What I Learned in The City Pt 4

The reason for my blogging absence

Once upon a long time ago (in the 1840s), England and China fought a war, over Opium. England sort of won, and got a piece of rock off the coast of China for its troubles. This rock was called “Fragrant Harbour” in Cantonese…or Hong Kong, if you prefer. It started off as a malaria-infested fishing village. And ended up being a 21st Century City (but it managed to do this all in the 20th Century). Spending my formative years in Hong Kong (from the ages of 3 to 12) was a boon and a bane.

Boon for many reasons:
because I got to see tall, shiny buildings,
efficient people, efficient public transport,
exposure to the West while still firmly grounded in the East,
the ability to visit a beach and go trekking on a hillside all in the space of 6 hours, while watching the world’s shipping barrelling in and out of the harbour.

Bane, because it left me jaded, and with high expectations from people and countries forever more. When I was studying in Philadelphia for my bachelors, on the first day my RA was waxing on how big Philadelphia is, what a multicultural city it is, and what lovely public transport it has…. While it left many people impressed, I greeted it with a head shake. For somebody who had grown up in Hong Kong, you could not call 12 skyscrapers a city. A rattling subway car (in which the lights would go out for 2/3 seconds as it raced under the ground, is NOT efficient public transport). And most important of all, I saw 3 guys on three separate occasions peeing on the side of the street, with nobody saying anything to them (whereas in Hong Kong, they’d be fined HK$12,000 (US$1538). These scenes are reminiscent of a 2.5-world country… Then on my first visit to Manhattan (at night) – everybody else was wowed by the awe and wonder of the tall buildings and glittering lights and the beauty of it all. Whereas yours truly sat there with a “Been there, done that” kind of look. To be fair, New York is much bigger than Hong Kong, and far older. But I’ve still seen better :-p “Octopus” Smart Card, and put $100 into it. Then you just have to flash the card in any bus, subway, 7-11, McDonalds or any other place that has a reader
5) Hong Kong is now home to a Soho, like London and New York, with restaurants, bars, pubs and art galleries (hey, Soho is a better name than the old one – Lan Kwai Fong )
6) Hong Kong Chinese people are still blatantly racist against Indians – if you are sitting in a bus, for example, they will simply REFUSE to sit next to you until they are forced to to.
7) Hong Kong shopkeepers are less rude than they used to be (There used to be government sponsored campaigns encouraging shopkeepers to be nicer to tourists). But this also means that ever time you enter and leave a shop your are hit by blasts of “Haa-lowwww” and “Buh-bayyyyyyyyyy”

Pictures in the next post….


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