Winning the Gold

It’s always great to be recognized by your peers, but this one is especially sweet. Today I found out that my article, “Ghosts of Hong Kong”, won the 2011 Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Gold prize, awarded by the Society of American Travel Writers.

I’ve won Lowell Thomas awards before, but this is the first time I’ve won for writing a personal story about my life in the city I love. There are a few characters in the article, but there is one person who is the heart of the piece, who has for many years, patiently and with great affection, taught me how to see Hong Kong through the eyes of a Hong Konger. David Lau, my friend, thank you!

In the article David is the guy who takes me shopping at the wet market, invites me to his roof for dinner, explains all the mysteries of Hong Kong, including why dead fish still jump around in red plastic bags when you bring them home from the market.

I’m back in Hong Kong now, after a few months in New York. While I was away, David and his wife moved to London. They sold their magical flat with the rooftop dining room–the “heavenly platform.” So an important part of the little world that I described in “Ghosts of Hong Kong” no longer exists. Hong Kong just doesn’t feel the same without the Laus. I really miss them.

This is Hong Kong–you wake up in the morning, walk out on the street, and discover your favorite coffee shop has been wrapped in bamboo scaffolding and plastic while you slept. It’s gone. Something new will take its place. If you’re a real Hong Konger, you just get over it.

But I can’t. This is the one part of being a Hong Konger that I think I’ll never assimilate. And so I sit here tonight in a muddle of feelings–happy for the prize, sad for the loss of what I won the prize for to begin with. Oh, how I wish my friends were here tonight to share some celebration and champagne with me on a beautiful evening in Hong Kong!

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Dinner on David’s rooftop, Hong Kong island, 2009