When we talk about excess , it goes without saying that the first destination you think of is New York . “It’s high,” said Gainsbourg; towers that caress the sky, a city that advances at 100 per hour, day, night, whose inhabitants live at a frantic pace.
Well the big apple has a little sister who follows the same path, Hong Kong, HK for the intimate ones.
Like its western counterpart, Hong Kong has tamed the fragmented coastline to grow and grow with astuteness. Infrastructures become breathtaking superstructures of ingenuity and gigantism. All the more so when we know that space is limited: only one-fifth of the territory is constructible, so it is understandable that the population density is exceptionally high (more than 30,000 inhab / km² in inhabited areas!) But especially since the building of the city is in itself a challenge of adaptation to inhospitable terrain.
It all starts with the international airport, a marvel of technology of just 10 years that connects the city to the rest of the world. The lines of communication have freed themselves from the natural constraints and it is sometimes on the surface, sometimes under the China Sea, that one has to move to reach the heart of the city, located on the island of Hong Kong, a few hundred meters from the continent .
For example, from the airport located on the island of Lantau you have to board the MTR, the latest generation subway of Hong Kong, very expensive. Count HK $ 200 (just over € 18) and 35 minutes to reach the city center on the island of HK. To pay less you can also take the bus, very cheap (about HK $ 40), and the ferry, the preferred means of transportationto join the many islands of the territory. The taxi is also affordable.
As for architecture, the most unbridled city in China has nothing to envy to its older sister. State-of-the- art skyscrapers line the bay of Hong Kong, all glass and metal clad and wear the signs of the world’s largest groups: electronics and new technologies, finance, hospitality … an explosion of colors at night ! A bit flashy, but we can not help but have the eyes of a child who discovers Disneyland for the first time.
For Hong Kong has become in a few decades a world power without question. Thanks to its very liberated economic model that contrasts with the rest of the country, it is by far the richest city in China . In return it is also one of the most expensive in the world as evidenced by the price of real estate. As for shopping, apart from electronics, which is often more accessible, as is food, you will find prices that are relatively similar to other major world cities.
What is disconcerting in this overpopulated city, considered highly polluted, is that it seems to have fallen from the sky in the heart of lush and prolific vegetation . Even within the metropolis, at the foot of the glass giants you will be amazed to fall on the “green lung” of the New York of the East : a botanical and zoological park that proves to be a haven of peace.
Peace and wisdom can also be found on one of the surrounding islands called Lantau . Accessible by ferry a few tens of minutes from the city center you will dock and go on a pilgrimage – or bus – to reach the highest point of the island on which you will find the largest bronze statue of Buddha in its class , and at its foot a temple, a true place of contemplation and spirituality.
Another paradox of the city, it is also on this island – the biggest of the territory – that is the park of Disneyland … temple of the consumerism and the dictatorship of the thought . If you like thrills then Ocean Park, located on the south side of Hong Kong Island, offers superior amenities for a lower price.
And bathing in all this? Even though HK is more famous for the intensive activity of its commercial port than for its long stretches of sand, you will love Repulse Bay, a very charming beach , which, despite its unattractive name (it translates as “repulsive berry” ) will be a breath of fresh air for you in the middle of the hot and humid atmosphere of the city half of the year.
Let’s dive now to the epicenter of the business district . Vertigo takes hold of you as you roll your eyes and you will see successively the Bank of China tower and its asymmetries, the Lippo towers with labyrinthine architecture, the Central Plaza and its false airs Empire State Building, and the Two International Financial Tower, the city’s tallest skyscraper … whose miniature model is right next door! And it’s not over, a taller building is under construction. To enjoy the extraordinary view of this neighborhood, nothing better than a ride on Victoria Peak – accessible by funicular – which rises to 552mand to admire this inanimate waltz of mastodons. A tip: do it by day AND by night!
But once this neighborhood is gone we realize that the city has finally kept all its modesty and even its Cantonese traditions . So you will stroll through alleys open to the stalls offered to everyone: fresh fish, poultry, pork, vegetables and exotic fruits never seen in our country, all in an exhilarating effervescence. See you in the Central district. You will also discover specialized markets ; that of jade (beware of scams, there is for all prices, from simple to a hundredfold!) that of birds …
One of the most impressive markets is in the Kowloon district (mainland side), just a stone’s throw from Nathan Road shining brightly with its neon lights as far as the eye can see.
The popular Temple Street market that closes daily at midnight offers everything and anything in an anthill, and of course everything is “Made in China”!
The multiculturalism is also expressed through the culinary habits and in the same street you will have to choose between the small restaurant serving fish soup, pork ears, duck, grilled chicken, all decorated with white rice or noodles and … fast-food chains with their hamburger-fries, as the two alternate along sidewalks.
But the most disturbing example of conflict between tradition and modernity remains the way in which workers build their skycrapers; the scaffolding is made of … bamboo stalks. Imagine a building rising to several hundred meters high surrounded by a plant structure. And that holds!
So Hong Kong , the New York of the East? The debate is open, but if it is sure that the similarities are numerous historically, geographically and economically you will find that maybe the two cities do not take the same ideological route …