Monday, June 21, 2010

Hong Kong: Glamour and grime

Hong Kong skyline at night

Hong Kong skyline by day

The above two pictures do a lot to illustrate my feeling about Hong Kong. In many ways I felt it was a city of total contrasts — luxury and wealth side by side filth and decay. At night, Hong Kong's skyline was dazzling. I've never seen such a long coastline of neon skyscrapers. By day, a haze of pollution muted that view. A completely different feel.

In some places in Hong Kong, everywhere we turned we saw luxury brand name stores selling extravagant goods with price tags to match. Not far away would be beggars with horrible deformities plunked in the middle of the sidewalk, collecting coins.

There's not a lot of mid-range accommodation in Hong Kong. You either stay at a super cheap hostel or a much pricier hotel. We stayed in a cheap hostel in the Kowloon neighborhood — truly an armpit.

We arrived late at night and emerging from the subway into our neighborhood I immediately felt overwhelmed. Lights, people, buildings everywhere. It took a while but we finally found the large, old building housing our hostel. Something in the block surrounding the building smelled like rotting corpses and I had to fight to keep from gagging. Inside, we took a slow elevator up past a number of other hostels located on different floors. Thankfully our room turned out to be clean, though also the size of a prison cell — barely big enough for two slim single beds and the tiniest bathroom known to man. I wish I had taken pictures of this but I forgot. The shower head was mounted on the wall directly in front of the toilet so that I literally could have taken a shower sitting on the pot. If I stood sideways in front of the sink I had literally an inch of clearance between my hips and the sink on one side and the wall on the other. Settling into this room, we knew we were in for an adventure.

The next morning, in the daylight, we saw the views from our building:

It is safe to say this was truly the most decrepit building I had ever been in.

On the street I marveled at the juxtaposition of old and new.

It struck me that Hong Kong actually fit the image in my head of China. Crowds, heat, tall buildings, lights, dirt, street vendors everywhere. Strange that Hong Kong should fit that image even more closely than China itself.

I wish that I had taken the time to take more photos around our building, but I didn't. Here's one shooting across the intersection by our hostel though.

And a couple more of the neighborhood street markets:

To be continued...

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