Being in Hong Kong the last five days have been a thought-provoking experience and an exercise in patience. I’m on a package tour with Trinh’s family. Of course, package tours are not my style, but it’s a chance to get to know the family and experience being on one of those “matching hat wearing follow-the-flag” tours.
This is my second trip to Hong Kong. My trip was in 2012 at a time when I knew little about Asia. My first observation is that transportation here is so easy and fast. I am disturbed by how well everything works, distances that take an hour in Vietnam are quickly traversed in 20 mins here. The train runs through mountains and under the harbor. There is even a bridge that dips into the ocean and becomes a tunnel, then emerges from the harbor and becomes a bridge again – still over the water. It startling to see this, when I’ve grown accustomed to Saigon’s traffic.
The city is so radically clean, green, and everyone speaks English. The city is green, friendly, and… as already mentioned…super easy to travel around. The first time I came to HK I hadn’t been to a developing country yet and I took the ease of life here for granted – as fudge. Hong Kong has everything, including nature, freedom of movement, and just an ease of living. I walked through a hardware store on a street side and thought damn, getting each one of these things would be a frustrating little adventure in Vietnam, but just another days walk here.
It looks like the people in Hong Kong live in a sort of Chinatown-like haze, but outside there gray cement buildings their city is so green and livable. It must be very “liveable”, because it is full of old people who are being assisted by younger foreign helpers. At night, those same house helpers are out walking the dogs. Even the fact that there are dogs, dog walkers, and various breeds of dog is a sign of wealth. Vietnam mostly has street dogs and few breeds. But Hong Kong had all the breeds of dog and dog owner, fancy ladies with Dolce & Gobana shaved poodles, DINKs with a retriever, and tired family dogs looking for love.
There was a moment walking alongside Kowloon Park that I seriously felt I was in NYC. I was transported to 57th and 5th avenue. I could imagine I was walking with my dad alongside Central Park like we did many times before. I’m totally blown away by the urban planning and efficient user experience of Hong Kong.
Going on a Vietnamese package tour is an experience too. They keep taking us to jewelry stores and outlet malls, which I understand is a hollow ploy to make money, but the Viet people actually want to shop for trinkets of the Buddha. So I’m alone and unfounded in my frustration, even lashing out at the tour guide for dropping us in a jewelry shop for a miserable hour. The tour even tries to sell us crap while we are a captive audience on the bus – but people buy it. So as always, I am frustrated and wrong.
Work has been on my mind the entire trip because I took off to come here. Working in the hotel and on my phone is another experience in regional living. I count my lucky stars that I have a job that includes travel as a part of the work. This year by chance we are staying in Vietnam, but traveling throughout the country for work.
I think it rattled me a bit to see how great public facilities were in Hong Kong- even relative to Bangkok. It was yet another reminder of how tough life is in Vietnam and how far they may have to go before they can live like other people. What a different slower pace of life I have grown accustomed to.
Also, I wished that I could have been sharing these observations with my own family as well. Maybe I should eventually live in Singapore or Hong Kong and invite Tabitha to come see me.
I enjoyed getting to know Trinh’s brother he immediately picked up on my natural skepticism and I liked how he called me out on it.