I live in the Southern part of Hong Kong, on a little island named Ap Lei Chau. Little in terms of area maybe, but definitely not population – fully 90,000 people live on this island of 1.32 square kilometers (0.5 square miles), making it the most densely populated island in the world, according to the Guinness Book of Records. I live in an apartment complex called South Horizons, South for the area, and Horizons for the water, I suppose. Most private residential developments in this city have iconic-lucky-prosperous sounding names, ranging from the descriptive (Greenview Garden), to the ridiculous (Amigo Mansion). The name is part marketing tool, part demarcater of status, enticing enough to convince buyers to plop down hundreds of thousands of dollars for a particular couple-hundred-square-feet of space. South Horizons – 35 apartment buildings, different from the mostly government subsidized public housing on the rest of the island. My neighborhood is middle to upper-middle class, well-educated, lots of young families. On any given day, you can see young children playing in the community playground, Filipino maids in tow. In the early morning hours, you will see older kids in various school uniforms, waiting for buses alongside suited office workers. There is a supermarket, a fresh food market, bakeries, newspaper kiosks, stationery stores, a swimming pool. I live in an apartment on the 34th floor of a 40-storey building, and from my bedroom window, I can see the waters of the South China Sea.
During high school, I spent many nights staring out at the water. In the wee hours of the morning especially, the sea turned into this mysterious entity. I was convinced that if I looked long enough, I would be able to see beyond the horizon, and arrive at a different place. I have images of fantastical creatures holding midnight tribunals in the water, standing ankle-deep under the moonlight, occasionally resting their feet on the dozens of small archipelagos. Often, huge cargo ships go past, and I’d wonder where they were going. In my mind, the ships are transformed into ocean liners, and all those blinking lights I see are actually people singing and laughing, decked out in fantastic jewels and brocade gowns, dancing the night away at an extravagant midnight ball. The windows in my bedroom are often open, though they are criss-crossed with extra bars, preventing me from sticking out more than an arm at a time. I imagine that I am a prisoner in a high tower, and that if I could only climb out the window, I would be able to take off, and fly far, far away.