Thursday, October 25, 2007

Culture Shock: Hong Kong

After our decidely “foreign” experience in Beijing, I have to admit we felt little (if any) culture shock in Hong Kong. It was often in English, easy to navigate, with a great subway. It is true that in casual Singapore, land of the universal flip-flops, I had almost forgotten what it was like to be in the Big City. (Note to self: remember to reintegrate black into wardrobe.) The buildings are taller, the rich are richer, and most people seem to walk with a sense of entitlement, secure in their success.

Plus, in many ways it was exactly what we expected: the truly spectacular skyline of an established financial behemoth, peopled with a global mix of ambitious financieers. And in the background, as we’d secretly hoped, those mysterious, exotic little hole-in-the-wall shops and restaurants crammed to the rafters with carvings and lacquerwork, many lit by the haunting glow of deep-red lanterns.

My favorite part of Hong Kong, though, was a remarkable little piece of architecture generally referred to as “The Escalators.” Part of Hong Kong is built up the side of a steep hill, and it’s quite a climb even to get from one block to the next. So they built a series of escalators (really “travelators,” those flat, moving ramps), to carry pedestrians up the hill. They’re raised about one floor above street level, so we rode along while peering curiously over the edge and down into the lanes on either side. Then, any time we spotted an interesting restaurant or shop (and the lanes were packed with these), we just hopped off to investigate. Going down, you have to take the stairs, unless it’s morning commuting hour; then, they change the direction of the escalators so that everyone who lives up the hill can ride down to the central business district to work.

Like Beijing, Hong Kong was hazy during the day, so we skipped the Peak Tram and its supposedly spectacular views from a foothill just outside the city. But the sky cleared up at night, so we took a gorgeous ferry ride across the bay from Kowloon to central Hong Kong for the best views of the skyline across the water. One of the nice things about the ferry is that it’s not a tourist attraction; it’s just what lots of people take as part of their commute every day, for about 50 cents US per trip. Of course, by now they’re too jaded to notice the view, but we think they’re still lucky to have the chance to see this every day.


Mom & Dad said...

Fascinating! We're looking forward to a visit, and will bring something smart in basic black, of course. ; )

Andrew said...

interesting to hear of the different personalities of the cities.

i'm proud (in a stupid kind of way) to have caught my first typo in a year's worth of posts: financieers. =)