Hong Kong is home to 7.2 million people and weighs in at 1,104km², known for its high rises and it’s ¾ countryside. Norfolk is 5,371km² and doesn’t even break a million people. Five months ago during my airport commute from the lush green hills of Norfolk to an abundance of dirty looking skyscrapers in Hong Kong, I was questioning what the hell I had done. In my second semester at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology everything was bigger than I remembered and the sidewalks more crowded, but this time, I felt only excitement at returning back to my sea view, my friends, and the countless travel opportunities (amongst a multitude of other things of course).
Most people only pass through Hong Kong, using the metropolis as a mere stopover destination. For this reason, it’s easy to see why many are initially impressed with the sights. The reality of living here, however, can only be fully comprehended after a complete understanding of the place and its people. This certainly can’t be gaged after a night out in LKF, or a trip up the Victoria Peak.
As a city of contrast, there is the considerable expense – it’s the least affordable city to live in the world with a minimum wage of £2.24 an hour. In contrast, public transport is hugely affordable – particularly the MTR which is (unofficially, officially) the best and cheapest metro in the world. With a collection of Gucci stores to rival Milan, designer shopping malls upon designer shopping malls make you feel as though you could be anywhere in the world. Then there are the street markets for tourists, contrasted with the REAL street markets for locals, with tarpaulins spread on the floor late at night with whatever can be scavenged.
Hong Kong is also world famous for hiking as the business buildings along the harbour give way to houses which give way to green hills, a home to boars, monkeys and poisonous snakes. Not only this, fishing towns and sandy beaches offer tranquility, whilst rooftops and high bars boast amazing views. The night life is a plateau of street drinking and venue upon venue of all night dancing and of course, karaoke. It’s also unusual to own a car and so most of the anti-taxis are pretty flash here.
Living conditions mean pets are few and far between but are treated like royalty, most commonly found in the wealthier seaside towns. You’ll be glad to heat that dogs and cats are not on the menus, but duck tongues and pig ears are. In ‘Asia’s World City’ the marks of past colonialism are evident, particularly in the more Central areas, but it’s just as easy to escape to the authentic back streets for some cheap Michelin dim sum, or roasted goose and rice in a tiled eatery with a flooded kitchen and squat toilet.
When travelling (flights around Asia are incredibly cheap) I have found myself physically recoiling in surprise as I glance above a third floor and am greeted with blue stretches of sky. The pollution from China means that stars are rare, but busy streets and neon lights are not. On a night flight I found myself marvelling at the stars, having completely forgotten about them – our re-acquaintance induced a brief confusion as I wondered how the hell there could be so many planes in the sky!
I could of course go on but in truth, Hong Kong—or as any affectionate resident may refer to it as Home Kong—is a city to discover and learn to love in your own way.