In our travels, we are always lucky to meet a lot of interesting people in different countries. When we introduce ourselves to people we first meet, one of the most frequently asked questions is to know the background of our love story. One comes from France, one comes from Hong Kong and now traveling together in an another country. In some places we’ve been to, locals had never seen a mixed couple before! Therefore, I can totally understand why people ask this question. I am also interested in others’ love story. So here in this post I am going to tell you how we met using my complicated feelings. I won’t say it’s a super romantic encounter, but I think it is still worth sharing.
So how did you guys meet ?
Maxime and I first met in Hong Kong on the 15th of January 2016. To shorten the reply of “how did you two meet each other?”, we usually mention the website that linked us “Through Couchsurfing”. Couchsurfing is a website that allows members to stay in a local’s home anywhere in the world. To put it simply, let’s say it’s like AirBnb but without payment. I personally think that this is a great way to meet new friends in a new city and a good start to live like a local. All my experiences with the website’s members had been pretty good. Hence I had enough confidence to meet another couchsurfer in my home town.
I don’t know if this still counts as love at first sight, but I felt something right at the moment we met. The man I saw in my first sight was quite different from what I expected. His look was nothing like his profile picture of Couchsurfing. In that picture he had no hair or beard, but in front of me was a long hair and wild beard version. I never treated couchsurfing as a dating platform, but romance just naturally developed between two persons this time.
So you hosted him ?
When we mention we met in Hong Kong, those who know about Couchsurfing will then ask “So you hosted him (Maxime)?”. “No, flats in Hong Kong are too small. And I live with my mum and my sister. So I didn’t host him.” Commonly, Maxime would add “I wrote a message on the Hong Kong Couchsurfing forum. Many people replied the message and said they would like to meet me. She is one of them.”
Sounds so popular, right? He is saying the truth, but not completely. I don’t usually follow forum posts as I already receive many requests from people traveling in Hong Kong and looking for a host. Yet that was a message with an eye-catching title. And I would say there’s destiny that linked us through his words.
So, here is the full story.
In January 2016, I was a soon-to-be graduate university student in Hong Kong. I booked a flight to Taiwan for some interviews of my graduation project. Unfortunately I decided to cancel my trip due to bad weather, the start of my German course. The most important factor was actually my poor preparation for the interview. After the cancellation, I had so much free time at home to spend on my mobile phone. (Yes I was such a mobile-addict!)
One afternoon during that boring period, when I was in the toilet doing my serious business, I accidentally opened the Couchsurfing weekly news-feed email. Normally I just tick the box and send them to the trash bin, but that day I opened it because of my fat finger tip.
Inside the email I saw an eye-catching title ‘HK without money’. It was about a French guy hitchhiking from France to Hong Kong with only 1 Euro a day. As I was planning a Beijing-Europe hitchhiking graduation trip, I really wanted to seek some tips from experienced hitchhikers. Besides, I’d always been looking for opportunities to help travelers to enjoy Hong Kong even though hosting was not possible.
That was like one week after Maxime posted that message. He had already gotten some advice from other Hongkongers. At that time, he was volunteering in a hostel in exchange of a bed. The replies he got, made me aware that there were quite a lot of kind-hearted people in my long regarded indifferent Hong Kong.
He promptly answered my first message and we started to chat. Eventually I invited him to experience another side of Hong Kong on the remote Lamma Island. I was working as a student helper and I had to take some photos in order to organize an orientation run. All the expenses were covered by my school. Even though it was my first time sending a message to a Couchsurfer for a meet-up, I felt quite comfortable chatting with him. The way he wrote didn’t make me feel distant.
Since he said he’s always up to trying strange food that cannot be found in the western world, I googled and suggested some food that are perfectly normal to Hongkongers but weird to foreigners. I named items such as chicken feet, quail eggs, stinky tofu, beef offal, deep fried pig intestine, pig blood curd and century eggs to see if he preferred any. He tried some of them with other people before, so in the end we decided to go for snakes.
