Thursday, 10 June 2010

Hong Kong - roundup

An architectural and commercial marvel, Hong Kong’s sky scrapers and shopping centers keep its wealthy people housed and pleased. In addition to the very tasty local food, there is also a huge variety of international restaurants and bars, which are great when you’re not from Hong Kong and missing food from back home.

On my first private trip to Hong Kong, I expected to lose myself in the crowds of fast-paced business professionals who seem more like like schools of sardines, as they move in and out, out and about through the subway, trams, escalators and airport. I lost myself, and it felt great. But there was something missing. Asides from some of the iconic buildings that seemed to be wrapped in glass, nothing else seemed to make me go, “oooh, nice,” and then take lots of pictures.

The Central, Admiralty, Wanchai and Causeway Bay areas were the shopping and financial district of the island, and the buildings and streets there were modern, nice looking and quite clean. But once I left that bubble of internationals and money, it just felt dirty, messy and old without character. It was a very strong and unpleasant contrast. I stayed at a hotel on the border of Sheung Wan and Sai Wan, which is west of the bubble, or what my friend calls "the Truman Show studio," and got a feel of a different Hong Kong - one where people line dried their clothes from the windows of their tall, paint-peeling apartment buildings.

The thing that I found really interesting this time were the tall, narrow, double decked trams that go “ding ding!” every once in a while. I wonder how they manage to stay upright, being so close to the sea, which huffs and puffs once in a while. But I’m guessing the tall buildings everywhere block out the gusts of wind that could knock the trams over.

Trams come several times a minute, and there are several stations per block. Very convenient. It being double decked has its advantages and disadvantages. Obviously, you can fit more people in each, but I found the narrow and steep stairs a bit scary, especially when their wet from the rain. But as you can see, even the old folks can manage, so perhaps it’s just about getting used to things.

If I ever have to work or live in Hong Kong, I guess I’ll just have to let it grow on me. And escape to a nearby country every two or three weekends. As for visiting again, I will have to set my expectations right - perhaps to just enjoy the food and shopping with some girlfriends.

Also next time, I'd like to see more of what the local people do and how they act. Hopefully the construction that seems to be going on everywhere, from the buildings to the roads will mostly have been completed. It was starting to make me feel like I'm still in Taipei where subway construction and blocked off roads don't seem to end.

The funny thing is, though. While I was in Hong Kong, the place I was missing was...Tokyo. I have yet to figure out why. Does anybody know?

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