Hong Kong: The New Year in an Old City

So winter is upon us yet again. The temperatures are going down and despite kinda looking forward to escaping the heat, we’re now back to waiting for the heat to be upon us again. You know how it is.

Speaking of escaping the cold, earlier this year in February I had a chance to do a small trip to Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore. It was the first time I really ever had a trip where I left a winter environment and went to a hot environment so it was a pretty interesting trip. I figure that in an effort to have more content on this blog, it would be good to write about the experiences of my trip.

So let’s start with the first leg of my trip, Hong Kong.

"I like how we're lost on a mountain but we look to the right and see this giant metropolis."
“I like how we’re lost on a mountain but we look to the right and see this giant metropolis.”

I’m definitely not a stranger to Hong Kong. Despite not being born there, my family is from there and so I’ve been there a lot. According to my passports my trip in February was my tenth trip. Considering how I don’t really even live that close to Hong Kong, that’s a pretty incredible number.

As a result, I know the city pretty well. Not only have I been there a lot, but back in 2012 I spent a few months living there doing an internship. That trip definitely gave me a brand new appreciation for the city. It’s one thing going to a place for vacation with your family, but when you’re actually living there and having your own life, you see different facets of it that you come to appreciate.

My February trip was especially special to me because it was the first time I was in Hong Kong for Chinese New Year. It was also the first time (that I remember) that I visited in the winter, so it was essentially a new spin on the whole experience.

The entire city was bustling with festivities.
The entire city was bustling with festivities.

For one, coming from Canada and only really ever visiting Hong Kong in the summer, I just assumed that I wouldn’t consider it cold when I visit in the wintertime. I was wrong.

My parents always said that the cold in Hong Kong is different. Obviously, I could never comprehend that so I was always just like “pfft yea whatevs”. But actually being there made me realize what they meant. The temperature wasn’t actually that low, and in fact they were in the 20s in the afternoon. But since there was zero heating indoors, it really sucked when you got out of the shower. There you are, wet and cold. And you would never really get warmer from that point on.

So that was definitely a new experience for me. That feeling happens in Korea too, but at least Korea has passable heating so that chill fades over time.

Aside from the weather though, the fact that I was in Hong Kong for Chinese New Year was really nice. There were a bunch of festivities going on around the city and there was a bit of a holiday cheer in the air too. Some of the highlights of the trip was facing the crowds in Victoria Park and hiking up to the Peak to face more crowds and check out the fireworks.

It wouldn't be a true Hong Kong experience without dealing with large crowds.
It wouldn’t be a true Hong Kong experience without dealing with large crowds.

But just having a chance to hang around Hong Kong was really nice. It’s always a nice city to visit. It’s so dense that you can do so much in a short amount of time and there’s always something to do or check out.

Plus the food is so good. I love Hong Kong and Cantonese styled food. After eating Korean food for so long having the food of my people was a great breath of fresh air. Whether you’re grabbing dim sum at a restaurant, dessert at a Honeymoon Dessert, or even just enjoying some drinks at Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong really has it all.

It’s a city that just has so much character too. To this day it’s still so fascinating for me to just walk around the city. It’s amazing how you can be in a super-modern downtown financial city one moment and a short ten minute walk later you’re in what feels like a completely different city. One with a ton of older buildings with countless air conditioners mounted on the outside dripping water down onto unsuspecting people below.

Chungking Mansions, probably the most random (and unnecessary) place in Hong Kong that I've been to.
Chungking Mansions, probably the most random (and unnecessary) place in Hong Kong that I’ve been to.

I just love how Hong Kong has kept so much of its unique culture and history. This is a city with so many faces and it’s just super cool to explore.

The people are also very interesting too. Obviously, most of the people are ethnically Chinese, but there’s also a large population of South Asians and South-East Asians. There’s also a lot of Westerners as well, and unlike Korea where everyone is either an English teacher, student, or army dude, there’s a lot of foreign expats actually living and working in Hong Kong. All in all, it’s surprisingly diverse all things considered.

Actually one cool thing I noticed when I was there that time was that I saw some South Asian dudes around my age that were speaking fluent Cantonese. At first I was really thrown off by it because like, it’s a random Indian dude speaking Cantonese. But then I gave it some thought and thought it was really neat. These are the guys that have lived, and probably grew up, in Hong Kong and speak Cantonese as their native language. It’s like me with English, except this is not as common I guess. But still, it’s really cool how this generation of immigrants has integrated into society.

One of the newest additions to the Hong Kong skyline.
One of the newest additions to the Hong Kong skyline.

But, Hong Kong has its own issues. It’s kind of paradoxical because the city changes constantly. But at the same time, it hasn’t really developed more. In a way the city kind of feels like its stagnating a bit, and I think that is reflected in the people’s opinions too.

There’s been increasing levels of frustration and discontent in the city lately, especially with the young people. In a way the whole place kind of feels like it’s in limbo as the future of the city is kind of uncertain. A lot of people are unhappy with the direction Hong Kong is heading in right now and as such there has been a lot of protests and riots. The Umbrella Revolution in 2014 was a big one in recent memory, but there were even scuffles in Mong Kok during the time I was there as well.

Regardless, I think Hong Kong is one of my favorite places to visit. Not only because the place has so much sentimental value to me, but because the city honestly just has so much character. There’s always something to do and there’s so many great hang out spots. I really recommend people to visit this place. Especially if you’re interested in urban exploration and seeing a mix of cultures co-existing in a ridiculously dense city.

Also, as cool as it was to visit during Chinese New Year, I don’t really recommend it if it’s your first time. Too many people and too many closed stores.

Author: Gary

Explorer, Creator, Gamer. #IDKAIST MSc and #UOITGameDev Alumni.

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