After years and years of wondering what walking through Hong Kong must feel like, I finally got a chance to experience just that. A combination of work and leisure in the city of the “Fragrant Harbour” gave me an entire week – week-end included – to get a proper idea of the former British colony and one of the world’s most densely populated regions.
Before setting foot here, hearing the name “Hong Kong” would start to roll out a sequence of pictures in my mind: pictures of skyscrapers beaming their lights over the bay at night or the labyrinthic structure of the no-longer existing Kowloon Walled City. Images from Wong Kar-wai movies with the faces of Maggie Cheung or Zhang Ziyi would then take over in front of my inner eye before being followed by John Woo and Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Jackie Chan, Tony Leung or Jet Li. Admittedly, I do find the movie industry in Hong Kong to be quite fascinating, so it’s no wonder that my associations with a city that is still referred to as “the Pearl of the Orient” are heavily connected to the seventh art scene.
After a 12-hour flight from Zurich and walking out of the MTR that took me from Chep Lap Kok Airport to Central in less than half the time I had estimated, a warm and humid wave of that typical July weather in Hong Kong greeted me. A T8 typhoon had just passed by and although it was already on its way further East, Hong Kong was very much looking like a ghost-city. Almost no pedestrians on the sidewalks, closed shops and with the exception of some taxis blazing through the thick air at twice the rates they would normally charge, the streets of Hong Kong were looking rather quiet.
Turns out the typhoon had only come to clear the skies before the arrival of sunnier days and the densely populated Hong Kong showed its true face right on the next morning, as I made my way through the districts of Wan Chai, Central and Causeway Bay. The energy of the city is infatuating. The mind is constantly stimulated. My head was bursting with impressions.
Over the coming days and as I talked with colleagues, friends who moved here years ago, with taxi drivers and restaurant owners, entrepreneurs and investors, my understanding of Hong Kong became more profound and I started to see how life unfolds behind first appearances and how the different cultures of the region are intertwined.
Hong Kong is a fascinating place.
I managed to also squeeze in some time during that week to discover Macau, which is only one hour away from HK by ferry (or 15min. if using the Sky Shuttle helicopters), and get an idea of the mega construction projects on the Cotai strip as well as the frenzy in the hotel- casinos of the Venetian and the Galaxy. Although my interest in gambling is rather limited, seeing all these gaming tables and slot machines made a rather strong impression on me.
I left Hong Kong on Sunday night of last week. Five days have passed since then, but I still find myself processing all the information that was thrown at me. And now that I am back in Zurich, with its serene lake and that incomparable view on the mountain range of the Alps in the background, I have to admit:
Hong Kong, I do miss your energy.