I am traveling with my cousin Joe, we are here for business. Joe has spent several months in Hong Kong and knows the city well. He is a very seasoned traveler and has been all over the world. He tells me that Hong Kong is his favorite place on earth. I am excited to see it, unfortunately we are only here for two quick days and I won’t be able to see much of it, as we only have set aside an afternoon for sight seeing.
We arrived from Shanghai via a two hour flight south. After a long wait in immigration we hail a cab and ride into the city. It is about 10 PM and the scenes of the bridges and waterways that connect this land are spectacular. They call Hong Kong “The Vertical City” because of its huge amount of tall buildings. Everywhere you look you see 50+ story buildings, it is incredible. We are staying in Kowloon, the portion of Honk Kong that is on the mainland, and is a much more bustling area than Central, the main Island. Once we arrive we take a stroll to find a late night snack. This city feels very much like a European city, where people are out late, very different than Shanghai.
We get back to the hotel and look over the itinerary for tomorrow. We will be taking a ferry to Macau, another SAR (Specially Administered Region) of China. Not really China, but not really independent. Upon further inspection we find out that the meeting is really in the Free Trade Zone of Zhuhai, which borders Macau. However, Zhuhai is in China proper, and my visa is only for one entry, which I have used already. Unfortunately I will not be able to attend the meeting, but on the plus side I now have a free day to explore the city.
We wake up early, I prepare to see the city and Joe heads for Macau (where he endures four separate immigration lines for his one hour meeting. He was gone for 14 hours. Glad I missed it.). I was not prepared to have a whole day to explore on my own, so I am just winging it. I know I want to see the harbor, Central and Mount Victoria (The peak on Central).
Hong Kong is one of the wealthiest places on earth in per capita terms. I have never seen more Bentleys and Rolls Royces in my life. I think I passed four Cartier stores in 10 blocks. Unfortunately it is foggy with a light rain, inhibiting the views of the city. I can barely see the outline of Central’s towers across the bay. I take the subway from Kowloon to Central, going underneath the bay, which is one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. Walking around Central has a distinctly different feel than Kowloon across the bay. It is the business district, and much more orderly. Central feels like a big mega city and Kowloon like Chinatown.
After a quick lunch I take a tour of the Harbor. It is about an hour and they go up and down both sides of the channel. This city is giant, with towers everywhere. Unfortunately the weather prevents a full appreciation. In the evening I return and meet Joe for dinner. He has a favorite restaurant here specializing in Indian food. Joe has been to over 60 countries, when he says he has a favorite something you get it. It was a small dive in Kowloon specializing in southern Indian food (read: Spicy), it did not disappoint.
The next morning Joe and I had a quick breakfast in the Hotel and prepared for our last meeting of the trip. It was a simple exchange with his bank and we were done by noon. We grabbed some lunch and went about walking through Kowloon. After a few hours wandering around the city and eating some street food, we went to get fitted for some bespoke suits.
Hong Kong is famous for its bespoke (custom) tailoring. You can have an excellent suit made from scratch and designed to fit you perfectly for about $250 dollars. Joe has a specific tailor that he always uses when he is here, Harry from Harry’s Fashions. The store is small, like 20x20ft small. There are books piled high with fabric samples and rolls of cloth stacked against the wall. You go in, look through the sample fabric swatches, find your pattern and color, and then you get measured. The suit is cut and sewn offsite. Under normal circumstances you would return the next day to make any adjustments to the semi-complete suit. However, we were flying home the next day and would have to trust the initial measurement. Joe assured me that Harry was excellent and there was no cause for concern. I was able to get a new suit and three custom shirts for $350, quite a bargain. (The suit and shirts arrived a week later at home, and were perfect)
That evening we went to Temple Street, a large and bustling outdoor marketplace filled with people and restaurants. We walked up and down the stalls looking for items. One of the things Joe searches out when he is here is ties. We haggle a vendor down to one dollar a tie and buy 10 each. It was very dramatic, both of them typing numbers into a calculator (the translator). Finally we walked away with our offer not being met. We made it about 10 feet before they ran after us and acquiesced. After a delicious dinner, eaten outside on plastic chairs and tables that seemed like they were designed for children, or at least small Asians, we headed back to the hotel to pack for our return journey. I was not looking forward to the 18 hour flight to NYC, but all I could think about was how I needed to get back here. There is a real vibrancy here. It feels exotic, but also inviting. I think a lot of that has to do with the British influence, and that many people speak English. This is a place I will come back to.