Aileen Quijano

“WALK, there is no path, the path is made by walking.” -- Antonio Machado, translated

When you’re in a foreign land and not sure exactly where to go, the best recourse sometimes is simply to walk. So when friends BamBam, Alexis, Alex, Al and I found ourselves poised at the Gateway of Harbour City in Kowloon , Hong Kong – hungry, cold and struggling to understand Chinese English, we wasted no time checking in and stepping out of the hotel. As soon as we opened the glass doors, you could hear the collective, “Oh sheeeshh.” It was 12-degrees cold on a January day. I should have gone back to get a pair of boots and a trench coat. But then, among the five of us, only BamBam had the good sense to bring some.

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“A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned to walk forward.”

-- Franklin D. Roosevelt

When in Hong Kong, it pays to know how to do the Hong Kong Walk right. That is: go left and be fashionably fast-forward. Kowloon, as I see it, is a maze of intersecting fashion ramps teeming with gorgeous men in New York black suits and waiflike cover girls wearing straight faces while strutting the latest winter fashion line of turtlenecks, fur-lined coats, mid-thigh pleated skirts and knee high boots. My bare legs, though loving the cold, felt ridiculously outdated. Even so, one can’t afford to stop. You’ve got to move forward. And fast. Or else, like any conservative, be run over or pushed aside to the point of rudeness. At the Fashion Walk, you see, no one stands still. You could almost hear Madonna breathing heavily at the background, “Vogue, vogue…let your body move to the music, hey, hey, hey…”

“There is nothing like walking to get the feel of a country. A fine landscape is like a piece of music; it must be taken at the right tempo. Even a bicycle goes too fast.”

-- Paul Scott Mowrer, The House of Europe

Walking on, one could feel the cosmopolitan spirit of Hong Kong celebrated in its stunning skyscrapers, fashion boulevards and gigantic billboards. Harbour City, we discovered, is a mini metropolis devoted to retail therapy. It is by far Hong Kong’s largest shopping complex, with more than 700 stores, three Marco Polo hotels, two cinemas, over 50 food and beverage outlets...

Wait, are we lost? We kept walking.

On to the street and Hong Kong landmarks -- China Ferry Terminal, Kowloon Park, Star Ferry, the Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong Cultural Centre and then The Avenue of the Stars -- Hong Kong’s answer to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. There you’ll find a shrine to Hong Kong’s golden screen luminaries such as Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, as well as the best views of the Hong Kong skyline and famous skyscrapers along the harbor. This way? That way? When in doubt, I say, just follow the path of least resistance. So forward, we walked.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

– Lao-Tzu

The oldest road and main thoroughfare through Kowloon is Nathan Road. It has earned the nickname “The Golden Mile of Asia” because of the dazzling array of brightly lit, neon-decorated shops, jewelry stores, hotels, restaurants and nightspots along the way. Said to resemble New York City’s Times Square, it is one of the busiest commercial roads in Hong Kong today.

Named after Governor Sir Matthew Nathan, history tells that when this wide boulevard was proposed, residents thought it was a foolish idea that would create traffic concerns and other problems so they dubbed it “Nathan’s Folly”. Crazy or not, we kept walking.

“If you are walking to seek, ye shall find.”

-- Sommeil Liberosensa

Hong Kong, the “Fragrant Harbour”, has every imaginable persuasion on earth. Here you will find SASA: Making Life Beautiful; G2000 – Where Work Matters; and Samsung bugging you to “Tune on Tomorrow” in neon lights. Good thing there’s enough MY D.N.A. going around reminding you: Do Not Agree, Never Compromise, Always Say No.

It’s not easy, mind you, especially when you have every high fashion icon calling you on the streets--from Dior to Gucci, Valentino and Ferragamo, Burberry and Louis Vuitton, D&G and Armani, Prada, Zara and Chanel. Stop. Did I just see a Manolo Blahnik shop? Fast forward. Manolo Blahnik Shoes On Sale.

Is this for real? Carrie Bradshaw of Sex and the City once said, “The fact is, sometimes it’s hard to walk in a single woman’s shoes. That’s why we need really special ones now and then to make the walk a little more fun.” But still, at $400? Ouch. That must be one hell of a walk.

“Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.”

--Steven Wright

Three hours later and we were still walking. Our feet by then had grown numb with the cold. And yet, it seemed like we still haven’t covered enough Kowloon ground. Where does it end? Have we seen enough? For each single step to nowhere, I found my mind stretching towards endless possibilities, even as I struggled to make sense of this strange city, keep up with the pace, and even forgive the cold shoulders and unsmiling faces.

There was no final destination on sight. No measure of time.

There was only faith that the road will lead us to where we were meant to be. And then, as we walked some more, there was the unmistakable smell of Starbucks coffee along Canton Road.

Finally, something to warm up five kindred spirits meandering like in a dream, simply seeking to find traces of home in unfamiliar spaces.