Six years ago, my wife and I visited an astonishing city: Hong Kong. Mirrored skyscrapers shimmered like silk. Wealth was everywhere. Except in broken shadows where harnessed coolies pulled rickshaws.
My wife, Kate, says that Hong Kong swelters like a desert city without a beach.
Which may prove Hong Kong is all things to all people. We went back this month.
The biggest change is the airport on Lantau (means big island), less than an hour’s drive from Hong Kong. It looks like NASA set up a terminal for interplanetary guests.
The approach to the old airport was through a corridor of apartment buildings. You could see what the residents were having for dinner as your fearless pilot attempted not to ricochet your 747 off balconies where clean white linens dried.
A series of bridges, inspired by San Francisco’s fabled Golden Gate, link the new airport to Hong Kong. There’s also a bullet train.
The airport must have cost a billion dollars or more. I heard that the British built it to use up all their cash reserves and keep the cash away from the mainland Chinese. True or false? Beats me. Rumors abound in that ancient abacus culture that now favors handheld calculators and cell phones.
Kate and I found Hong Kong almost unchanged since our last visit, although gone is the “Royal” from Royal Hong Kong Police. Overhead pedways and walkways honeycomb a world that I always felt inspired the film, Blade Runner.
There seems to be fewer muggings; speaking of mugs, there are no more of HRH. And almost none of mainland China leaders.
We had dinner with a Chinese professor who tours the world lecturing about e-commerce and venture capital.
“Regretfully, China cannot allow Hong Kong to compete with the mainland. There is only room for one gateway to China. It will be Shanghai.” Our friend said it will take about fifteen years for Hong Kong to shrink to a second rate city, dwarfed by the commerce and magnitude of Shanghai.
If Hong Kong is on its way out, I think McDonalds will have a lot to do with its demise. The yellow arches punctuate every block and serve an okay meal for about what it costs in North America.
For some inexplicable reason, the interior temperature of all McDonalds restaurants is kept slightly above ice water although the humidity outside is 98 as thermometers explode from the heat.
If Mac eaters don’t freeze to death, they will develop monster colds. And the terrible Hong Kong flu that swept the planet will return. People will be terrified to visit Hong Kong.
Some hotels that cost $200 a day, go for about $40 a day by the month (these rates end September 1st.) One of the best deals is the modern Harbor View International House, next to the Convention Center. Email them at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Miss Savina Tong will take care of you.
The best time of the year to see Hong Kong is at Christmas. Alas, hotel rooms are pricier then.
Wear a parka if you plan on wolfing down a Big Mac during your visit to Hong Kong during the sweltering summer — June, July and August.
If you’re willing to miss McDonalds, pack for the tropics.
How I got to Hong Kong.
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