I've had the absolute privilege to walk the streets of Hong Kong not once, twice, but three times (so far) in my traveling lifetime. This past summer before my Beijing excursion, I wandered the old Chinese-style colonial streets for two weeks waiting for passports and visas. This past October, I was there for six days, so fortunate to be living in a moment in history. Only a block from the students camped out, talking, hoping, getting political (and sometimes worshipping) I stayed in my usual guesthouse smack dab in the middle of Mong Kok, the sometimes infamous and always cheap Dragon Hostel. We had to shut the blinds in our dorm at 3 in the morning one night because the students were running around, so angry and trying to avoid any police attacks. Other nights we were on the streets with the protesters, and people stopped myself and my traveling buddies often, to tell us about their situation and share stories of their fine city that is Hong Kong. We were standing on the overpass between Argyle Street and Mong Kok East station till about 1 in the morning one evening, just talkin' politics. Going to Hong Kong was a breath of fresh air for me on a few different levels.
Hong Kong people are political. There isn't an issue they don't have an opinion on. They are vocal. They are cultured. They care so much about their lovely little tropical-urban-jungle of a city-state. They fight the good fight. A lot of them are individual-minded but harbour a respect for their collective-Confuscian heritage, which makes them fundamentally different than folks from other Asian nations. They have a beautiful city and they want to keep it that way. They recycle, they wait in a cue for a taxi at 4:30 in the morning after a night out in Lan Kwai Fong, and they are very aware of the world around them. They are just plain lovely.
Go to Hong Kong. It's not really China, it's Hong Kong. The city exists in a perpetual state of change, but I hope some things remain the same:
The laid-back pseudo hippie enclave that is Lamma Island
Crumbly and delicious egg tarts
A cup of milk tea in the morning, or at midnight
My friend who works the night desk at Dragon Hostel. He does to 10p.m-8 a.m shift everyday, at the busiest and cheapest guesthouse in one of the biggest cities in the world. He has lived in Hong Kong his entire life. He makes conversation with the lonely travelers who pass through the hostel, mostly on their way in or out of China. Some people talk to him in Mandarin, but his first language in Cantonese. His second is English, and third is Mandarin. That's how it is in Hong Kong. The main Chinese dialect is Cantonese, which was originally spoken in all of southern China and now it remains to be heard in most parts of Hong Kong and kung fu movies. If people like him continue to hang around, with their strong opinions and coffee drinking at 11 p.m, then I know the city is going to be alright. He didn't like the protesters at all, by the way, but everyone in Hong Kong is entitled to their opinion. They scream it out to each other on the street in the middle of the night. That is what makes the city so beautiful.
Here's some shots of the happenings around one of the two main protest areas this past fall in Hong Kong.
Taken on Nathan Road in Mong Kok, Hong Kong.