Here are various observations on Hong Kong that are probably too short to justify their own posts:
- Street signage in Hong Kong for stores are unlike anything I’ve ever seen. They not only extend into the road, but often will cross the meridian and overlap signs from the other side of the street. The effect it to almost cover some streets. At night almost makes Nathan Street (the main shopping street in Kowloon) look like downtown Las Vegas.
- There was a great deal of concern over what would happen to Hong Kong after the hand over from the British to China back in 1997. With the exception of a PRC flag flying over a few governmental buildings, I can see nothing that would indicate that this is part of the PRC. In fact, I was very surprised yesterday to see an informational table set up by members of Falun Gong. I saw a similar table in Taiwan, but that’s Taiwan.
- Hong Kong has a separate currency from China and Macau. The Hong Kong dollar is pegged to the US Dollar at about HK$7.79 = US$1. The bank notes here are actually issued by private banks. The HK$20 note sitting in front of me say “The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited Promises to pay the bearer on demand at its Offices here TWENTY HONG KONG DOLLARS. By order of the Board of Directors.” There are four banks that issue HK notes. This is actually what currency in the US used to be like in the 19th Century, except you could redeem the notes in gold or silver.
- I was expecting Hong Kong to be expensive. It is rather cheap. You can get a value meal at McDonald’s for a little over US$3. There are shops for cheap custom tailored suits all over. You can’t walk down the street without someone trying to get you to buy a suit.
- You also can’t walk down the street without an Indian trying to sell you a copy Rolex watch. They literally will say it is a copy. My guess is that the police probably cracked down on fraud and counterfeit goods and the peddlers got around that by just admitting that their stuff was fake.
- You can still see a British influence all over the place. The street signs look like they could be from the UK. Many Anglican churches still exist and many British schools. English is widely spoken.
- It is a good thing that English is widely spoken because this place wouldn’t work without it. This is easily the most cosmopolitan city I’ve seen outside of New York or LA. I hear so many different languages on a daily basis, I can’t recognize most of them. English is the tread that holds it all together. It has a lot in common with Singapore in that respect.
- The Territory of Hong Kong is much bigger than I thought it would be. It isn’t all dense and urban. There are actually some villages farther out and some areas you can’t even see a single building.
- You can find ANYTHING to eat here.
- I’m surprised at the number of Latin American tourists I’ve seen here. I’ve met few few people from Latin America on my trip so far.
- You can see tenement buildings like the Chungking Mansion right next door to sleek modern high rise buildings. There doesn’t seem to be as much segregation by economics here as in other places (but it does exist. Houses on Victoria Peak are very expensive).
I have two more days in Hong Kong before I’m off to Macau for a bit. Macau is the Vegas of Asia (literally. The same big hotels in Vegas are in Macau). I am liking my new video camera so far. I hope to start churning out podcasts soon. I got a haircut yesterday. First time I’ve gotten a real haircut since I was in Fiji back in July.