I still remembered how worried my friends were when I told them the night before that I was going to meet a stranger from the Internet. They said they would wait for my message confirming “I am still alive” after the meeting, otherwise they would call the police. Haha I love my friends.
Our first meeting
That morning I was late, as usual. I finally made it to his hostel about 15 mins late. Maxime was shorter than I thought and he looked completely different from his Couchsurfing profile picture but I could still recognize him immediately as he was the only Westerner in the common area in the hostel. The first thing he did after introducing himself was to offer me a glass of water. Ok maybe I overreacted, but I was never offered a glass of water from anyone besides waiters in local restaurants in Hong Kong. I have to admit that since that moment I thought Maxime is a gentleman (haha so easy to leave a good impression on me).
To be honest I did not expect anything from this meeting but try to show a foreigner one of my favorite spots in my home town. Maybe that simple mind made things go smooth without any pressure. Before I met Maxime, I was afraid that we would have some embarrassing “dead-air” moments but that never happened that day. We took a bus, then a ferry to Lamma island. I was surprised the French guy who had been in Hong Kong for just 2 weeks knew the area he was staying so well. He told me which bus to take to arrive at the pier!
On a rainy weekday, there were not many visitors on the island. We walked almost all the paths of the island under our umbrellas. Maxime was too shy to accept my offer to try the delicious “Tofufa” (a dessert made of Tofu). Therefore we walked all day knowing more about each other, learning to count in French and Cantonese and sharing stories without eating.
I enjoyed chatting with Maxime because he is a fun and talkative guy. There was a romantic moment when we sat on the same rock in a cave, chatting and waiting for the rain to stop. I could feel something between us after the chat, so I took a photo of the cave after in secret.
After the long day without food, we took pictures with 3 chimneys of Lamma Power Station (the landmark of Lamma Island) before taking the ferry to Central. I insisted to invite him to a famous snake restaurant to fill our belly.
That was my first time trying snake, so I didn’t know what to order. Seeing that pricey menu, Maxime didn’t want to order anything. Therefore we had just a bowl of snake soup.
Just one bowl of snake soup didn’t fill our belly. Thus I offered him to try a much cheaper snake restaurant in Sham Shui Po. On the way there, we took the tram, in which I took another shot from Maxime’s back haha.
Sham Shui Po is said to be the origin of snake-eating place in Hong Kong. There were at least three snake restaurants. No idea which one is the best, we only asked locals for their recommendation and direction because of my broken phone without battery. Locals know the best. In the end we managed to find a nice one just before it closed.
We ordered a set including a bowl of glutinous rice and snake soup which you can see snake pieces with bones inside the soup jar. The restaurant offered four, five types of snakes serving different health purposes. I forgot which one I chose, but the snake pieces made the soup taste more authentic. It satisfied Maxime and made our day count.
On the way walking to Maxime’s hostel, we shared one umbrella, walking closer and closer and saying numbers we saw in French and Cantonese. Too focused on our chat, I was suddenly awoken by my bus back home. I jumped into it so fast. That awkward jump left us no chance to say a proper ‘see you’. When I arrived home, after telling my friends that I came back home safely, I sent Maxime a message telling him that I enjoyed the day and looked forward to meeting him again.
Fortunately, Maxime didn’t hate me, and he replied to my offer of meeting again. This time in a park that was new to both of us. We first started our night by watching some games in the football court, then moved to a park to chat, eventually spending the whole night together in the park. None of us would have ever imagined that. The next morning a kiss marked a confusing start of our relationship. An unforgettable moment… After that we kept communicating through Couchsurfing (yes, he didn’t have a phone!!) and meeting face-to-face, until the day he was supposed to leave Hong Kong. He eventually invited me to join him in his travel around the world and I gladly followed him, leaving my home town only one day after the end of my university degree…
The rest is history !
Like everything else in our relationship, things have happened quite fast. Three years later, we are now parents of a 2-year-old boy. If you want to see what else we have done in these years, you can read our adventures here.
And that, kid(s), is how I met your father.