Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Beijing Week 5: A Hong Kong Comparison

I have now been in Beijing for five weeks. During the week I did my usual internship and college student interviews for my independent study. I also took a trip to Hong Kong. My independent study research is progressing well. I’ve met and talked to many students about their views and thoughts on South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan to assess what local Chinese students have seen and learned about each of the countries. Each of their responses was different and unique. Compared to the previous weeks, most of the people I talked to this week watched/listen to the cultural products from all three places, instead of just one. This provided me a better comparison of the success of one cultural product over the other. Specifically, five out of the six students that I spoke with agreed that Japanese anime provided a better look and understanding of Japanese culture than South Korean or Taiwanese dramas. Even though South Korean dramas are popular among those I interviewed, one stated that "Korean dramas are over exaggerated. However, I do enjoy their romantic story lines."

My internship is going well; however, it seems to have slowed down quite a bit from when I first started. After the article about China’s satellites and missile capabilities was submitted, there has not been a lot for me to do. Instead, I have been given the tasks to read and edit articles that will be published on the next issue of China Security.

As for my weekend, I took a trip to Hong Kong, which was a spur-of-the-moment decision. My friend Lingwen from Beijing told me that she has never been to Hong Kong and would not mind visiting there. I saw this as a great opportunity to go to Hong Kong, plus the travelling and hotel accommodations cost were not that expensive. So what was Hong Kong like? I would say INTENSE! There were a lot of shopping places and tourists everywhere. Hong Kong is very touristy compared to Beijing. The people for the most part all spoke English, making it relatively easy to get around. The prices were more expensive. The biggest contrast I see between Hong Kong and Beijing is the economic status. In Hong Kong, luxury goods were everywhere- real or fake. At the same time, I saw many female Filipino migrant workers who would congregate at various stations or parks in Hong Kong, socializing.

I was in Hong Kong for a total of three days and four nights. My friend and I did the best to see everything possible. We managed to go to two bar districts. What I found surprising was that in the news or in the movies there are portrayals of businessmen from overseas going to Asia and having a one night stand…. well it is one thing to hear about it or watch it, but another thing to witness it. While at a bar, there was a married man (which was apparent from the ring on his finger) flirting with two Hong Kong girls. After a few drinks they left. There was not just one case, but instead the whole area seemed to be like that. I guess you can say the first night in Hong Kong did not leave a good impression.

During the remainder of our trip we saw popular tourist attractions and places of interest. The Peak Tower provided a nice view of the city from a tall place. We managed to take a ferry to Lantau Island to see the fishing village Tai-O and the Giant Buddha statue at Ngong Ping. The lifestyle there is more rural than urban, giving me a different perspective of life in Hong Kong. However, when I returned to work in Beijing my supervisor told me that a police officer in Hong Kong told him that Tai-O use to be a point of drug smuggling. Interesting how things are not always what they seem.

After Lantua Island, we went to Kowloon which is across from Hong Kong Island. We saw a night view of Hong Kong from there. At nighttime there was a city night show, during which a majority of the buildings use their lights to put on a show. It was something I have never seen before. There was also an “Avenue of Stars” where we were at. It was like Hollywood’s Star of Fame, but instead it was with Hong Kong actors. I’ve also learned that Macau was only an hour away by a ferry right. I would have gone and visited Macau if I knew about it earlier, but it is something I can keep in mind now.

Hong Kong is also a shopper’s paradise ranging from overpriced boutiques to shopper stalls. Even the airport is like a high-end shopping mall. Each market in Hong Kong had a special characteristic such as Temple Street/Night Market and is also known for having fortune tellers of all sorts from palmistry and face reading to tarot cards. For fun, we had our fortune told. I’ll just wait and see if it comes true or not. I’ve also spoken with some friends from Beijing and when I told them I’m going to Hong Kong they all said: “Buy some cosmetics there, it’s cheaper than Beijing and much better.” I didn’t really buy any cosmetics but they were abundant.

Overall, Hong Kong is a city of East meets West. The history of Hong Kong has made it a unique place to visit. The influence of British culture is there, along with Chinese culture. Add in migrant workers from the Philippines and other countries and the culture there becomes very diverse. I wouldn’t want to live there or return anytime soon. However, I would recommend going there at least once to see what it’s like.

- Manith Hang

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