I was led to believe that Hong Kong was anything but mainland China. I anticipated a futuristic and efficient city full of luxuries. And in fact before I had even arrived I was a bit disappointed, expecting it to be just another Western city not much different from say, New York. Everyone was supposed to speak English and my experience would be easy.
It wasn’t difficult there but on an emotional level, though very modern and beautiful, it also felt very Chinese-ish. It’s truly a mix between old and new. Take this raw, small food market huddled in between an alley of massive skyscrapers for instance. You’ll find the nasty smell of dead fish and water splashing in the streets as fishmongers full live fish out of plastic bucket to slice while they try wiggling out of the strong grasp.
Walk another block and we’re back to impressive skyscrapers that put New York City to shame. I even touched the building batman jumped off.
I decided on Hong Kong after ten days in Malaysia because of an invitation from a travel I have kept in touch with since riding the bus from La Paz down to Sucre
in summer 2009. His favorite region is Asia so he has more or less made an ideal student life for himself in Hong Kong. Originally from France, he’s currently on his second exchange semester in Hong Kong. Like most foreign students in Hong Kong, he’s studying Finance and is very much into the Finance world of big 4 internships, making connections and partying hard. He’s got a nice Chinese girlfriend, great friends, and is running a small graphic design business outsourcing all of the actual work. It’s a nice setup and I was so glad to have him host me for the week.
Already exhausted from so much travel I took it easy for the week giving up on plans of constant site-seeing to Macau, the beach, etc. Instead I settled on a few parties, doctor offices, work, and making new connections.
My friend’s roommate and best friend in Hong Kong happened to be one of the most interesting people I have met in a while. He hasn’t technical accomplished much of anything yet but has that type of confidence and background that’s makes him exciting for what he will achieve. Originally born in Ukraine, he moved to Germany before age 10. He completed high school in America, a year of university in the Netherlands, another in Singapore, and another in Hong Kong all on scholarship. That’s not impressive but what is he speaks 10 languages – Russian (native fluency), German (native fluency), English (fluent), Mandarin (fluent), French(fluent), Dutch (fluent), Malay (fluent), Cantonese (high – intermediate), Indonesian (high – intermediate), Hebrew (basic). I heard him firsthand in person switching between English, Cantonese, Mandarin, and Russian with ease. He’s a very likable guy regularly throwing parties, meeting new people, and making time to show me around. But he’s also very much a businessman type regularly making business trips abroad despite going to school full-time. He co-founded and managed a lean manufacturing material and technology consulting firm focused on Powder Metallurgy, Casting and Machining in China. It basically means he’s the guy that goes on-site in China to manage the manufacturing of specific parts for big billion dollar clients.
We chatted a lot about business and if I wasn’t so content with the current state of mine, I would jump at some of the ideas he gave me for my career service business. I should probably hire him! One night he took me out for a few drinks. We started out at a skybar, the type that makes you feel like you made it in life with million dollar views like this.
After a quick historical tour of the immediate area, yawn, we ferried it over to Hong Kong’s neighboring island, Kowloon. At least to me, Kowloon is practically the same thing as Kong Kong but with even better views of Hong Kong from across the river.
Over on Kowloon they have this beautiful boardwalk after exiting the ferry with a star walk. Besides Jackie Chan’s hand prints, I also found Bruce Lee’s.
It’s not just hand prints but its full of useless but nice looking memorabilia like this Olympic torch thingy. It’s not even from Hong Kong but somehow it belongs on Kowloon.
We met up for drinks that night with another friend on Kowloon’s main nightlife street, dancing to a cover band from the Philippines. We even danced.
Now onto the language in Hong Kong. Not everyone speaks English like I had thought. Many people don’t and I found it especially hard getting back to their 36th story apartment one night after returning from a nightclub. I had written the address in English on a piece of paper. Des Voux Road West. Easy enough to pronounce to a taxi driver who doesn’t speak English I thought. Not one driver could read the English or understand my foreign pronunciation of it. I gave up and boarded a collectivo bus headed towards what I figured was the right direction at 2AM. We kept driving and driving not coming close to any street I recognized. Once I was the second to last one on board I gave up and walked off with the last passenger. Hmmm. I walked downhill two streets and all of a sudden I reached Des Voux Road West. Wow. Even more amazing is that I was on the correct number street. I was in the building and up the elevator in no time.
Hong Kong is a really cool city actually. Tired of skyscrapers and its markets are developing country-ish enough to be memorized while exploring.
Whether it’s ducks slowly cooking or clothing vendors asleep midday there is something new to see.
and something new to taste like dragonfruit which if you have never tasted is very similar to a kiwi.
Public transportation in Hong Kong was really great. Besides an efficient subway system they have an easy to use trolley system that while slow, takes you exactly where you want to go. As a tourist its just nice to ride around the second floor of the trolley with the breeze blowing to stare at the endless skyscrapers and escape the rancid smell of the dry fish market surrounding the apartment’s neighborhood.
One evening my host and his girlfriend took me out for a dim sum dinner at a tiny but popular restaurant. The head chef at the Hilton or something or other quit to open up at affordable restaurant with delicious dim sum dishes. It was the first time I have ever tried parsnip at a restaurant, and I even liked it.
Near the restaurant is another downtown type area with food stalls and bright lights.
My favorite was the bubble tea.
This billboard is special because it advertises Hong Kong’s premier tutors who make upwards of $100,000/year teaching languages, math, and other subjects.
Another evening I had quite the cultural experience, attending Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year) dinner held by one of the few local Jewish organizations. I had originally booked a seat at the young professional dinner. Before the dinner I met some of the people attending like a group of French people my age. We were so caught up talking we were the last ones up there. The room was full and I and a few others had to go back downstairs to the intimate families dinner and grab the remaining scattered seats. I wound up in between a Russian family and a few older South African businessmen. At least the food was great and I made my mother happy.
Though after the dinner we threw a small house party. Like a couple of times back in university while in Pittsburgh, I put together a party song playlist with the occasional Spanish reggaeton song to surprise some people. They had a dozen or so friends over, many whom were incredibly attractive. We played drinking games though nothing crazy. Once we were all very tipsy instead of a $5 college party in a moldy basement we took taxis over to the trendy nightlife area where one of the girls with us got us into a nightclub in one of the skyscrapers.
The next morning I thanked my two great hosts and took a bus to the airport where I boarded a flight to Tokyo, Japan where I knew exactly zero people.