Hong Kong First Impressions

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It was hot already, at 6 in the morning when I landed. 30•C to be exact. Furthermore, it was so humid I felt like I was stepping into a steamer–an analogy further bolstered by the scent of dim sum which seemed to pervade every corner of the city…

After spending a day here, I’ve come to the conclusion that Hong Kong is all about the food and fashion. I witnessed lines of people waiting to get into high end boutiques like Louis Vuitton and Prada and afternoon teahouses packed to the brim. Meanwhile, cultural attractions like the Cultural Center and the History Center remained largely empty excepting the docents that work there.

Although this is a great city full of things for rich people to do, I found the less affluent aspects to be much more interesting. The crew of old ladies dutifully raking, pruning, and otherwise maintaining the parks, the construction crews laying foundations for the next skyscraper, the window washers, etc–the people who do the literal dirty work that makes such a metropolis possible. I took quite a few pictures of them, but mostly on film so I may not be able to post them for a while.

Perhaps most interesting, however, was how lost I felt in all of this. I have traveled to all metaphorical corners of the world but this was the first time I felt like language was a major barrier for me. I think it was because I am Chinese, I can speak Mandarin so I feel like I should be able to get around on my own. The fact of the matter is, I’m surrounded by Cantonese and am largely illiterate in Chinese. Thankfully I had my new friend guiding me through all this. I just found it very frustrating.

To those reading who might consider traveling to Hong Kong, here are a couple of things worth noting from my first day here:

1. The day doesn’t start until noon; that’s when most shops open.

2. The Octopus metro system is incredibly convenient and usable.

3. Every subway station is like the Port Authority station in Manhattan.

4. Credit cards are accepted virtually universally.

5. People hate getting their photo taken without consent and no stores allow photography.

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2 Responses to “Hong Kong First Impressions”


  1. 1 Alan M. June 23, 2010 at 11:52 am

    That’s a cool picture. A couple of things, though…

    I think you’re jumping to conclusions a little too quickly (with regards to your claim that HK is “all about food and fashion”). The Cultural Center is packed during performances, such as last Wednesday, when Joshua Bell and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields performed there. We’ve also had Chicago, Oliver, Natalie Cole, and others here all within the last week or so.

    There’s also great hiking/camping out in Sai Kung and the New Territories, as well as in Shek O and out here on the South Side. Not that I would recommend those things during this time of year, given the heat + humidity.

    It’s interesting that you mention the language barrier. I’ve lived here 13 years and still can’t speak Cantonese. Oddly enough, moving to the US was rather disconcerting for me in that I’ve grown up and gotten used to having a language barrier. It’s kind of strange.

    Anyway, contact me at 6403-3580 if your schedule opens up. I don’t know if you’ll be eating out a lot (you should, if you get the chance), but here are a few good places to eat. Your relatives should know where these places are.

    Thai Basil (it’s in a mall called Pacific Place)
    City Hall (Dim Sum)
    Hip Sushi (World Trade Centre, in Causeway Bay)
    Crystal Jade (Shanghainese food in Times Square and IFC)

    -Alan M.

    • 2 brainalleakage June 24, 2010 at 10:15 pm

      I’m leaving tomorrow and spent today in Shenzhen so unfortunately won’t be able to do any of that. But the thing about the language barrier for me is that I’m used to being able to talk in Chinese to Chinese people and not being able to do so makes me feel awkward. I guess I’ll see you in the fall, have a great summer!


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