Hong Kong was a great break from the less developed countries that we’ve been in for several months now. It is like Manhattan plopped onto Hawaii, with New York prices to match. For that reason, we were very lucky to be hosted by the generous Ray and Sally Helfer, friends of Jon’s parents in Massachusetts. He works in finance and has been working in Hong Kong for the past four years. It was fascinating to hear about life and politics from someone who has been living there, including how much money there is, who has it, and how.
It’s amazing that 7 million people live together in such a small area. Hong Kong is made up of several islands, two major ones, and almost all of the population lives along the coasts. There are so many people, but unlike the large Southeast Asian cities like Bangkok, Hanoi and Saigon, there is much more structure – as Ray put it, “ordered chaos”. There are stoplights and traffic rules, and people and vehicles actually obey them. At least in non-tourist areas…
On the tram up to Victoria Peak for views of the city, we experienced our first Chinese pushing incident: right in front of us, people started aggressively pushing each other (and us) to get onto the tram. We stayed back, but a fight almost broke out, and people were blocking anyone from entering that door of the tram!
Inland from the coasts are beautiful mountains and meadows, which Hong Kong has developed into some great recreational trails. We hiked “Dragon’s Back”, one of the more scenic hikes. It was gorgeous. Best yet, the 3.5 hour hike ends at a beach.
Interestingly, while we were in Hong Kong, the “Occupy Hong Kong” conflict was gaining steam. When Hong Kong was transferred to China in 1997, China promised elections in Hong Kong, but apparently the details of the promised elections are vague. While Hong Kong is getting to vote in elections, the Communist Party in Beijing has decided that they will pick the candidates. Protesters in Hong Kong, lead by students and professors, demand meaningful elections through their “Occupy” movement, promising to obstruct business as usual in Hong Kong. We didn’t directly see a protest, but we saw signs around town and articles in the newspaper. We will definitely monitor the outcome of this situation.
Overall, we loved the combination of city life, hiking and beaches that Hong Kong offers. We hope to be back! Now onto actual chaos…mainland China.