Hong Kong and Tokyo Adventures 2015 – Part One

Hong Kong

The first leg of the trip

One of the most amazing cities I’ve been to.

The last time I’ve been to Hong Kong was nearly two decades ago when I was six with both of my parents. I came back this time with my mom and partner to happily attend my cousin’s wedding. I am so proud of my cousin and his father. My uncle is second oldest of ten children before my mom and had to leave his family to escape the Vietnam War at seventeen. The boat refugees and other victims of war endured a great deal of pain. Many were killed or ransomed. My uncle while trying to escape to Hong Kong was captured and brought to Thailand by pirates. You can imagine how hard it is for his family to receive a ransom on top of previously having had no way to communicate or even know if he was still alive after letting him go. He eventually made it to Hong Kong in one piece, figuratively and literally with only what he had on him. Fortunately, Hong Kong’s official language was English and Cantonese (my family’s language). So he rented essentially a bunk bed and worked very hard to eventually get a place of his own, while learning English on the side. He met my wonderful aunt who struggled with him through the thick and thin while working, and now one of their child is a doctor and the other a social worker. My gentle, kind cousin married another doctor and now they both live at the top of a skyscraper!

Lots of English, Lots of Cantonese

Right off the plane, there was absolutely no problem finding our way around as everything was in English. Because both English and Cantonese are the official languages of Hong Kong, every sign and description is in both languages. Compared to Japan it was a very reassuring feeling to have signs and stops in English. Hearing Cantonese officially and commonplace was also a bit surreal and a feeling of being at home. Born and raised in the United States everything is English only with the occasional Spanish dual language, especially in Texas. There are efforts to make Spanish widely available too, so I feel kind of disenfranchised when they advocate another language other than English. At home it was solely Cantonese as it was easier for both my family and I to communicate. So it was such a weird but refreshing feeling to be able to speak Cantonese so freely. At first it was like a pinch-me-I’m-dreaming kind of situation, I would just go up to anyone using it as an opportunity to speak Cantonese freely, and to have them understand and communicate back normally was very soothing. Being in Hong Kong, my world had totally inverted asides from literally being on the other side of Earth. I spoke Cantonese outside, and spoke/translated English to my partner.

Mix between Western and Eastern Culture

Having been a British colony, much of what was British rule and influence is engrained into Hong Kong society such as the mixing English and Cantonese in their speech. As Chinese, Hong Kong citizens live under special rules, a continuation of British Common Law for 50 years. The legacy law allows for certain freedoms such as free speech. Combined with being a former British colony and being an international financial powerhouse attracts many professional Western expats to immigrate to Hong Kong for work. As a result, new ideas and cultures mix with the locals’. Christmas drew huge crowds to Tsim Sha Tsui and the whole city was filled with festivities. Afterwards, Hong Kong would prepare for the Chinese New Year ushering in the Year of the Monkey. You could imagine how comforting it feels to have the traditions I have at home and also have the culture I’m used to in the United States.

Gritty, common sense driven people

One clear example of the mix is the fast life of the West and the tenacious resiliency of the East. No matter which district you’re in, the city is always moving. Central has people in business running around the financial area. Posh shoppers in Admiralty. Night market and street food vendors in Mong Kok. Despite being in the East where filial piety and family values are extremely important (still is), there is a high degree of individualism. I think the only reason for foreigners to confuse Hong Kong otherwise is because of the dense, expensive housing due to lack of land. Children and parents often live together in addition to Eastern family values. Hong Kong’s individualism can be credited to its capitalistic nature, one of the easiest place on Earth to do business. Moral debate asides, you have to work hard to survive in Hong Kong due having very little safety nets compared to Western countries. Perhaps luckily, for better or worse, the people of Hong Kong are adaptive and strong. One thing for certain, though both Hong Kong and Tokyo are very dense societies, Hong Kong people are more willing to fit their way into a packed train if able to, and it’s understood by others inside the train to make room, compared to in Tokyo where order is supreme. Tokyo people are unwilling to get closer to one in order or fill empty spaces so that others may get on the train instead of having to wait for the next. I remember being late and having to tell a girl “Yo, move in, there’s room for three more people in front of you!” on an elevator.

Very efficient infrastructure and affordable transportation

We were told ahead of time to expect more people than the normally bustling Hong Kong during the end of year holidays on subways and everywhere. So despite transversing almost every station near the holidays, we never were too crowded or can’t get to where we needed to on public transportation, especially the MTR subways. The rail was always comfortably spaced and only really packed during peak hours. The next train will always arrive on time every one or two minutes as scheduled and even apologies were announced for a four minute delay. Always. I can get to anywhere in Hong Kong with certainty using the public transportation system despite it being one of the densest city on Earth. Buses and Taxi in heavy traffic will get to where we need without much delay. This is why Hong Kong is regarded as having one of the most efficient transportation system in the world. The fare itself is ridiculously cheap compared to Tokyo and most major cities, I can get from one end to another with a couple U.S. cents using the Octopus card. I spent at most $20 USD in Hong Kong compared to nearly $100 USD to get around Tokyo, granted there’s more land to cover. Nonetheless, cost of living is surprisingly noticeably cheaper in Tokyo than Hong Kong. Asides from transportation costs, where Tokyo is a lot more expensive, the food in terms of value is cheaper in Tokyo as well as cheaper housing.

