Saturday, 8 October 2011


I was talking to somebody a few days ago about Hong Kong and wanted to relate three amazing occurrences that took place during one of my many visits to the former Crown Colony. Each concerns the incredible memory capabilities of some of the local Chinese that I encountered. Considering how we Gweilos (white devils) must all look similar I fail to understand how I managed to remain in their memories.

The first instance occurred in 1989 when I arrived in Hong Kong for the first time as part of our honeymoon. On that first visit we went to an area known as 'The Lanes' in the Central district on Hong Kong Island and bought a lovely Suzie Wong dress for my wife. She has never worn it - but that's another story. About six years later we managed to locate the dress stall with some difficulty; as we wanted to buy a similar dress for one of my wife's friends. To our amazement the stall owner immediately recited day and date when we had bought the first dress as well as the size and the colour. He also recalled that we had been on our honeymoon. To this day we cannot explain this.

Another example of recall happened after I had taken a ferry from North Point to an area adjacent to the old Kai Tak Airport where I had been to photograph aircraft movements for an article I was writing. After a few hours we arrived back at North Point, got in a taxi and before I had the chance to say where we wanted to go, the driver told me the street and the name of the block of flats where we were staying. When I asked him how he knew, he just laughed aloud. I can only guess that at some previous time this same guy had picked us up. But what I still haven't been able to figure out is how he could possibly remember us from the hundreds of passengers he carried in his cab. There is, as far as I know, something like 5,000 taxis in HK which makes the chances of me stepping into the same taxi on two separate occasions more of an unbelievable coincidence, although on a separate occasion while out shopping this happened again but this time I remembered the driver, not the other way around.

On many of my visits we would stay at the Excelsior Hotel in Causeway Bay, sometimes for a period of around ten days at a time. However, a period of about three years had lapsed between staying at the hotel, yet I was surprised when so many of the staff I encountered not only remembered me by name but could recall my when I had last been a guest at the establishment. These were not front-of- house people who may have been aware of my visit, but waiters and bell boys. One instance occurred as I was walking along a corridor to my room one day and a young uniformed member of staff, probably working for room service spoke to me: "Hayo Mister Buffield, (the Chinese can never pronounce the first 'l' in my name) it is wearly good to see yu again". As I had no recollection of ever meeting this member of staff previously I was taken aback and asked him where he knew from? He told me that I had been into Caminos Restaurant that was one of the hotel's restaurants where he had worked five years previously during March. I was truly stunned that he would recognise me let alone know my name. Although I had eaten in the restaurant on a couple of occasions I had no recall of what year that had been let alone the month. My young assistant had joined us on this particular trip and she looked on in stunned silence when so many of the front of house staff came up to greet me by name as we walked into the atrium but this was really the last straw for her. "God, it is like being with a rock star; how do all these people know who you are?" she asked. I guess I must have made a lasting impression.

Truly amazing!

It is no wonder they will never forget the Opium Wars.

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