“You can leave Hong Kong, but it will never leave you.” Bury Vittachi
The Fragrant Habour, home to more than 7 million, is simply the greatest city I’ve ever experienced. It’s an international city in every sense of the word. Ruled by Japan, Britain, China, it’s now almost but not quite a city-state of its own.
Even the technology in HK is international and friendly. On HK island everyone connects to the city’s free, and amazing, wifi network. You’re greeted with a page where you can pick one of numerous languages and told how happy HK is to have you. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for tacos or a great tailor, maps and directions in your language of choice are just a couple clicks away. The city’s ‘attitude’ is to be as international, open and friendly as possible; and HK does it brilliantly.
HK is a city in the clouds. Most people actually live, and work, at or above the 15th floor of a skyscraper. You can live, work, eat, and go out with friends, for days or weeks, and never get within 200 feet of the ground. In some of the taller buildings you can sip on Arabian tea or Columbian coffee while trying to get peaks of the city because you’re sitting, literally, above the clouds.
Every corner and venue of HK is filled with people from all over the world. I got great New York style Neapolitan pizza (from Paisan’s on Hollywood road) cooked by a Chinese Han, served by an Indian while chatting up a Kiwi. You can get into conversations for directions involving multiple people translating back and forth between Mandarin, Cantonese, and English on any street corner. Being a very friendly city, a passerby may join a debate about the best local spot for flat noodles, adding both their opinion and French to the conversation. Even though it’s a city in southeast Asia, on Cinco de Mayo I was able to get fajitas for lunch at Taco Loco, and nachos, Mexican rum and a little late night fun at a place called Texas Jack’s.
The weather in HK is just like Hawaii. Both the lay-out and feel are similar also. Heading away from Victoria Harbour on HK island is like heading off the beach and into downtown at Waikiki. Head further up the mountain on HK island and the emerging tropical jungle is very reminiscent of heading further north into the interior of O’ahu. The beaches aren’t quite as nice as Hawaii’s, but Big Wave Beach is a semi-famous spot in HK for a reason.
HK loves its art, and gardens. Since the city is carved out of a tropical jungle, they build gardens instead of plazas or parks. You can sit on a bench munching on good French bread, or meat dumplings, or tapas, or bagels from a Jewish deli while the condensation from the mist builds and drops a cool, very light ‘rain’ off palm trees. In the gardens you can hear Kiwis discussing Prime Ministers, Ozzies trying to take the piss out of the Kiwis, the Brits bragging about Leicester, and Hong Kongers arguing over Mahjong as passersby take pictures of sculptures from Africa.
On the twisting, winding streets, bicycles and scooters pass Ferarris and Maseratis. On sidewalk cafes, and bars, people who can’t speak a common language play rock, paper, scissors to see who’s going to buy the next round of shots. International bankers in $10k HKD suits from Europe share tables with backpacking kids in cargo shorts from America. You can hear the mosque in Tsim Sha Tsui calling for prayers, watch people practicing Tai Chi by the Admiralty, and take shots of 500 year old replica junks ‘sailing’ in front of some of the most modern skyscrapers in the world so tall they disappear into the clouds above.
If I were to ever ‘disappear’ just head to Kowloon, HK, and take Jordan road off of Nathan road walk into the Night Market. I’ll be there eating British fish and chips with chopsticks, playing a version of Chinese poker at the corner of Thai Bo Tong’s tattoo parlour and the fish market.
There’s no city in the world like Hong Kong.