There are lots of things i didn’t know about Hong Kong before I went there. I had no idea for example that the airport runway is directly across the bay so it appears that you’re landing in the ocean until the moment you actually touch-down. Ialso didn’t know they’ve run out of building space so are now knocking down the old skyscrapers to build them up again, taller than before. I’d just arrived for a 4 day workshop, my first ever business trip abroad, in what would be a whirlwind week of new experiences.
Something else I didn’t realise about Hong Kong is how Anglicized (is that a word?) it is; everything is in both both English and Chinese, road signs, restaurant menus (mostly) and even announcements on the spotlessly clean metro system. In fact the only people I encountered who couldn’t speak excellent English were the taxi drivers, which might have been a problem, but the public transport was as easy and convenient as you could wish for.
My overall impressions of the city are limited to the Mongkok area where we spent almost all our time. Definitely one of the downsides of business travel is you don’t actually get much time for sight-seeing, work tends to get in the way of that, but as every building is a skyscraper there’s always the chance of a panoramic view glimpsed from a conference room window.
My experiences are of a city of sharp contrasts; the sultry, oppressive heat out on the streets compared to the air-conditioned restaurants, offices and hotels; street-level butcher shops, hanging Peking duck carcasses on every corner, versus the clinically white and bright shopping malls, that serve as both hubs for Hong Kong residents favourite hobby of buying stuff, and pedestrian arteries for escaping the heat outside. But everywhere crowds and crowds of people. I naively thought London was busy, but Hong Kong, particularly Mongkok (apparently translated literally as “busy place”), is a swirling mass of humanity from dawn till well after night fall.
One upside I found of business travel is there no time for jet-lag, or at least the adrenaline of knowing I was only there for a few days was enough to carry me through. We were lucky enough to be taken out to a “real” Chinese dim-sum restaurant, the kind where they don’t bother putting English on the menu, a real culinary highlight (custard filled buns and sponge cake! Who knew?), and even managed to fit in a night out in Lan Kwai Fong, the notorious strip of tourist bars and clubs.
Did someone mention they need another meeting in Hong Kong soon? It’s a hard life sometimes…