October 3, 2008

Hong Kong is Chinese

So I mentioned earlier that Hong Kong is, in so many ways, everything I expected Beijing to be. It is very Chinese. If you didn't know it had been a British colony from the middle of the 19th century until 1997 it would not be immediately obvious.

Yes, English is an official language, but very few people speak it. In many neighborhoods, especially outside the financial district, there are very few Westerners. The open air markets, called "wet" markets because they are hosed down at the end of the day, are filled with butchered parts of animals and live fish in bowls and tanks and exotic fruits and dried mushrooms and assorted odoriferous unknowns.

I saw none of this in Beijing, which is striving so hard to be Western I wonder if it has lost all of its Chinese-ness, or it was just hidden for the Olympics.

Hong Kong blends the cosmopolitan with the Eastern. It's foreign and familiar at the same time. It's a huge, fabulous city with skyscrapers nestled between the hills on the island and old cobblers setting up shop on the sidewalk. I want to walk slowly to take in all the sights but there are too many places to look and too many things to see. (And too many people in the way, but again, another post)

Here, I know I am in China. There is no doubt. I don't know how the people in Hong Kong feel about this; there is a sense of separateness from China. Maybe they were an English colony for so long they believe they are different. But, far as I can tell, they are more Chinese than the striving and status-seeking Chinese in Beijing.

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