There were a few months of lead-up time before I met Hong Kong in person. At first I was chill about it, all "no big deal, this is just another place." As the day of departure crept up, I was feverishly researching everything I could find on the Internet—I think that is, in certain situations, called "stalking." As I memorized neighborhoods, pinned pictures of cute restaurants and saved notes about this neighborhood or that sweets shop, I was a bundle of giddy excitement.
And then, on the plane, I turned into a sweaty-palmed, nervous mess as we began to descend—on Valentine's Day, no less. "What's Hong Kong going to think of me? What if I look like a fool, an imposter? I'm only a Midwestern girl from a city whose population could fit into a handful of HK's high rises. Did I wear the right thing? What if I say the wrong things? Oh god, these are the wrong shoes, aren't they? Aren't they?!"
I haven't been on a date with anyone other than my husband in 14 years, so flirting with new cities is how I experience the gut-rattling nervousness of dating, which is, in effect, presenting yourself to someone for judgment, in hopes of hitting it off.
Hong Kong's size, style and speed are all a few ticks above what I'm accustomed to, and I thought it'd measure me up as a bumpkin and take a fake "emergency" call from a friend and dump me within hours.
But that unceremonious dumping never came. Hong Kong swept us up, carried us along and made us feel welcome and maybe even, sort of, worthy of spending time with it.
After dropping off our baggage, we headed down to the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade for the Valentine's Day lantern festival, where there were elaborate costumed dances and people crooning karaoke renditions of "Can't Help Falling in Love" and a whole bunch of songs we didn't know (what with them being in Cantonese and all) but which upheld the feeling of warm-and-fuzzy romance.
On just our first meeting, Hong Kong dazzled and charmed me like few other cities have. I'm sure that once you live with it for a while and see what it's like before it's had its coffee and brushed its teeth, a more real and less alluring side of Hong Kong becomes apparent. But the place spins an undeniable spell—why else would people stay and flock here in their millions?—and I'm under it for good.