Hong Kong

Published 2007-01-09

Near our hotelWe spent a few days last week in Hong Kong. HK is, without a doubt, the most vibrant , happening city I’ve ever visited. It’s certainly a “world city,” in the mode of Paris, London, LA or New York. Paris and London, by contrast, feel like museums. Berlin has some of HK’s vitality, but feels a little provincial. Los Angeles expresses a similar scale, but spreads it so thin that all the benefits of Bigness became diluted by the heroic task of simply getting around. I’ve never been to New York, maybe HK is like NY?

SkylineFor all that HK is the densest city on Earth, it remains a surprisingly comprehensible city. All its life happens at street level, within human frames of reference, in the shadow of its cyclopean architecture. It reminded me of San Francisco’s Chinatown, but on the scale of an entire city. And for all its oppressive density, HK abuts uninhabited space: the forests of HK Island, its long white beaches, the open water crossing from Kowloon to Central. Geography conspires to strip suburbs from HK, and the product is (to my mind) the best of all worlds: rurality and urbanity along a literal border. You can go to the edge of the city and look at a wall of green.

Anyway, what we did:

  • Shopping. Lots of shopping.
  • Rode the damn-near vertical “tram” (actually a funicular) to the Peak, which we then circumnabulated.
  • Took the MTR and a bus to Shek O, a teeny beach town on the south shore of HK Island
  • Shark FinsLooked all over for shark fins, which Michelle wanted to photograph for a school project. When we finally found them, I realized that all the herbalist shops in Xiamen also carry them. I don’t usually feel sanctimonious about this sort of thing but the shark fin really sickens me. Maybe because it’s wasteful (they cut off the fin then throw the shark back into the water to die), or maybe because this waste is in service of such a dubious idea: if you eat something from a dangerous animal, you become more potent. FWIW Viagra is really taking off in China.
  • Starbucks, Starbucks, Starbucks. In Portland, I turned my nose up at Starbucks but when I see it in HK or Singapore, it’s like running into an old friend. Scones! Chai! Comfy chairs!
  • I finally bought some damn pants. The foreigner population of HK is large enough that we can find clothes that fit.

So: check out the Flickr stream for Hong Kong photos. You’ll have to sign up with Flickr and join my friends list to see them. I apologize in advance for the hassle...but this is a relatively simple process:

  1. Go to flickr.com/photos/axoplasm and click “sign in.”
  2. Register with Yahoo, then click through to flickr. If you already have a Yahoo account, you won’t need to register, but you will need to choose a screen name (next step).
  3. Choose a Flickr screen name then click “sign in”
  4. Go to flickr.com/people/axoplasm/ again. (Hey, why can’t Yahoo remember this for me?) Click on “Send FlickrMail”
  5. Send me a flickrMail letting me know your screen name so I can add you to my friends list. (If you already have a Flickr screen name, this is the only step you need to do.)

Yes, this is a hassle, but it’s worth it, honest. I post a lot of photos to my Flickr stream, more frequently than I post to the blog.