Hong Kong

We arrived in Hong Kong in the early evening with dusk already descending on the city of 8 million inhabitants. Established as a colony by the British in 1842, the peninsula grew rapidly in the 1960s and 70s as the economy boomed and the population had grown due to migration from China after the establishment of the communist party in 1949. There is now a curious mix of Chinese and British influences. The locals first language is Cantonese (both Shanghai and Beijing speak Mandarin) but virtually everybody also speaks English. The cars drive on the left side of the road (where as the rest of China drives on the right) and all the road markings are the same style as those in Britain. Yet all the people are Chinese with traditional Chinese restaurants and foods available from the street vendors.

The first obvious thing is how much more commercial Hong Kong is when compared to Shanghai. The shops are packed and people clearly have more money to spend. There is much more Western food available to buy which will probably be a welcome break with the students next year after a week and a half in mainland China.

We only had a day to explore Hong Kong. The morning was spent visiting with the staff of the Hong Kong Music Office. YOSA’s tour orchestra will give a joint performance with the Hong Kong Youth Symphony so we needed to discuss the concert program, the logistics of having over 150 young musicians performing on the same stage, which instruments they would be able to lend to us (primarily percussion and double bass instruments) and how they handle publicity. They run 6 different youth orchestras as well as a traditional Chinese instrument orchestra. With over 5,000 also receiving group lessons, this government run music program is a large operation. We then went to visit the Kwai Ching Performance Center where we will perform. This lovely 900 seat hall is an ideal venue. Boasting one of the best acoustics in Hong Kong, it also serves a diverse range of performances from dance to theater as well as music. We had some lengthy discussion with the stage manager as to how we will fit all the musicians on stage so it was certainly helpful to be able to get into the venue to see this for myself.

In the afternoon we scoped out some of the tourist sites. We were able to fly around the main places to visit quite quickly as we had a driver willing to drop us off and circle the block while we looked at each tourist spot. We will be able to show the students the magnificent views of the modern Hong Kong skyline from Victoria Peak. We’ll climb to this vista via the traditional cable car ride. Another highlight will be Stanley Market where the original ‘knock off’ clothes items went on sale. The area has kept its appeal for the bargain hunter even though the discount items are now more readily available to discount stores on the main shopping streets. Another delight is Aberdeen where the fisherman’s life continues despite the decades of industrial growth around their community. We took a short ride on a boat which gave us a good view of the harbor and a good drive by view of the infamous Jumbo Shrimp, the world largest floating restaurant.

In the evening we walked about 20 minutes from our hotel down to the Kowleen water front and watched the famous Hong Kong light show. While music is pumped out of the speakers along the waters edge, the skyscrapers across the water host a stunning light and laser display. Each of the building lights up in time with the music.

Our stay in was brief and I’m glad I get to spend a little more time here next summer. It is a truly vibrant, exciting, and unique city.

Steven Payne

View of Hong Kong's skyline from Victoria's Peak

View of Hong Kong's skyline from Victoria's Peak

Hong Kong Hotel

Hong Kong Hotel


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