Even though I’ve been here less than 24 hours my initial impressions of Hong Kong are that it is much more Chinese than I anticipated. Now that might seem a bit strange but I had the idea that the British influence would be much more pervasive. There are Brits around (and Aussies, and even a few Americans among the westerners) but English is not spoken nearly as much as I expected.
After I arrived, my good friend Tom and I (with whom I am staying), raced over to the Vietnam consulate to get a visa for the trip we are taking this weekend. Of course we did not know we needed photos (why a visa photo is required when I will be carrying a passport is still a mystery). Then we took a twisty, turny, taxi ride to Stanley Market last night as the sun set and we had a beer along Repulse Bay. Later we went to Lan Kwai Fong for dinner and then to Soho (South Hollywood but no relation to the California one – it’s about the holly trees as I am told). Taxis are very in expensive in HK as is the public transportation. The double decker trams cost the equivalent of just under $ .30 per ride. They are ancient if not efficient.
Since I am again staying with Tom I get to see HK from the perspective of someone that lives there and not a tourist or business person that checks into the hotel, goes to meetings, has dinner out and then goes back to the hotel. We walked through the convenience market last night to pick up a few staples. Some were expensive, some were not. Little was in English.
Hong Kong is all about business. And China is where things are at these days. If the 20th century was the American century then the 21st will be the Chinese century. Hong Kong was turned back over to the Chinese in 1997 after Britain’s 99 year lease expired. HK was nothing more than a small fishing village prior to the arrival of the Brits in 1842 (the Brits pushed back hard on China after the first opium wars in the 1830’s). Cantonese and not Mandarin is the primary language spoken in HK. Even as Mandarin is the primary language of business in China. Many residents and ex-pats speak both as well as English. The people here working appear to be highly educated.
I have much to see and learn here over the next week. Asia always inspires me. It makes me remember that the world is not nearly as concerned with what goes on in the United States as we Americans seem to think. Hong Kong is more than a gateway to China – it is China itself with special privileges. At least until 2047when the 50 year special exception is set to expire. It may be renewed however the Chinese government appears to want Shanghai (all new and shiny as opposed to Hong Kong which is – older), to be the centerpiece of the Chinese century. I’m not going to Shanghai this trip. But it’s high on my list.
I’ll be posting a little more frequently as the mood strikes me here.