Lots of retail workers

Housing in Hong Kong consist of sky-scrapping apartment buildings and gigantic shopping centers at their base. It’s ridiculous how much retail services exist in Hong Kong, almost 95% of all ground level businesses is some variation of retail from restaurants, clothing stores, beauty stores, to 7-11’s. I suppose it is a bit deceiving since the city is pretty much vertical! It makes sense to devote a floor out of fifty plus to support the people. If the above explains the large retail phenomenon then I had just mistakenly experienced a very disproportional representation of the retail industry. Otherwise, it would be worrying and saddening that so much of the population, young and old who also live in one of the most expensive places on Earth with little option of immigrating, rely on an industry that rarely confers the skills to branch out and innovate, to better oneself and others. Pay is usually capped at a relatively low rate for this very reason. Whether low paying or not, any productivity and wage is better than no productivity and no wage. As this blog pushes and what I push for myself, is the opportunity to focus productivity efficiently and to one’s true interest.

What’s also disparaging asides from the dead-end path of many retail position is with so much retail found, there must also follow the vast amount of consumption, draining those who are already making low wages. Live to work. Work to consume. Live to consume. Needless consumption when unaffordable, becomes an instant gratification providing a cheap joy. This example can be seen on my post regarding overconsumption.

Necessity of jobs

The stability of any society is dependent on having work for its citizens, no matter how skill-less or low paying. Citizens of any society as a whole, need to have a net contribution and productiveness, otherwise there will be hunger, a hunger for basic necessities, growth of living standards, and in general for the security of your family.

Hong Kong has a tremendous population that it has to govern and keep stable. With the limited amount of land, if it fails to provide work for it citizens to allow them to feed and house themselves, there will be unrest and the eventual collapse of a system that evidently fail for all citizens. Unlike Texas, where I can move to Middleofnowhere, Texas, where land is plentiful, cheap, and which I can sustain myself using the land, Hong Kong can barely afford you a patio. More than anywhere, I’ve been the necessity for jobs is clearly evident in Hong Kong. Luckily, there is a lot of wealth and productivity in the Hong Kong economy.

I hope you don’t misunderstand this as an insult of hardworking people or holier than thou. I too have worked in a position making millions for my employer, yet I was paid peanuts with my work unrecognized in form of compensation, let alone most importantly with no skills offered for me to grow. My employer and I were greatly mismatched in what we offered each other and our growth. I left in search of growing myself so that I may provide mutual value to others. Everyone plays a role in building and keeping the world running. I just wish to remove systems that promote stagnation  and subjugation of others for self-serving purposes, hindrance to improvement for all. I hope this blog and my posts may offer some inspiration to those who would like to leave what they feel unfair, using our own hands to make it fair for themselves and others.

Huge gaps of wealth

Undeniable, Hong Kong is one of the wealthiest cities in the world. Absolutely no exaggeration, there were more supercars and German luxury cars than any other car there excluding the numerous, famous Toyota Crown taxis. You can count for every 20 Mercedes and 20 BMW, 10 Lexus, and the few supercars there would be one Toyota on the road. Beyond the immediate glamour of supercars, countless luxury brands, and awing skyline, the staggering difference between the very wealthy and the common person is immense no matter where you are on Earth. I strive to be wealthy, with the goal of allocating resources to improve humanity. Money talks, and I want to be the voice to those unheard one day. My uncle and family would not have to escape as refugees, nor the countless lives murdered had it not been for money dictating wars. So innovation and the money that comes with it, serves doubly to improve human lives.

Hong Kong was a wonderful experience, I got to witness the future of my uncle after escaping war that was brought to them and went on to build themselves with nothing through grits and dream. I witnessed the immense gaps of wealth and productivity, reaffirming my desire to close the gap by bringing myself and others up through unafraid originality. Innovation is the creator of wealth. I have the opportunity in this life to improve humanity. Needless to say, I believe in working hard to reach this life goal, and also believe in helping others meet this goal who want to better themselves and others. The Gospel of Wealth termed by Andrew Carnegie.

It would be a shame after my post about my experience in Hong Kong to neglect telling you to try the Chinese barbecue, especially the roast pork, wonton noodle soup, congee with preserved duck egg and pork, and hand-made dim sum. You can find my videos of the Hong Kong trip on my youtube channel.  They’re alot lighter noted than my observations 🙂

Check out Part Two – Tokyo