Major: Business Administration and Mathematical Decision Making
Hometown: Hangzhou, China
Study Abroad Program: Chinese University Hong Kong - summer
As it is my fifth time to have traveled to Hong Kong, and the flight from my hometown Hangzhou took less than two hours, the arrival did not bring me such panic as one may expect when being dropped in the middle of unfamiliar faces, languages, and street views. Rather, getting off the bus at Mong-Kok, perhaps the most crowded and frequently visited place by both tourists and natives, I felt relieved when I identified the unchanged street shops and the smell of commerce as when I did in previous trips. In contrary to the fast developing mainland China, in which a city or a town could look entirely different in months, Hong Kong welcomed me with warm consistency and strong clues of history.
I visited Shenzhen in 1997, right before Hong Kong was handed back to Beijing. At that time Chinese citizens were not permitted to make personal travels to Hong Kong. Although the two cities were separated only by a narrow street called “Zhong-Ying Jie (Chinese-British Street)”, I could only look into the direction in which my mother pointed to me and imagined how prosperous Hong Kong was. The mysterious territory was a symbol of fashion, modernization and richness. Now, however, instead of marveling at the highest skyscrapers, I am more attracted by the old-style street signs and even the traditional Chinese characters. In old streets such as those in Mong-Kok, the name of the shops are written in huge blocks and hung out to the streets on sticks which reach far away from shop windows. This custom was taken from old Shanghai, where people had to hang washed clothes on long sticks from the window because of limited space and lack of sunshine in traditional Chinese architectural structures. It is interesting that many films staged in 19th and 20th century Shanghai were actually shot in Hong Kong, because the once prevalent, but now disappeared scene could still be found here. I figure that the British at least influenced largely in the perseverance of the old styles by not sweeping them up in construction process.
For a visitor like me, Hong Kong is indeed a heaven. Just a few-minute walk can take you from fancy restaurants and bustling shopping malls to narrow and shabby streets. The prosperous shopping malls are filled with the most expensive brands. Yet customers line up outside the door as if they are ready to snap up discounted cabbage in supermarkets. Here people are willing to wait for months or pay extra five thousand dollars to get a Hermes bag. The streets are well known for flea markets and night markets where poorer local people run side walk snack booth and sell groceries including fake brand bags. Here another group of people rack their brains to bargain for a five-dollar-cheaper price on groceries. Both reflect a real Hong Kong-just two different facets.
Hong Kong offers various kinds of happiness. You can admire well preserved nature, and also enjoy the mature consumption culture. You can soak in the most up-to-date materialistic joyfulness, or travel backward and review the simple plain days directly inherited from the old times. Inclusiveness is perhaps the most attractive shining spot of Hong Kong. That is probably why I never get fed up with Hong Kong-I can’t wait to go back and experience the excitement again!