There is plenty to do in Hong Kong. After all it’s a major city, (37th largest in the world), with a long history and plenty of commercialism. As it is such an international city with so many ties and so many visitors, it is expensive. It is every bit as cosmopolitan as San Francisco or London or Paris with Asian flair.
With commanding views of the harbor, no visit to Hong Kong is complete without a visit here. We took the tram to the Victoria Peak gap and started our walk on Lugard Road. This 3.5 kilometer walk is gentle and provides the best viewing options of the harbor. (Yes of course you can pay extra and visit the “Peak” viewing platform which is on top of a mall, but why?). The road was built in 1913 and meanders around the peak. Most of the walk was shaded (Which was great for my shady ladies) and provided some fantastic vistas of the harbor.
Drip, Drop, Drip, Drop. That water hitting our head wasn’t rain. It was the hundreds of AC units on towering buildings above dripping down condensate. If we didn’t walk on the right section of the sidewalk we were hammered by drips. We walked, took a tram, took the MTR. Hong Kong was surprising easy to get around in. Everywhere was just a few stops away.
There are very few cars in Hong Kong. Which is surprising for city of 7.392 million. Cars are there, we rode in one, but the streets certainly seemed less crowded than other cities I’ve been in. According to official statistics there are 617,683 personal cars registered in Hong Kong and 79,920 motorcycles (click here). Compare this to San Francisco (a city of 800,000), there are over 500,000 cars registered within the city limits, and over 450,000 flowing into SF daily according to the SF Mobility trends for San Francisco in 2018 (Click Here). Due to the geopolitical nature of Hong Kong, there is not a substantial flow in and out of the region. In talking with a person I trained with in Hong Kong, who has been living here the last 9 years: “Cars are so unnecessary here, you can get anywhere in under 40 minutes.”
Seeing life unfold at the city level was a treat. Aside from the hustle and bustle of people getting around, there were a myriad of small restaurants. Lucky for us we found the “best deal in Hong Kong” according to people with whom we shared a table. There was a line out the door, and the shouts of “Fi Dee….Fi Dee” (hurry up) from the servers to the patrons selecting their food, became a constant background drone. Markets, tea shops, departments stores, and specialty shops all lined the streets. Every few meters we’d get a blast of cold air from the shops with AC.
A mix of old and new
There are many juxtapositions in Hong Kong. A favorite of mine was the bamboo scaffolding. In this very modern city full of technology and neon light, there is constant building — constant replacing of the old and dilapidated with newly repaired items. To do so, giant bamboo scaffolding is erected around that which is to be modernized. The bamboo is laced together and set on the ground. Sometimes the scaffolding goes up many stories.
Some old ways work just as well and are not in need of improvement.
Another interesting contrast was a commitment to old style single proprietor ownership. Rather than a giant retailer like Walmart or Costco, there are hundreds of small shops, single restaurateurs, and booths that sell the same thing, just not in bulk. Just down the street from where we stayed was the Kwan Chung Market three story market that sold poultry, beef, pork, fish, and all things that needed to be cooked. Instead of one store, there were hundreds of individual proprietors, each equipped with their mini walk-in freezer for them to keep goods until the next opening. Giant slabs of wooden butcher blocks with deep depressions worn by time and use were in front of many shops. There was no AC here, and most male proprietors were shirtless. To cool off, they’d put a wet rag in their cooler, take it out, and put it on their head. I wondered about the trade off between big box store employment versus this style of allowing many self-proprietor merchants. This represented a different view of how capitalism could work in an urban landscape.
Outside in the street many vegetable and butcher sold their wares as well in non-refrigerated baskets, stands, and hanging by hooks.
We walked down Canton Road on our way to the Hong Kong Harbor. It seemed like a strange land. There had been many malls and designer shops in other parts of Honk Kong; however they were interlaced with bakeries, eateries, medicine shops, and other daily good stores. Here there was a concentration of posh and ritzy establishments such as Louis Vuitton, Armani, Christian Dior, Rolex, Gucci, Versace, and many more lined the street. Finely dressed humans were ready at the doors to cater to people who wanted to spend a small fortune. With the exception of one Hugo Boss advertisement, and one sculpture in a Luis Vuitton window, nearly all the images were Caucasian looking individuals. The lack of Asian representation, in a predominately Asian market, surprised me. I am sure there are some sociological theories about why these stores do so well in a place where they don’t even bother to represent the population to which they are catering. I let that thought slide as I wandered the street looking at the opulence everywhere.
Hong Kong Symphony of Lights
Every night at 8PM Hong Kong Harbor has a light show that delights the masses. After a glitzy walk down Canton Road, we were at the Avenue of the Stars. People started to gather as early as 7PM to get a spot. All the skyscrapers, some over a hundred stories, flashed neon messages and laser lights. A musical score blasts in the background. I think what amazed us most is the coordination of nearly 40-50 buildings in the timed show with the music on both sides of the harbor. (This holds the record of the largest coordinated light show in the world). It lasted nine minutes, and Kylie left a little disappointed about the short duration but I was pretty impressed.