Hong Kong is a throbbing island-state that sits mighty confident in it’s comfortable regal splendor. Whether from the Sky Tower at The Peak or from the many vantage bay view points, the magnificent skyline gives strong competition to those dotting London or New York. There has always been a strong symbolism between financial power centers and towering, gleaming buildings with sharp, cold facades. The dominating capitalist-consumerist-metropolitan appeal of the city generously lends it the triumphant dazzle and bling that blinds many a commoner, like me. It is touted to be one of the most expensive cities in the South-East Asian region, and lives up to the tag in subtle yet overpowering tones. The Pizza Hut deliveries that are available to us for on-call deliveries back home, is transformed into a fine dining experience in this city. Even street shopping doesn’t come cheap.
The people on this island throng the sidewalks and metros in great numbers, and leave you feeling a slight bit claustrophobic. One is left wondering whether the swarming-bustling crowds are a result of the holiday season, or a general phenomenon that one has to make do with. The infrastructure is truly awe-inspiring – whether it be the metro that connects the island from end-to-end providing you with extremely convenient exits (and also takes you to “Sunny Bay”, beyond which another metro plies specifically to Disneyland and is also designed based on this theme), or the well-timed signals for crossing the road (no jaywalking ever!), or the extremely strong municipal productivity and efficiency that stood strong even on New Year’s Eve, with the cleaners walking duly up and down streets allowing no one to litter. One should surely give credit where its due, and laud the outstanding public policies and governance that make this island flawless, impeccable, and pretty much, invincible. But one also can not forget or ignore the fact, that perhaps the very same governing bodies may be the cause for umbrellas coming up at midnight (reference, the Umbrella Movement, a pro-democracy political protest) on New Year’s Eve, when the protests for democratic voting rights started once again.
But Hong Kong is not just cold heart and soulless steel. The street art in the Sheung Wan alleys, the Chater and Kowloon Parks, the giant Buddha statue in Lantau island, the thick hilly green terrains bordering the tram ride up to the Peak and the many public spaces they have created for a much needed respite from the feverish commercial pace of the city finally lends it redeeming traits, and some hope, that all is not lost in the cityscape planning strategies for this resplendent, imposing behemoth.
Even the most mundane experiences in Hong Kong, for a tourist-visitor like me, take on an exalted tone. Whether it be lights twinkling from afar casting colorful watery reflections and forming a striking horizon or a neighborhood ferry ride to the “world’s richest city” – Macau, or the bazillion brands and lifesize advertising campaigns (the mall miles here, may be putting even malls in Dubai to shame!) that encompasses the city in a possessive lover-like embrace – this buzzing, throbbing island is not for the faint-hearted who seek calm. Here, one will always feel on the edge, for reasons that may seem apparent but may turn out to be something else altogether. The cab that takes you from from Central to Kowloon won’t cheat you or misquote rates but at the end of the day, you will be still be experiencing a sense of relief once you reach your destination.