Friday, April 20, 2012

Hong Kong: The Good

My stay in Hong Kong is almost over.
I have been here for 13 weeks and have lived in two different areas on the island.
Upon reflection, I realize I have mixed emotions about this city state and I thought I'd share my views for any future Hong Kong travelers. First, the good:

Anything you need or want is easily accessible. The public transportation, which is cheap and efficient, will take you anywhere you need to go in one or two rides. You can choose from the underground subway, above ground trolleys, fancy double decker buses, not so fancy mini old school short buses, a water ferry, and of course a red taxi. This city runs on efficiency and anything remotely slow is quickly deemed inefficient.
This city is the land of shopping malls. On any given block, you can find two or three commercial buildings with high-end retail or mom and pop Chinese goods. There are 7/11s everywhere! On my street there are probably 6 or 7 (mostly 2 per block). The best 7/11 is in the bar area called Lan Kwai Fong where you can buy a cheap beer ($2 USD for a Corona) and drink on the streets while the other sucker ex-pats pay over $10 USD for their drinks. Would you rather have your 7/11 dispense Slurpees or Coronas?
Everyone speaks English. I have been here for 3 months and only know a few Cantonese words- my address, right here, hello, thank you. I have not been in a situation where my lack of language skills has hindered me from obtaining what I want.

I've walked in a a few cities at night by myself, and I have never felt as safe as I do walking in Hong Kong. The streets are well-lit, the sidewalks are pretty clean (considering how densely-populated this area is), and people mind their own business. Because public transportation is so accessible, you never have to walk alone on the streets for too long.
A thing about drinking in the States is if you're in a busy bar area, the later the night gets, the rowdier the crowd becomes. I've seen guys (and girls) looking for fights in DC, NYC, ATX when they are intoxicated and stumbling around in the streets. In Hong Kong, the residents are not as aggressive. Although they may be a little bit more rude, no one is going to try and fight you.

Expat Community
I have made some wonderful friends here. On the night of my birthday, I was sitting around a long table drinking (and doing what I do) and couldn't help but think how lucky I am to have made such a diverse group of friends. Around me were young professionals from Hong Kong, Germany, India, the Philippines, the US, and Australia.

Beautiful Contrasts
Modern skyscrapers alongside huge harbors, green mountains and beaches.
Fancy high-end shopping malls over tiny mom and pop shops in garages that line the street.
Glassy Western architecture besides ornate, colonial, Chinese-style buildings.
High-traffic island of vehicles and people only a 20 minute cab ride from deserted beaches lined with water buffalo.

This city has so much to offer and I'm happy I have been able to explore so much of it.

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