The Shay Rebellion | Christopher Shay

Eau de Hong Kong

Smells are elusive. They are difficult to describe and harder to categorize. They evoke inchoate memories and unconsciously alter one’s behaviour. A smell can open a door of recognition to one’s past, and of all the senses, that link is uniquely direct—straight from the nose to memory centers in the brain. Smell can take one a journey to other places and times without one having any choice in the matter.

Walking down a busy Hong Kong street, the variety and intensity of smell takes one on an olfactory adventure—even when compared to New York. The dense air gives the smells a heaviness to them. It somehow feels as if the humidity allows more and larger aromatic particles to float in the air, ready for inhalation. Most of the smells are pleasing.  One moment, I transport back to my college suite to when Brendan made stir fry with sesame oil. The next moment, I’m reminded of the muggy hall outside my Oma’s condo in Bradenton, Florida. Most of the time though, I’m left with a vague feeling that a particular smell carries some deep memory that I just can’t quite place. The smells of the Hong Kong street draws one’s senses into an unknown, loosening oneself from familiar distinctions. Then just as one is engulfed in the aroma of the unknown, one somehow instantly recognizes a smell one has no idea one could identify. In one case, I immediately recognized the combination of dried jerky, squid, and salted fish. What’s strange about Hong Kong is that the city can have an intense smell even if there is no obvious source in the area. An area can smell of sewage of coconut for no apparent reason.

A lot of tourists seem to be struck by the smell of Hong Kong (many negatively). To me, Hong Kong just smells like adventure.

Category: Blog Entries


One Response

  1. chezshay says:

    Enjoying your blog – Smells operate directly on the “reptillian” brain, the oldest deepest part without engaging the forebrain-hence their power. Now as to the power of images…”a (posted) picture is worth 1000 words” – so what is the view at night out you window?

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