101 Reasons Why: Hong Kong
Archived Post from 3/4/2015
Dear all, I know it’s been a while. I’ve been traveling in Hong Kong and Mainland China; therefore, my blog has gone untouched for a couple weeks. Because of my travels, I have a great many stories and new insights to share. My list is very long so I’ve decided to start with my favorite topic that I worked on during the beautiful 15.5 hour flight in steerage [economy] class from Hong Kong to Newark which I will finish up and post soon…. It wasn’t as bad as it sounds, I was the only one in my row.
People always ask me, “Why are you so obsessed with Chinese culture?” To be honest, my answer is not a great one. In simple terms, it’s that I had this odd hobby growing up of listening to Canto and Mando pop and watching any Asian cinema I could get my hands on, especially the movies out of Hong Kong. As I got older, I started to pursue my hobby academically and began to learn Mandarin. Currently, I’ve jutted towards mastering the more colloquial and, in my opinion, far more expressive Cantonese.
One question that I have a million good reasons for is my obsession with the (words cannot express) city of Hong Kong. Granted, this obsession may change with 5-10 years of living there. For now, it is my city of dreams, much like New York City or L.A. is for aspiring actors and artists. In my moments of reflection as I depart my favorite city in the world, I decided to write out all the reasons so that maybe more people can understand my obsession. If I don’t get to 100, don’t bash me! These are also in no particular order, expect for maybe #1.
1. Jacky Cheung - Okay, this is probably a lame #1. But, had it not been for his music, I would not have come this far. Even being an old time singer, to me he is quite inspiring both in his career and a great role model in his personal life. His story also contains a lot of trials and tribulations that he had to overcome in order to achieve what he has. As he is located in Hong Kong and I’ve never seen his HK concert despite having tried to a few times, he must take the top spot.
2. Perfect mix of East and West – While I am not a proponent of colonialism, Hong Kong’s atmosphere is a an equilibrium of western and eastern cultures due to it’s position in China and the influence from Britain in the empire’s heyday.
3. Orderly Driving - Any place in this world that drives on the left and has a million roundabouts signals a sophisticated and efficient roadway with limited waiting around and lest the prigs who are trying to cut you off. Although, this time around due to the protests traffic was a little less efficient than normal, overall metros and the bus lines running still were on time like clockwork.
4. Astoundingly well connected public transportation - Designed by the Brits, and while the underground is a little overbearing, Hong Kong possesses the same civic engineering principles while being slightly smaller which makes their system both practical and convenient.
5. Octopus Card - It is a card that handles all public transportation and is also accepted at most stores found in the Metro. Easy. At least easier than buying metro card after metro card. (cough – New York)
6. Never far from quiet spots – Some think I’m crazy when I mention that there are quiet people-less places in Hong Kong. There are! To discover these places, one must go to the fringe and find some locals to advise on the best spots. I.e. Lama Island, the outskirts of Lantau, New Territories, etc.
7. Photographic Spots - Some of the most scenic spots in Hong Kong are on the fringe of the city. And they just so happen to be a lot of the same places as #4.
8. Beach + City – There are few places that I find attractive as “cities” that have beaches nearby. L.A. is nice but every beach is overwhelmingly crowded, and Miami has more of a “pasts greatness” feel. (Without going into too much detail). Furthermore, NYC has accessible beaches though I doubt you’d want to hit the Hamptons in January.
9. Year round amazing weather - I personally enjoy warm and humid weather. Not a whole lot of other people agree with me. I think I could stand the Hong Kong weather in the Summer if I had the appropriate house with good feng shui that would provide a good breeze and shelter from the sweltering sun. Notice I did not even mention the excessive use of air conditioning.
10. Coffee Shops – When I say “Coffee Shops”, I mean the Hong Kong kind where they serve Milk Tea and the odd dishes that are mostly European but are probably made with more Chinese ingredients. I had an amazing discussion about China with a good friend from Pittsburgh while sipping my milk tea and enjoying a pineapple bun with a big ole slab of butter. I couldn’t have asked for any more.
11. Foreign Food - While on the topic of food and beverage, I have to say that Hong Kong has a pretty definitive and authentic collection of food from around the world. This could be due to the diverse population that resides there. For instance, I was worried that my favorite burrito place would not live up to the standard I had set as this time I was coming from the United States and not coming from China where good Mexican food is rare. Taco Loco still lived up to my expectations and even exceeded them.
12. Cantonese Food - Hong Kong belonging to China’s “southern” food area, it does not take much effort to find the best of the best of Cantonese (yue) food. Gotta love me some beef and broccoli.
13. Fresh Seafood – On some of the floating restaurants near many of the bays and beaches, they pull the fish right from the water, cook the fish, and it goes right on your plate.
14. Affordable and Available Alcohol from Everywhere – Want Tsingdao? No problem. Carlsberg? Great! Budweiser? Okay, if you’re into that. Thanks to the amenable tax laws, if you look hard enough for the hole in the wall bars like those of Wanchai, it is easy to find great deals on any kind of alcohol that fits any flavor preference from around the world.
15. Canto Pop – While arguably not as good as the peak of it’s popularity in the 80s, it still is an amazing force in Asian pop culture. No longer concentrating on “hybrid” covers, the industry is getting a new breath of life with the likes of G.E.M. and C Allstars.
