Here, finally here. I cannot help but repeat that to myself.* After the longest expanse of time I have ever spent in air transit, I am finally in Hong Kong. Following the thirteen hours of sheer blue outside my window, the lush greenery of Hong Kong’s islands was an immensely welcoming sight, and I could not be happier to finally break free from an airport.
My flight landed in the early evening, and thanks to packing extremely light, I managed to make it through customs fairly smoothly,** successfully reaching my hostel in Tsim Sha Tsui by around 20:00. Although my decision to indulge in a movie marathon over the Pacific left me rather exhausted, I opted to go for a walk around my neighborhood to force myself into adapting to the time difference.***
Located on the island of Kowloon, Tsim Sha Tsui is a popular tourist hub due to the vast number of commerce available. Guide books inform me that Nathan Road, my hostel’s street, is often referred to as the Golden Mile due to the astonishing expanse of shops. (All of which boast giant neon signs that indicate “Glowing Mile” would probably be a more apt nickname.) I believe the following quote by American writer P.J. O’Rourke sums up Tsim Sha Tsui perfectly:
“In Hong Kong there is agglomeration beyond my fondest imaginings. The Kowloon district claims a population density four times that of New York City.”
Even with just my brief walk, I was able to see just how mind boggling the amount of stuff (and people ogling it) there was in Hong Kong. It truly is a shopper’s paradise. However, while I agree with Mr. O’Rourke about Hong Kong’s overwhelming density, I was actually more astonished by how familiar my neighborhood seemed. My first impression is that Hong Kong is strikingly similar to Tokyo. If it were not for the fact that everyone around me was chattering away in Cantonese, I would have sworn that my plane erroneously landed in Narita, and I was strolling through the streets of Shibuya. The mixture of shops, bars, restaurants, and people that frequented them reminded me almost perfectly of Japan.****
Not having traveled much in Asia outside Japan, perhaps I am merely recognizing a pattern emblematic of all major Asian cities. But the structural familiarity was immensely comforting, making me already feel at home in Hong Kong. However, as much as I adore Tokyo and appreciate the likeness, I am also now extremely eager to dive deeply into the city’s culture and discover what makes it unique. Satisfied with my stroll, I returned to my hostel to get a good night’s rest, excitedly dreaming of what the next week has in store for me now that I am here, finally here.
11 June 2015
*As well as, “Holy hell, it’s humid.” But I am happy to report that one day in, coming from Southeast Georgia, it is not too terrible of an adjustment. As long as you are willing to accept that you will be drenched in sweat most of the time, despite showering three times a day.
**With the exception of a lengthy interview by one customs official who found my seventeen pounds of luggage suspiciously light. Such that he insisted on carefully examining every stamp in my passport, wondering how I managed to come from Frankfurt, Barcelona, and Tokyo with just my backpack. A reply of “Well, with all due respect sir, those stamps are all from a few years ago…” did not go over well.
***One of my favorite travel tips is to immediately adapt to the local time, such as eating meals or going to bed at exactly the same time I would normally, despite what my body is (desperately) telling me. I have personally found that this works wonders and since adopting this mindset, have rarely suffered from jetlag.
****One key exception is the ready presence of religious buildings. My hostel happens to be located directly across from one of Hong Kong’s largest mosques. I also strolled past a few churches hidden among all of the shops. Not only is Japan dominated by Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, but I believe most religious buildings are in much more residential and/or remote areas, including the rare mosque/church.