I have never been a massive fan of the ‘nice night in’. Like many things, I think the idea of an evening on the sofa with the TV on is a lot nicer than the actual reality of it. Sure, when you’re exhausted or stressed or fed up of the rubbish weather, a Friday night snuggled up in your onesie might sound appealing. I get that. But by the time it gets to 9pm you’ve remembered just how bad TV really is, you’re stuffed from all the comfort food you’ve treated yourself to and you’re probably perving on all the fun things everyone else on Facebook is doing. I would much rather power through, celebrate the end of the working week and start the weekend with a bit of fire in my belly (or a few too many gins).
The problem is I am not a massive fan of extortionate taxi fares either. Or of the three buses I have to catch to my best friend’s flat. I hate the ‘to drink or drive’ debate. Neither am I particularly fond of almost everyone I know being half of a romantic couple and wanting ‘quality time’ together instead of great craic with everyone, single people included, in the pub. And then, without me even realising it at the time, moving to Hong Kong in 2011 was the answer to all of these problems.
Suddenly, the notion of ‘staying in’ was taken clean off the table. Just like that, answering the obligatory ‘what are you up to this weekend?’ question became a case of sifting through options, trying to piece all the choices together without missing something, or someone, important out. Hong Kong’s energy, like its fried rice, is addictive. People live and breathe the ‘work hard, play hard’ mantra and, regardless of how tired you are or how busy your week has been, your down time is always exciting. Picking which rooftop bar to visit on a Saturday night, which happy hour to make the most of, which beach to recover on the next day … these become the burning dilemmas of the weekend. And, best of all, getting anywhere and everywhere is simple, fast and all part of the HK experience.
I lived six stops and less than twenty minutes away from Central Hong Kong on the MTR. The station was approximately four minutes from my apartment and the journey cost me next to nothing. Even better, the trains were fully air conditioned and clean- my hair would stay looking straight at least until I got to the first bar. That’s one option. Another would be to just hail a very cheap taxi from right outside my front door. Squeezed against the thighs of my friends, laughing and singing to the Canto pop on the radio, pre-empting the drama of the night to come; we would curve past stunning Victoria Harbour and rip-roar into the centre, coming head on into the throng of Chinese, English, Irish, American, expats, locals, all of them. Our friends would be among them somewhere, clinking glasses in one of the bars on Lang Kwai Fong.
We’d worked all week, taught lesson after lesson, caught train after train, ran to make spinning classes and gym sessions and yoga clubs. We’d skyped far away family and emailed long lost friends. Now it was Saturday, the week was behind us and our Sunday stretched ahead like miles and miles of untouched beach, waiting to be dug up in our weekend footprints. The price we all paid, of course, was having only one full day off a week. Yet, somehow, this one blissful day seemed to last forever. Rather than vegging out on the sofa, hungover and dreading going back to work the next day as I would do at home, Sundays were spent hiking in the country parks, cycling in Sha Tin, catching a ferry to one of the outlying islands or simply sleeping on a sunny beach. Hong Kong’s transport system means all of these are quick, easy, cheap and hassle-free options. Spending your precious Sunday in your shoe-box sized flat, however many cocktails you’ve sunk the night before, is out of the question.
Now, I don’t want this to be an alcohol friendly argument. It is quite possible to live in Hong Kong without indulging in its crazy nightlife and free-drinks-for-girls ethos. In fact, I have a friend who became completely tea-total and still wouldn’t live anywhere else. My point is, in Hong Kong, there is always something amazing to do. And, rather than have to plan it for months in advance and struggle to afford the expensive train-tickets, people actually do it. Every day. Long hours at work are sandwiched between junk boat parties, going out for dim sum, having coffees on the Avenue of Stars and getting the tram to the Peak when you want some fresher air. Even my yoga classes were exhilarating. There is nothing like being in the downward dog position and seeing that incredible skyline to make you feel alive!
When you do succumb to that ‘nice night in’ it is because you genuinely miss your sofa. You look forward to cooking in your kitchen for once, and you enjoy every second of doing nothing after having such a packed schedule. It is not because you can’t brave the miserable weather or summon up the energy to meet your friends on the other side of town. Hong Kongers live life in the fast lane…full throttle and with an incredible view.