Wednesday, August 21, 2013

My love/hate Relationship with Hong Kong

One of the most convenient things about living in Shenzhen is its close proximity to Hong Kong. Hong Kong is now a part of China, but prior to 1997 it was a British territory. Hong Kong still functions like it did as a British territory, China calls it "one party, two systems"(there are two Special Administrative Areas in China: Macau and HK)

Hong Kong is known as the "Fragrant Harbor" or "Pearl of the Orient" 

Many people compare it to London because its of international financial center and some humidity and palm trees

There are many reasons foreigners like to cross the border to go to Hong Kong:

-it's a lot more diverse and similar to our western way of life 
(people have manners, no spitting, not as many people smoke, walking on the sidewalk is more orderly, people wait in line, people allow everyone to get off the metro or elevator before trying to cram in, you won't find babies peeing over trash bins or on the street...ect.) The Basic Law of Hong Kong is framed after English law

This is in a bathroom--but there are no smoking signs and no spitting signs everywhere

-You can freely access Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Google...and other websites that are blocked in China

-It went through heavy industrialization in the 1950's and has set up a good healthcare system and education system. it is much more developed and orderly than China. 

-Shopping--There are lots of places to shop in Hong Kong and goods such as clothing and electronics are 20% cheaper in hong kong than china (because of the exchange rate between RMB and Hong Kong Dollars)

(granted you can get the factory made electronics for much cheaper in china) There are also many alleyways where you can find cheap goods and bargain prices

Victorias secret! 

The Ladies Market

-There are also many more imported goods that you can find in Hong Kong food wise its very similar to shopping in America--and a lot more international food chains (Bubba Gump, Outback, MRS FIELDS!) The downside...they are pretty expensive

Also since it is such an international city you can find any kind of cuisine there. When I was with my family we ate at a really good Egyptian restaurant. 

-Anything you need is available somewhere on the island: 
money exchange, western union to transfer money home, bank services, consulates and immigration offices (this is extremely helpful so when visa issues come up we can just go to HK instead of our home country) 

-Most people speak Cantonese or English. mandarin (chinese) is often spoken. regardless of what language you are it is easy to get around and find someone who can help you...when my friends and I  cross the border from Shenzhen to Hong Kong we have to filter what we say about people because we're so used to no one really understanding us. 

-There are TONS of sights to see there including Disneyland (which i heard is much smaller than the one in the US), Oceanpark, amusement parks, the skyline and walk of stars--much like Hollywood, temples, Big Buddha, and so on. 

-According to wikipedia it is ranked very high in economic freedom, quality of life, and HDI. There is also much less corruption there and not as much inequality between classes here as in China. Even though the city is so crowded and fast paced, I see more people in wheelchairs in a day there than i have seen in my entire year in China. 

-The public transportation system is very good (and very crowded)

At the same time there are many reasons that I dislike Hong Kong:

1. It is the second most densely populated place in the world; it has a population of 7 million people and is just a tiny island. Most people live in near the Harbor or on HK Island. 

2. With so many people and such a business//economic center it is much like downtown New York. Life is VERY fast paced. I was lost looking at a map and the metro and kept getting trampled by crowds of people.

3. Its the most expensive place to own or rent land in the world (or something like that). 

4. It is expensive compared to China--but similar to Western prices. Services are better quality but much more expensive (I paid around $220 for full highlights compared to about $130 in the United States--but no way would i ever trust anyone in Shenzhen to do highlights...!) The metro costs about $10 while the metro in shenzhen costs about $1. Also the guesthouse i stayed in was the cheapest thing i could find in HK at $65! 

Super small room--there was a tiny bathroom connected to it

5. The process of exchanging currency and a different electrical system is a pain (bring a converter!) 

6. Everything is tightly packed together and feels somewhat dirty 

7. Places such as starbucks only offer free wifi for 20 minutes 

8. I do not feel as safe as i feel in China. Imagine being in a busy city such as Chicago or Columbus walking around at night. 

I spent my day in Hong Kong waiting for my guest house to allow me to check in. After checking in i went to check out the Hong Kong History Museum which I heard (from Lonely Planet) was really neat. Very interesting to hear about the history and culture of a place that i didn't know much about. 

I thought it was very interesting that during the Cultural Revolution in China (1949+ under Mao--something so central to China) nothing was mentioned about it in HK's history. Instead it focused on the industrialization and development of hong kong until 1997 when it returned to China. 

The customs of the folk people--during a wedding ceremony a woman gets carried in this to the grooms house to keep out bad spirits 

A wedding gown (super sexy)

Chinese Gods--super creepy

The Cantonese Opera 

A holiday where they make a tower of buns. After the ceremony people eat the buns for luck but a few years ago many people were trampled and died so they do it in a special orderly fashion now

Taoist ceremony 

I thought this was so cute it's a tea shop in the 50's i thought it was really similar to a burger place in the 50's in the US

After that I decided to get Indian food which was good and then shopped around a bit. The next morning I picked up my passport and shopped around a bit then headed back to Shenzhen. Happy to be back :D

I'm hoping to plan a trip to Macau--the other Special Administration Area--before I leave Shenzhen! It was colonized by the Portuguese and looks very European. Gambling is allowed in Macau and it brings in more money from gambling than Las Vegas

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