WHEN friends learned we were going to spend some time in Hong Kong, we were loaned a book and a lot of advice. The book was the more useful and we tucked away mental notes on the Star Ferry, the weather, the Walled City, the noon gun, and how Queen Victoria had not been too much impressed with the negotiations and the arrival of a Hong Kong in her realm. The advice was all about SHOPPING.
``It's a paradise!'' One friend took such care to supply us with the address of the tailor her husband recommended and the jewelry store she had loved. In a long-distance call, my brother expounded on the marvelous uniforms made in a day or so of his Navy shore leave. ``Always had them done there. Perfect fit.''
We flew off feeling it was a good thing advice weighed nothing -- we'd have been over our baggage limit.
Quite a number of postal cards later we were back. I realized it was going to be embarrassing.
``What did you buy?''
``Actually -- not too much.'' I could tell them how I bought a paperback by a favorite author only to discover I'd already read it under its US title, which was certainly different from the one given it under British copyright. (I'd send it on to my brother.)
``I thought you were going to have some blouses made!'' That had been someone else's idea before we left.
I smiled brightly but guiltily. ``We got into a toy shop with such a funny name -- ``Hee Hee, Ha Ha.'' (In fact, the name was even funnier because it was spelled He He. How about Her Her to go with it?) No one laughed very much.
``Didn't you buy any yardage? Didn't John get his sports jacket?''
``Tailors kept popping out of their shop doors to entreat him. One insisted he looked like Ernest Borgnine.''
``You could have purchased beautiful cultured pearls!'' It was obvious I had to go on the offensive.
``Didn't you love watching the older Chinese doing those ballet-like exercises early each morning in the parks?'' A thoughtful frown. A memory searched.
``I must have missed them.''
``The newspapers seemed so folksy. I came home with two recipes. The one for Broccoli Deluxe sounds especially good, but I have to convert all those ounces to cups, and so forth.''
``The nighttime view of the city -- all those skyscrapers -- did you realize their lights, their signs can't blink or wink because Kai Tak Airport is right in the city on the Kowloon side?''
I took a fortifying breath. ``In the Chinese Museum for Historical Relics we were surrounded by children all making written reports on what they were seeing and....''
``Are you sure you went to Hong Kong?''
And enjoyed it.