Michael Elliott

       No health problems to report, though by the Star Ferry terminal I met the nice young doctor from Minnesota who rescued me on the flight from San Francisco. “You look terrific!” he cried, gripping my arm, his gaze fixed on me in a happy gleam. “A good sleep! That’s the secret!”
       Little does he know. I wake at 6 a.m., and, what with telephone calls to New York, 13 hours behind, don’t get to bed until after 1 a.m. The intervening hours are filled with interviews, people I want to see, people who want to see me, lunch, cocktails, dinner, after-dinner drinks.
       This evening’s entertainment bracketed old and new Hong Kong. First, there was a drink with the Washington Post’s Keith Richburg at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club. Later, dinner at the China Club, in the old Bank of China building. The FCC is a legend among journalists, more than a few of whom have propped up its ample bar. The best description of it is in the opening pages of John Le Carré’s novel The HonourableSchoolboy, dominated by a figure–Craw–closely based on the late Richard Hughes, a famous Australian old China-hand and correspondent for the Sunday Times of London. The club’s ambience is an odd, and old, mixture of dowdy colonial hangout and Vietnam-era R & R way station. The China Club, by contrast, is modern Hong Kong personified. Retro chinoiserie-on-acid décor, yuppie bankers of all races, smart. It has become a staple of everyone’s visit to the city.
       The best part of the day, though, had nothing to do with either of these famous watering holes. I had lunch at the Hyatt Regency on Nathan Road in Kowloon. Three of us from Newsweek had lunch with Yeung Wai Hong, publisher of Next magazine, rebel businessman Jimmy Lai’s glossy weekly. Hong chose the food, which included a clear chicken soup served in a baked papaya. I had awful visions of the bowl of chili served in a loaf of bread that you get in bad ski resorts. I needn’t have worried. The trick was to take a sliver of the papaya in a spoonful of broth. The sweetness of the fruit, barely hard enough to stand a single chew, combined with a touch of acid in the soup, is exquisite.
       When next in Hong Kong, skip the obligatory shark’s fin, and search out the baked papaya. You won’t regret it.