March 07, 2015
In January John and I visited Hong Kong. The internet in Vietnam became painfully and unbearably slow; so slow that we were constantly in a bad mood and ready to kill each other but couldn’t really figure out why. Turns out one of the two undersea cables out of the country had been clipped. Estimations for repairs were a few weeks, so we decided to spend one of those weeks in Hong Kong visiting a friend.
Hong Kong is a very international city. It’s really easy to get around speaking just English, which probably has something to do with the fact that Britain controlled Hong Kong for about 159 years (1841-1997 minus 1941-1945 when Japan controlled it). The original conflict between Britain and China began in the 1930s over the manufacturing and exportation of opium. The conflict soon grew beyond Opium and included differences in opinion on diplomatic relations, trade, and administration of justice.
Basically, the British East India Company was making opium and selling it to people in China. The Chinese government was alarmed at the growing number of opium addicts in the country so they attempted to halt the trade of opium by seizing a whole lot of it without compensation. Britain was pissed. Although they acknowledged China’s right to control imports of the drug in their country, they declared this arbitrary seizure objectionable because of the lack of compensation for the goods and used their navy and ‘gunnery powder’ to bomb the Chinese to hell and high water .
This lead to the Treaty of Nanking and part of that treaty was compensation for the goods seized in the form of Hong Kong island. The treaty also opened up more ports for trading since prior to the Opium Wars, China was largely self-sufficient and closed off from trade with the outside world. The British were ultimately unsatisfied with the Treaty of Nanking (you can read more here if you’re a history buff), and there was a second Opium War. The second Opium War resulted in even more ports being opened up for trade to Britain, France, the US, and Russia.
The food in Hong Kong is incredibly rich (aka high fat high calories). We came from Vietnam where the food is very fresh and very simple, so the contrast was a little startling for us. The city is also very expensive; even more so than San Francisco or New York. While you can get local food very cheaply, the average meal at a restaurant was about $100 USD for 2 people. By contrast, we’ve been spending about $10 USD for 2 people per meal in Vietnam.
I am obsessed with the subway in Hong Kong; it might be the greatest thing I've seen on our trip to Asia so far. It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. It’s fast, clean, and efficient. You’re not allowed to eat or drink on the subway, so the seats are clean from spills and crumbs. There are glass doors that close around the train so there's not fear of people falling on the tracks before the train comes. If every city had this kind of public transportation the world would be a better place.
Hong Kong is situated on an island just off mainland China. The city of Hong Kong is very densely populated, but it is surrounded by a lot of beautiful hills and nature. Hiking is a pretty popular activity for people who live in and around Hong Kong, so Jason and his friends took us on a hike around one of the reservoirs outside the city. Back when the British controlled Hong Kong, China withheld water from the area forcing the British to supply all water to the city themselves. Thus, they built some very impressive, very large water reservoirs outside the city that are no longer used.
Here's everyone using a go-pro on a selfie stick to take a picture.