January 2004–After attending church with my family, we raced down the street and quickly reached our destination: Hong Kong City Mall. It was populated with people talking and having the time of their lives. As we walked in the main entrance, I looked around only to see kids laughing, parents socializing with friends, and everyone reuniting with each other. All around were decorations of dragons, Chinese letterings, fireworks, banners, and delicious food. Hong Kong City Mall was so lively.
This day was not like any other day, it was Tet, the day that officially marks the beginning of a new year on the lunar calendar. Tet, also known as Vietnamese New Years is a time for families to come together and spend quality time. People believe that the first day and of the Lunar holiday week will determine fortune and misfortunes for the rest of the year, so they prepare for Tet weeks in advance. They clean their homes, buy new clothes and shoes, pay off debts, and resolve differences.
Hong Kong City Mall is known to have big celebrations during Tet. Singers such as: Don Ho, Thuy Nga, and Huong Mai perform to make the celebration more entertaining and special. Their songs are upbeat and full of energy; it goes perfect for this kind of celebration. -The traditional thing to do on Tet is to have dragon dancers put on a show by doing the Dragon Dance. The Dragon Dance consists of 3-4 people who stand on each other’s shoulders, under a big dragon costume and dance. Their goal is to get people to give them money or red envelopes, which also consists of money. That money is usually donated to shelters and people in need. Raffle tickets are sold days in advance and the drawings are done in front of a crowd. There are plenty of prizes such as: a brand new Mercedes, a trip to Vietnam, cash prizes, and gift certificates. Elders usually give away “li xi,” (money in red envelopes) to young kids to represent good luck and prosperity. While all that is going on, friends and families sit by each other socializing and enjoying themselves.
HK City Mall organizes a lot of celebrations and events. The world famous Vietnamese radio station, Little Saigon, often hosts and sponsors events at HK City Mall. Ocean Palace restaurant is best known for their events and shows that they put on. Well-known celebrities go there to perform, sing, and dance. There are also many shows that are put together by different groups and organizations to raise money for the community or those in need of money.
Another big event at HK City Mall is the Moon Festival. It is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. Families go to HK City Mall to celebrate the end of harvest season with big feasts and parties. People enjoy listening to music, dancing, drumming, exotic foods and spices, shopping, and learning about the Asian culture. With lighted candles and lantern, families watch the fullest moon of the year, while eating their moon cakes. For generations, moon cakes have been made with sweet fillings of nuts, mashed red beans, lotus-seed paste or Chinese dates, wrapped in a pastry. Sometimes a cooked egg yolk can be found in the middle of the rich tasting dessert. The Moon Festival is also associated with passing on messages for revolution through inserting a note in moon cakes. HK City Mall usually has the traditional Dragon Dance with lighted lanterns. The lanterns are so pretty and nice it creates an enjoyable atmosphere.
As you can see, Hong Kong City Mall is a big part of Houston and its Asian community. It has four store locations: on Harwin at Gessner, on Veterans Memorial Drive, on Scarsdale at Beamer, and the last and newest location is the Hong Kong City Mall, which is located on Bellaire at Boone.
After three different locations, the owners of Hong Kong Supermarket built the fourth one with careful consideration. The outside is constructed to bring forth the wonderful Chinese and Vietnamese cultures. Hong Kong City Mall is also very exquisite. There are numerous colorful gardens and many water fountains filled with lily pads that that squirt out water which attracts many customers. Unlike the other three shopping centers, the parking lot is much larger and spacious, making it very convenient for visitors.
The Hong Kong City Mall is my favorite for many reasons. It is very convenient because unlike the other three, Hong Kong City Mall is not only a supermarket, but it is a mall. There are many varieties of stores located within the HK City Mall such as shops that sell food, drinks, clothes, cds, videos, jewelry, cell phones, cell phone accessories, and many more. In addition to the stores, there are also dental offices, clinics, and law offices. People go there to eat, shop, run errands, socialize, and have a good time with family and friends.
Sure there are many other centers, but HK City Mall is most certainly a well-known and popular Asian center in Houston. It is always crowded and busy. The weekends are crowded the most because those are the days of resting and relaxation. Families want to spend quality time with each other so they go to HK City Mall to eat and have fun. HK City Mall is a great place to sit back and relax.
Hong Kong City Mall is an Asian mall, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that only Asians go there. White, Black, and Latin families often shop in the HK City Mall location because it has the largest fresh seafood counter in Houston and has some of the best prices on fresh vegetables and fruits. Hong Kong City Mall’s supermarket is the best and biggest in town. The supermarket is located in the center of the mall. You can find plants, paintings, kitchenware, fresh herbs, variety of meats, shrimps, seafood, fresh vegetables, desserts, snacks, condiments, and many more.
HK City Mall is a popular site for tourists. It is well known around the United States. People enjoy it because it is very big, it has many varieties of stores, and there are a lot of things to do in the HK City Mall. They can get a lot of souvenirs from the gift stores. We as Houstonians take HK City Mall for granted because we can go there anytime we want, but for those out of town, they enjoy every second of it. They always tell us how lucky we are to have such a big Asian community in Houston.
I interviewed a friend from Florida who often visits and asked her what she likes about Hong Kong City Mall; she responded excitedly as she said, “Hong Kong is so cool. I wish Tampa had these centers around. It would make things so much easier for my mom. She wouldn’t have to travel so far to get decent Asian food. I also love the crawfish there!”
A popular hang out spot in HK City Mall is the game arcade. It has many video games and different activities to do there. Little kids go there to play games as their parents shop and run errands. It is very convenient for both the kids and parents. The parents can get their errands done while the kids have fun. Everyone can come to Hong Kong City Mall and leave a happy camper.
Right next to the arcade is the food court. The food court sells many types of food such as: crawfish, beignets, rice, noodles, desserts, etc. The food court is always crowded with people eating and enjoying their food. All around the food court are a hand full of televisions. People can watch whatever they want while they eat. Often times, people watch the sports and news channels. Also inside the food court, grown adults gather around to play Chinese checkers and chess. The players sit in the booth while challengers stand around watching and waiting for their turn.
People don’t only go to the food court to eat but they also go to play and enjoy a round or two of mahjong. Mahjong is a very popular Asian game. It is like dominoes and cards put together, but with Chinese characters on blocks. HK City Mall has been known to have mahjong tournaments, which attract many people, especially adults.
Today, many Vietnamese-American kids grow up speaking English and not their own language. They grow up with American standards and know nothing about their own culture and background. Being surrounded in Asian areas like Hong Kong City Mall helps them stay well acquainted with their cultural background.
Hong Kong City Mall is important to the Asian community in Houston because it is a place that brings people together. It gives them a sense of belonging. It’s a place where running into family or friends is very common. People can eat, talk, hangout, play games, and even go grocery shopping together.