16. Cantonese (Language) – Cantonese is a beautiful and expressive language and just so happens to be spoken by Hong Kongers. Despite the years of economic and political turmoil that the language has taken in southern Mainland China (trust me, I could barely understand people from Guangzhou), the Cantonese Chinese language tradition of Hong Kong remains strong.
17. Hong Kong English - A mix of British and Cantonese, this distinguished accent is quite attractive, if I do say so myself. Not quite as out there as the Singaporian accent. “I’m talking about the ladies, La”
18. (and 13) Languages and People from all over the world - It is possible to meet just as great a variety of people in Hong Kong as there is in NYC.
19. Economic and Financial Capital - Rule of law, instilled by the British, remains the primary source of law and order iin Hong Kong. For that reason, many international financial institutions and other businesses have chosen Hong Kong as a place to hold their money for their Asia Pacific dealings. This also contributes greatly to #12/13
20. Fashion capital - I cannot afford anything at the ridiculously fashion forward stores, I can still appreciate them via window shopping. There are also great little nooks and crannies from local designers all over Causeway Bay.
21. Temple Street Night Market - At the heart of Mong Kok lies the Temple Street Night market busting at the seems with old Hong Kongers singing and dancing, fortune tellers, and moderately priced, ahem, Adult DVDs and other trinkets.
22. Victoria’s Peak – Every city has their “tourist spot”, Victoria’s peak gives a breathtaking look at all of the amazing lights of Hong Kong at night and an equally breathtaking look at the city in motion during the day.
23. Lan Kwai Fung - Every city also has their “popping bar district” and Lan Kwai Fung has a great assortment of hookah, booze, dancing, and drunk food.
24. ChungKing Mansion – Like out of a Wong Kar Wai movie, this city relic recently received a much needed facelift 3 years ago. Since that time they have great moderately priced hostels in the heart of TST for the transient adventurer. Those who are more accustomed to staying at 5 star arrangements will still find the Indian knock off luxury market appealing.
25. Skywalks – The skywalks of Central HK make it possible to walk for miles in air conditioned luxury without ever having to deal with the outdoor weather.
26. Longest Outdoor Escalator – An extension of the skywalks, the longest outdoor escalator from Central to the Mid Levels is an interesting feet of engineering. Even more so are the great variety of stores, bars, and restaurants that you encounter during your ascent (or descent). While it’s not air conditioned, it definitely gets a star for creating a comfortable way to walk to and from work.
27. Hong Kong Movies – Do I need to say more?
28. Hong Kong Movie Spots – Amazing cinema café near temple street night market in Mong Kok! Also it is one of the most famous streets in HK cinema!
29. Stanley Market
30. Stanley Water Front
32. Floating Restaurants
33. Dim Sum – Specifically, Mei Xin! I’ve never had a deem sum I didn’t like there J
34. Tsim Sha Tsui
35. Kowloon Water Front
36. Star Ferry
37. Fish balls
38. Parks (Victoria’s, random small communal spaces)
39. Cathay Pacific - Way better than any U.S. carrier, I will never fly to Asia on anything else every again. Free booze, decent economy class accommodations, and the latest in Hong Kong music and movies on their flights makes the Hong Kong flagship carrier and its partner, Dragonair, a big thumbs up in my book. Plus it has the best and most affordable routes to all major destinations in Asia.
40. Mix of Religions - Churches, Mosques, Buddhas, Daoist rituals performed on the street, Sikh walking around with their hair bound, and I’m sure even more diversity can be found in HK, freedom of religion is quite a thing.
41. Freedom of Speech - Hong Kong still being under “one country, two systems” makes it one of the few places in “China” that you can get on facebook and say what you really think about Xi Jin Ping. The latest display of civil disobedience is another nod to this freedom.
42. World class universities
43. Educated/worldly population
44. South China Morning Post - This newspaper rocks my world because it is one of the few sources left that will report on sensitive topics in the Mainland. At times it is a little slanted but that does not diminish the fact that people are becoming aware of major issues.
45. Underground Music Scene
46. Underground Arts Scene
47. Film - yes this gets 2 spots.
48. Hong Kong International Film Festival
49. Asia Entertainment Expo
50. Wong Kar Wai - The master of HK cinema, and first Asian director to ever sit on Cannes judge panel, WKW is hands down my favorite movie director/producer/writer ever! Long live the transience of Chungking Express!
51. Tons of People – I love people, what can I say?
52. Excellent International Community
53. Water Sports
54. Close to Macau
55. Turbo Ferries
56. Visa Free Entry
57. Easy Access Entry
58. All Flights are “International” – Not many places in the world are all the flights international, except for smaller places like Singapore, Guam, Other random Islands. What makes Hong Kong unique is the title of so called international at Mainland Chinese airports: “International: HK/Taiwan/Macau”
59. Chow Yun Fat - Hong Kong cinema collections would never be complete without his epic and charismatic gangster flicks. Even though in the western world he’s known for martial arts. Before crouching like a tiger, this HK heavyweight slayed with some “Gun”-fu.
60. Lama Island
61. Other Outlying Islands
62. Ferries – To everywhere you could possible want to go, including Shenzhen, Macau, and other great little islands to escape the crowds and craziness of Central.