Story and Photo by Tiffany Han
I am surrounded by people on all sides—there’s hardly room to move. People are pushing past one another as we shuffle our way down the street. Vendors selling food, clothing, and a dizzying amount of impractical, yet desirable trinkets line both sides of the narrow street, leaving little room for the masses that have swarmed the market. As time drags on, I look at the people surrounding me and realize what it’s like to live in a city with over seven million residents.
I arrived in the metropolis of Hong Kong during the rush of the Christmas holidays. It was my first time traveling to China, and I was unprepared for the commotion that lay ahead of me. Although I didn’t anticipate that Christmas was celebrated in Hong Kong, the entire city was buried under elaborate decorations and echoed with classic Christmas songs. Dull buildings were transformed by ornate displays of lights illuminating the city. The holiday mayhem made an already crowded city twice as overwhelming.
Amid the chaos of the city, an evening ferry ride from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island gave me a much-needed moment of peace. The city filled the sky with layers of skyscrapers, looking like a scene from a futuristic movie. I encountered people from all over the world. Those who were born in the city and have no reason to leave witnessed the slow and gradual transformation of the city into the cosmopolitan center it is today. As a waiter with kind eyes and passable English brings my bowl of hand-pulled noodles, he tells me that the price is the same as it was 60 years ago, when the restaurant first opened. He grumbles that it takes him 3 times as long to get to work as it did back then, due to the floods of people migrating to Hong Kong and stifling the city.
Every so often, a proper English accent passes me on the street as a reminder of Hong Kong’s history as a former British colony. Familiar American voices I overhear on the MTR (Mass Transit Railway) talk about how they’ve uprooted their lives to move across the world in order to take advantage of the city’s rich opportunities. The disparate perspectives that make up Hong Kong are unique in creating an identity that can no longer be tied to a specific person.
During the few short days I spent in Hong Kong, I experienced a city difficult to keep up with. Though the xiaolongbao, or soup dumplings, are reason enough to make the journey to Hong Kong, the time I spent there seemed like a blur similar to the reflection of skyscrapers on the cool waters of the harbor.