top of Villejuif hill, it
“appears like a sombre sea tossing its millions of phosphoric waves into light – waves indeed more noisy, more passionate, more changeable, more furious, more greedy, than those of the tremendous ocean, – waves which never rest as those of the sea sometimes do, waves ever dashing, ever foaming, ever engulfing what falls within their grasp.”