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Travel Image: Hong Kong
Travel Image: Hong Kong

Senses in a Blender: Hong Kong’s Multiple Personalities (cont.)

Rocking slowly with the waves on the historic ferry, I gazed at the skyline of the city’s Wanchai, Admiralty and Central areas. As the lights, and colors danced on the dark waters, I began to feel the enchantment of Hong Kong.

The ferry eased into its moorings, like a shuttle docking with a giant space station, and the gates opened to release the eager crowd. The solid wall of glass and steel buildings outside the ferry terminal cast a sharp contrast with Tsim Sha Tsui’s hawkers and street cafes, less than a mile away.

The high-end boutiques and chichi restaurants made me incredibly self-conscious about my attire. My casual uniform of cargo pants and a t-shirt that had blended seamlessly into to the chaos of Tsim Sha Tsui now felt out of place.

I found myself surrounded by a herd of corporate suits rushing in every direction with a conviction and drive that left me wondering where the fire was. I dove into the throng and made my way to the front of the HSBC Building, where I had arranged to meet my friend.

The unique, Norman Forster designed building dominates the Hong Kong skyline. It has come to represent the uncompromising business attitude of Hong Kong people. It better resembles science fiction than a financial center -- an exoskeleton of steel tubing connecting 47 glass stories.

The center of the building is raised above the ground, providing a walkway underneath and allowing the beauty of the design to be seen in all its glory. Standing at the base of the building I could see directly up through the open vertical atrium area to the executive floors some thirty stories above.

I was pleased to see my friend Tim waiting for me. I felt rescued even if it was by a member the suited mass. He looked me up and down.

“What?” I asked.

He produced an artificial smile and told me he knew the perfect place to take me. We walked back up the hill to Lan Kwai Fong, the city’s “party” district. Here, throngs of suits milled through the streets, beer in hand, loudly recounting the day’s million-dollar deals.

We turned up a small side street and Tim pointed to a small, softly lit bar at the end of the street. The sign above the door read, “Club 64.” The bar’s name commemorated the Beijing Massacre on June 4, 1989.

As we walked into the bar, the eclectic crowd and the mix of art and graffiti on the walls lifted the weight of self-consciousness from my tired shoulders. The bar hummed with the lively discussions of the writers, artists and political activists who made it their second home.

I ordered us a pint and sat down with a crowd of Tim’s friends -- some locals and some expatriates. As the beer flowed, we discussed the subtleties of a city with extreme multiple personalities. Later when we settled our tab, it became clear that while the bar’s ambience was unique, the prices were not. I had just bought two drinks for the cost of my entire dinner in Tsim Sha Tsui.

“Welcome to Hong Kong,” Tim said with a grin.

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