One of the many web sites I used to visit each morning with my iPad was called Cycle Chic. The site originated from Copenhagen and focused on the city’s rich urban lifestyle and its on-going love affair with the bicycle. The site has changed recently with new ownership and fallen far behind with its news and updates. A better web site is called ‘Copenhaganize.’ Foreign web sites, especially the ones focused on economic development and urban growth, provide a wonderful cyber trip for me around the world.
It’s fun to visit those web sites and see the enormous physical and social changes the city has gone through over the last forty plus years. Yet even back then, despite its sometimes austere Nordic climate, Copenhagen still had a spirit about it and a freedom that appealed to a rambling boy from the Midwest. Hong Kong had the same effect on my imagination.
Hong Kong like Copenhagen is an ever-changing, constantly evolving metropolitan area. Sharon and I got a taste of that ex-British colony as it was just beginning its transition to complete control by the Chinese government. We were on our last week of a three-week tour of the South Pacific including Singapore, Bali, Thailand and Hong Kong. The trip was part of a Rotary World Convention held in Singapore.
The British held control of Hong Kong from 1841 until 1997. Hong Kong was first established as a crown colony and later designated a British Dependent Territory in 1981. The expiration of their ninety-nine year lease in 1997 effectively marked the end of the British Empire. Decades of British influence is seen throughout the core city of Kowloon, in a transportation infrastructure that spreads throughout the ex-colony and the New Territories and in its densely-packed high rise building that pack the city core and roll up the surrounding hillsides.
Hong Kong put a spell on me back then and still does to this day. Its right up there with London and Singapore as places I’d return to in a flash. So much so, in fact, that I knew I’d have to include it’s famous harbor walk in my latest suspense thriller ‘Follow the Cobbler.’ Hong Kong represents the mysteries of the orient along with the captivating skyline that is in constant flux and change.
Denmark proved to be my first venture outside of the country where I was living on my own and experiencing another way of life. Hong Kong was a return to the same heightened sense of adventure and exploration. It was eye-opening, exciting, scary and mind-boggling all at the same time.
A harbor tour is a must to capture the true feeling of the city. Junks, ferry’s, fishing trawlers, whole ‘water world’ communities and dozens of other types of floating commerce crowd the murky sometimes filthy waters of the South China Sea.
Kowloon is a densely packed urban area of almost eighteen square miles. With a population of over two million, it is one of the most populous urban areas in Hong Kong. The name Kowloon stems from the term ‘nine dragons’ alluding to eight mountains surrounding the harbor and a Chinese emperor. Most of the ‘Green Line’ Ferry’s to the island carry the dragon motif.
Urban life in Hong Kong is a chaotic cornucopia of sounds, smells, textures and densely-packed humanity in movement shoulder to shoulder everywhere. It’s the flip side of a quiet sojourn up a mountainside or a slow walk in the woods. An overdose of humanity that can be taken only in small increments for an introvert like me.
Its funny how things can change physically but not in one’s mind. Time tripping back through old photos, finger-tapping through web sites and probing that old memory vault can bring back a wave of warm feelings. Now safely ensconced back in the states, I get to go back whenever I want to revisit that city by the sea and my memories there.