A sign at the top of a flight of stairs (Pingyao, China 2005)
Itâ€™s certainly interesting to walk around Hong Kong and try to figure out whether the local people seem more British or more Chinese. After all, the group of islands were already claimed by the British in 1842. Since 1997 they were â€˜given backâ€™ to China, resulting in their current status of Special Administrative Region. It must have led to, or maybe still causes, quite an identity crises, to go from being a part of Great Britain, to being a part of China.
After spending almost three days in Hong Kong and observing everyone I run into, I must say that it seems as if the people of Hong Kong havenâ€™t made up their minds yet.
Traffic still moves on the left side of the road, which is an inheritance from the Brits. But pedestrians are in limbo. When walking on the sidewalks (another souvenir from European colonisation) Hong Kong citizens tend to walk on the right side, but they are not very consistent . Especially at subway stations this can lead to confusing moments and occasional collisions.
Hungry station: for when you're hungry (Hong Kong)
Then there is the fact that very few people in Hong Kong speak English. True, itâ€™s easier to talk to someone in a hotel or touristic attraction in Hong Kong than it is in China, but itâ€™s still quite an adventure to order food in a small restaurant or ask for directions.
The modern malls of Hong Kong are stuffed with expensive western designer clothing, shoes, sunglasses and other so-called wannahaves.
Names and logoâ€™s of Gucci, Prada, Dior, Calvin Klein, Dolce & Gabbana, Chanel and Donna Karen are plastered all over the city. But then again, if you leave one of these malls or shopping areaâ€™s you can end up at a traditional temple or small and authentic dim-sum restaurant within seconds.
Please, no spontaneous combustion in this area (Ocean Park, Hong Kong)
In most restaurants there are a fork and spoon on the table (sometimes even a knife), and you would have to ask for chopsticks, which is the opposite situation from China. There are of course several restaurants like Pizza Hut, MacDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken, but there are very few places in the world where you cannot get hot chicken wings or a Big Mac.
The Temple Street Night Market shows most of Hong Kongâ€™s Chinese roots, with all its karaoke-stands, fortune tellers and men playing a game of Mah Jong in front of their houses. But visiting the Symphony of Lights at the Avenue of the Stars (a light show with music at Hong Kongâ€™s skyline) gives a predominately western feeling.
No Hawking?! (Hong Kong)
Thereâ€™s one thing that makes Hong Kong an identical twin of mainland China, and that are the numerous hilarious signs that can be found all over town. In northern China we already found countless great â€˜Chinglishâ€™ signs, like: â€˜Be down from hereâ€™ at the top of a flight of stairs. Or â€˜Be careful of landslidesâ€™ at another flight of stairs and the â€˜Have no smoke areaâ€™.
In Hong Kong we found some more instant classics. First one was the â€˜Hungry Stationâ€™ as a name for a small restaurant. Thereâ€™s also the comical â€˜Donâ€™t alight hereâ€™ we found at Ocean Park. It seems as if it has something to do with spontaneous combustion, but it turned out it warned not to light a cigarette there. And finally there was a sign that said: â€˜No hawkingâ€™.
It was at a parking lot from a hotel not too far from the Avenue of the Stars where they had put this message and it has been keeping me up at night ever since.
Does it mean that hawks are not allowed to fly there? Or that they are allowed to fly there, but not to land in that area? Why do they think a hawk could ever read the sign? Or does it say that they donâ€™t want people to look at others there (as in: â€˜hawk eyeâ€™, watching someone or something very closely). It remains a mystery to me.
Suggestions of alternate translations are welcome.