By Ruth Kim
HONG KONG, China, 5:28 p.m. — There’s been a lot of rain these two past months in Hong Kong, but those storm clouds and slicks don’t really matter. Those that do, I discovered yesterday, are produced by typhoon warning Signal No. 8 — the only legitimate excuse to stay home from work.
Unlike rare snow-days in North America, when you still have to shovel your way to the garage, No. 8 mandates a standstill, which means no public road transportation, no work. And Hong Kong suddenly becomes a ghost town.
Though I was first shocked to find flooded streets and no cabs when I landed two months ago, now I know better. With the faintest hint of a coming storm, we grab a few beers, keep the official website on stand-by and sleep in sweet anticipation.
Waking up half past noon, I realized how much of a treat this was, knowing that my office colleagues would choose to work overtime rather than take an unpaid holiday. In a city that is so intense, sleep deprived and constantly throbbing with the “work hard, play hard” mantra, it was refreshing, literally, to take a break.
Which reminds me of a couple Fridays ago, when a big rainstorm hit Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong’s most notorious bar district. It was around 3 a.m. when I saw the crowd move towards the entrance, just near the bar’s edge to face the street. Even Insomnia — a bar open 24 hours, 7 days a week — was momentarily put on hold to watch the spectacle outside. The main street — a sloped, cobbled path hugged by clubs and bars on both sides — had completely transformed into a wet, deserted runway for the daring few heading home. The street party that usually held a sea of expats and locals on a typical Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday or Saturday night, was now offensively empty. I thought the night had ended.
But that’s when Hong Kong’s real catchphrase, “work hard, play harder” came to life. With unwilling cab drivers and flooded streets, the clubs stayed crowded and the music only got louder. People heckled and booed those stepping out onto the street, and so it was, back to the vodka red bull.