Hong Kong is a forest of towering skyscrapers rooted in the city’s dirty, rugged streets, standing under an opaque canopy of haze that perennially hangs in the sky. They are gleaming monuments of the city’s powerful financial industry and a reflection of Hong Kong’s status as one of the most densely populated places in the world. Despite the dearth of available land for further construction, one can still spot open craters where workers are hurriedly sowing the seeds for new towers, signaling that this full city hasn’t, and probably won’t, stop growing any time soon.
With over 6,000 people per square kilometer, Hong Kong’s streets are also teeming with life, culture, conversation, and grit. People rush off the buses, spill into the streets, dart towards street food vendors, rush uphill through its alleys, and march into the subway tunnels. Raw meat hangs from hooks in open storefronts waiting to get carried away in the rush. Store signs and adverts branch off from every building hoping to ensnare the hurried passersby. Dueling, often times rebellious, political messages litter the landscape, trashing the Communist Party and debating the meaning of Mao Zedong’s legacy. Magazine/cigarette shops stand like stumps on the street corners offering every conceivable kind of publication on the planet, from newspapers to magazines to pornography. And a colorful bouquet of posters plaster every wall, pointing the traffic in the direction of new opportunities and risqué weekend escapades.
Once you get past Hong Kong’s brusque, rough manner, you’ll find the city endearing for its honesty. Unlike Singapore, it doesn’t try to be a tourist Mecca for the travel weary. And the city’s frenetic pace suggests it certainly isn’t interested in setting your mind at ease. It seeks only to be itself, uninhibited and unsympathetic. And while it does have its share of tourist attractions, they are only sideshows to its main attraction: Hong Kong’s streets, the very embodiment of the city’s life and primal spirit.