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Hong Kong: a different kind of China

05 May

Gee, I’m starting to think the Chinese are a little lazy over here. We just enjoyed our second long weekend in as many months. It turns out that May 1st is labor day in this neck of the Earth. So I decided to take advantage with another weekend outing. But rather than the quiet, magical beauty of Yangshuo, I thought I’d give the opposite end of the spectrum a shot. Hong Kong.

Lucky for me, it’s only a 70 minute ferry ride away.

Now, China is a big place (duh). But despite our tendencies to group things together, most know that China isn’t the same everywhere you go. And Hong Kong is a place that reinforces this truth. It’s quite different. More than that, it has the power to challenge our ideas about what makes a city/country work effectively.

It’s tough to define Hong Kong but with picture, word, and video I’ll give it a shot. :)

But first, I had to get there…

Like I said, it’s only a boat ride away from Zhuhai. Take a look at our dear map here:

Hong Kong to the right. Zhuhai to the left. Notice the colorization.

I got to the ferry terminal on Saturday morning. And I wasn’t the only one headed to Hong Kong:

A Chinese tour group awaits a weekend of site seeing. Giddyup

And as often is the case with cross-border travel, it’s hurry up and wait:

This wouldn't be the only line today.

But the ferry to Hong Kong is actually pretty low key. No pad downs or anything.

Soon we went outside to meet her:

A beaut, ain't she?

The engines rumbled as we bounced and glided smoothly over the water. Land gave way to sea which soon gave way to the islands of Hong Kong. But before I could enjoy my destination, there was one more line. And this one’s a doozy.

Our low key trip was met with "high key" trips from all over China, converging here at customs to get into Hong Kong.

“But wait a sec?”, you say. “Customs? Isn’t Hong Kong China?”

Well, yes and no. And because the history of this place explains so darn much and helps you appreciate it, I’ll entertain you (yes, entertain) with just a bit right here:

Hong Kong region was returned to China from Britain in 1997. Britain used the island back in the day for a harbor. A war between them and China in the 1840’s granted Britain the island permanently and the surrounding area land for 150 years. Then came 1997. And since the other chunks of land were to be returned to China, Britain thought, “why not give it all back?” And so they did, island and all.

So up until 1997 Hong Kong was another country. (That’s why your clothes said “Made in Hong Kong” and not just “Made in China”.) Dwarfed by its giant mother-land, tiny Hong Kong stayed independent through the rough 20th century. British Law, Chinese citizens, a great harbor location and other factors to be sure, perpetuated the island to wealth. Its rise was in clear contrast to the mainland of China which lagged far behind.

Since the return, and since China has opened financial doors in surrounding cities, the contrast of Hong Kong is less drastic. But 150 years of British rule will have lasting effects. And in a matter of a few hours, (it was as if) I was in a whole other country.

So stop what your doing:

But just don’t bring any chickens:

And let me introduce you to the vibe of Hong Kong:

First the obvious. Since Hong Kong has enjoyed a recipe of prosperity, it has become a modern juggernaut in the areas of finance, banking, and shipping. Here’s the fruit:


An eye-popping skyline from atop Victoria's Peak

A mix of Western and Eastern opulence.

A clean, modern (almost futuristic) city and transportation system

Seriously, when I first stepped into the subway I thought I was in a simulator of “What the year 2020 will be like”. It had me asking what this city does so right to have better facilities than even New York. Prosperity has come to different parts of the world and for whatever reason, it’s working on all cylinders in Hong Kong.

But who built this city? Here’s a few pics of the people, an expressive population not afraid to be themselves:

Hong Kong performers doing the Argentine Tango.

Others here like to involve the audience a bit more:

I couldn't beat the price.

These ladies reached out to touch people in another way:

Jehovah's Witnesses.

Say what you want about the JW crew, but that lady on the left showed some stuff in the Good Book that I hadn’t thought about before. I appreciated the education, though my Lutheran heritage disapproved of her dismissal of the Trinity. ;)

She's got a nibble.

And yes, all this prosperity and activity has invited an expressive nightlife.

For the whole family:

A nightly light show.

And for those old enough to lift a glass:

A little party time

But as crazy as it is in the city (and some parts are so crazily busy–see video below) balance is found:

A more natural vibe

Hong Kong’s truly unique rise to world-wide status, provides for an equally unique list of highlights. Though it’s a tip on this giant continent, some neighborhoods feel like the center of world, never offering a dull moment. It’s a big world out there, folks. But even one city, half-way around the world will teach you something about yourself. Because it teaches you about people.

This was just a teaser. Stay tuned for more Hong Kong.

to new plateaus,

-Brandon

Videos :)

Busy Hong Kong

Hong Kong Transportation

 

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