Thursday, April 15, 2010

Notes on Hong Kong

Hong Kong is one of those places where the squalid comes together with the luxurious and trendy like runny ink from two different colored pens.

In the midst of some of the narrower streets its hard to see the sky. As if being crammed full of jutting advertisements and blaring car horns wasn't enough, both sides of the road are flanked by skyscraper apartment buildings at least 20 stories high. After all, you've gotta live somewhere when you're trying to fit 7 million people in an area roughly the size of the area from La Mirada to Yorba Linda.

Yet, if you get into one of those apartment buildings (the one's called 'mansions' anyway) the 22 floor has a spacious and commanding view of the harbor, the airport, the park, and most of the Hong Kong skyline.

In fact, Hong Kong truly lives up to its origins as the center of trade in south east Asia and a former British Colony.

For example:

They drive on the left side of the road, and the driver's side is on the right - not the left.

English and Chinese signs are alternately and often simultaneously displayed in ads, storefronts, etc.

The whole of the city/country is chok full of Shopping places. Every brand name you've ever heard of and some you probably haven't show up here.

And what struck me most was the fact that most of the ads feature fair skinned models which were starkly contrasted with the sheer amount of my people who were buying the merchandise. (97% Chinese population!)

One can have Dim Sum for lunch and go for Afternoon Tea a couple hours later.

You can get everywhere by Subway, Bus, or Taxi...much like New York.

If there was ever a place where East met West - it'd be in Hong Kong. (And Singapore! As it so happens, my parents are from both those places).

The language is also quite fascinating, I've yet to find a language that is as expressive, flexible, and immediately casual and intimate as Cantonese. Even if it's two complete strangers, the moment one starts using Cantonese, it sounds as if they've known each other for years.

The funny thing is that Cantonese is really a dialect of Mandarin which is the official Chinese language. The writing is the same, but Mandarin speakers and Cantonese speakers respectively see each other's languages as 'the chinese with the funny accents'.

It's hard to find Hong Kong Residents who can speak both fluently.


Hong Kong's a busy and fast paced city...and its lifestyle is more resilient to the gospel than a lot of other places. Plenty of distractions. I've had some pretty interesting experiences there...more of that later.


Claviger said...

We were recently discussing both Singapore and Hong Kong in my economics class - both very heavy on free market philosophy, which we tend to associate with the West...

Well-written post, Gabriel :)

Claviger said...

Or, at least that I tend to associate with the West... it's always fun to find out that your perspective has been too narrow.

Gabriel said...

Thanks Christian =]

Ariel said...

Good to hear from you, Gabriel. I had never really known much about Hong Kong except that it's apparently the place, like Timbuktu, to send unwanted people in entertainment. It's nice to hear what it's really like though, all silliness aside. ;) When were you in Hong Kong, recently? Or merely musings from remembrances of a past trip?