Monday, April 13, 2009

Asia Trip Week 2: Hong Kong, China

I've been really terrible about updating my blog about what happened on our Asia trip...but here's what happened in Hong Kong:

We stayed with my friend Derek (who I think I actually starting talking to more post-college than during) in the heart of the city, Causeway Bay. The first impression of Hong Kong was that it is definitely more westernized than Beijing and the people are more, well, sophisticated. I got the feeling that the majority of women there only wear heels and rarely wear flats and definitely not sneakers (even ones that might be considered "fashionable" like Converses). Derek's guess was that the women are short and therefore feel like they need to compensate for their height deficiency. Additionally, the women are just plain fashionable and I felt out of place in skinny jeans and a black t-shirt, which in most other places is just kind of neutral. Not in Hong Kong. The men there aren't noticeably different than in western countries, but in comparison to Beijing, men weren't spitting on the floor everywhere. Lastly, in terms of sophistication, everyone there has the newest, sickest, most modern cell phones possible. Christian and I thought that cell phones there are more of a status symbol than anywhere here in Germany. The iPhone is everywhere and most likely all are cracked, but cell phone technology seemed more prevalent in HK than it did in Beijing.

I really liked Hong Kong because I felt like it was one of the few places on Earth where I felt like I truly fit in, in terms of way of life. It's this strange mix of Chinese and Western culture and the majority of Hong Kong people speak a mix of Cantonese and English. So if I didn't know a word in Cantonese while speaking it, I just threw it out in English, but people didn't hesitate or give me a second look. The attitude was more, "Sure, whatever, I get what you're saying." For example, we got ice cream at Ben & Jerry's and I know how to say, "I want one..." but I didn't know how to read or say the flavor (coffee, coffee, buzz, buzz, buzz). I just said, "Ngoh yiu yut goh coffee, coffee, buzz, buzz, buzz." And it worked. (And I apologize if my Romanization makes no sense to anyone who can actually read the Romanization of Cantonese.)

The symbol of Hong Kong at a flower show in Victoria Park

Additionally, I started picking up words and phrases really quickly and making connections between things I had never done before. For example, everywhere you go, there are warnings to mind the gap, mind your head, mind the wet floor, etc. In Cantonese, they just say "siu sum" which I always thought to mean "be careful," which it does. However, translated literally, it means "little heart" and I hadn't associated the words "siu" with little and "sum" with heart (which is also the same "sum" as in "dim sum"), even though I know both "siu" and "sum." I'm not sure if my explanation makes any sense whatsoever, but I've never thought about what "siu sum" literally meant. I guess the best way to explain it is the word "Frühstück" for Germans. It means breakfast, but the two words "früh" and "Stück" mean "early thing," but Germans never think of it as an "early thing," just as "breakfast."

In terms of tourism, Hong Kong doesn't have nearly as many historical and cultural sites as Beijing. Notable things were the Victoria Peak (where all the British colonists went when the heat got unbearable because it's cooler there), the Tian Tan Buddha run by the Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island, and some of old colonial buildings leftover from the British. A lot of people say that the New York skyline is impressive and don't get me wrong, it is, but the Hong Kong skyline keeps on going for what seems like forever. We went up to the Peak at night and the skyline is really a sight to see. There aren't really words for it, so I'm just posting a picture.

We also went to HK Disneyland (which is also out on Lantau Island) for a day because I've been to the two in the U.S. and the one in Tokyo, so I figured, hey, I just need to go to Euro Disney and HK Disney to have been to all of them. The park was rather small and we did it in a half day, but it was still fun and just nice to be able to not really do anything super intense. I actually convinced Christian to ride Space Mountain (which is more modern than the Space Mountain in Orlando). He doesn't like roller coasters at all and when we got off, his hands were shaking and he just kept saying, "Nope, I am NOT going on it again!" HK Disneyland is definitely more for little kids than it is for people of all ages like Disneyworld in Orlando and I don't think I'd go back.

The main thing to do in Hong Kong, however, is shopping. Hong Kong people love to shop and an attestation to this is the copious amount of malls and stores. We did a good amount of shopping ourselves in some outlets out in Tung Chung, around Causeway Bay, and the Times Square Bazaar. When we went to the Times Square Bazaar, there was an outlet sale of Diane von Fürstenberg and Kate Spade stuff, so I got some really good deals on some DvF dresses. However, there were these "bazaar" sales all over for HK. We also went to one for "young fashion," where they had stuff like Miss Sixty and Carhartt (the fashionable stuff) for cheap. If you ever go to Hong Kong, you just need to look out for signs for them.

The Hong Kong skyline from Victoria Peak

The other thing to do in Hong Kong is eat. We had dim sum a lot because it's not readily available here in Germany, plus it's fun just to see the carts go by and order what you want. There were some restaurants where you have to order everything on a piece of paper and it'll be brought out, which for me was sometimes difficult because I can't read anything. I know in one restaurant I told the waiter in Cantonese that I can't read Chinese and he laughed in his puzzlement. That day, Christian was also sick and didn't eat anything, so I ate three little plates of the dim sum and 3/4 of a noodle dish by myself. The same waiter proceeded to tell me he was super impressed about how much I ate and wondering why Christian wasn't eating. He asked if he was a picky Westerner, to which I told him what was wrong. And all in Cantonese. Again, I was impressed about how much I could say and understand.

We also went out to Macao (also spelled Macau) on our last day. It was really crowded leaving HK and went by boat. The ride was about an hour and once we got to Macao, we had to go through Macanese customs. All I can say is: What a pain. We waited in line for an hour and had to deal with mainland Chinese shoving everyone and getting into fights with the Hong Kongers about who was in line first, etc. Once we got to the city, we went to see São Paulo's Cathedral (or the remains of it) and the old Portuguese fortress at the top of the hill. But other than that, the only other thing to see in Macao are the casinos (useless for us since we don't gamble). The city isn't exactly what I would say pretty. There are corners where there is a clear mainland European influence as opposed to Hong Kong and everyone has a scooter like a Vespa, but really, Hong Kong is much better and more interesting.

I think all in all, Hong Kong is definitely a place where I can imagine living and definitely more so than Beijing. It's a high-paced city like New York and we were lucky to have good weather. It's not overly expensive (though in comparison to say, Berlin, it is), the quality of life is good, and it has a lot to offer for the people who live there. Here are more of my Hong Kong/Macao pictures on my Flickr page.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hong Kong people definitely very fashionable; it is their tradition. There is a saying in Hong Kong "You respect the clothes before you respect the person!" You definitely get judge by how well you dress in HK; it is a status symbol to dress well in HK. I remembered when I was a child there; I went to a resturant by the harbor to have lunch with my mother's friends, they both were doctors. I gotten cold stare by the girls that was pushing the dim-sum cart. Her look was saying "Looked at the way you dress you don't belong here; so I don't have to give you any service!"
I am glad you like HK. Also you were there when the weather was nice. If you were there in the summer then you might not like it as much. It can get very hot and humid. Maybe someday we can go there together; I have not be back there since I left years ago.