Hong Kong – Day 1

All right: it’s late and I’m more than a bit drunk. I have very little to say, and a computer to help me do it.
I’m told this is exactly what blogging is about, so here goes.

The language

You know, for a guy who prides himself in being quite the world-traveler sort, I must admit I arrived here shamefully unprepared. As it turns out, it seems the whole extent of my Cantonese vocabulary is approximately two words, which is even less than what I knew of Japanese before arriving there, and basically not even enough to say thank you at the store without resorting to imperialistic idioms. Furthermore, whatever small remnants of my stays in mainland China I may have (essentially: numbers from one to twelve and ways to order drinks, thanks to endless nights spent playing dice at Xiandu’s one and only world-class nightclub) may as well be Russian for all they care: Cantonese and Mandarin have indeed nothing in common.

The cool part of it all, is the writing… and the realization that my kanji skills are not as bad as I thought they were. Even a very puny reader of Japanese like myself is able to decipher a rough 30% of all public writings (signs, menus etc.) and, when times really call for it, push across to the local a few semantics of my own. You should have seen me and how incredibly proud of myself I was, when I managed to get shown the direction of the bay (wherein my hotel lies), after scribbling the kanjis for “sea” and “coast” to some incredulous local merchants…

My brightest idea of the week undeniably came yesterday, when I opted to pack my old Japanese keitai with me (usually serves as a back-up camera and optional Japanese vocabulary helper for my daily manga reading): made the writing (i.e. “speaking”) part that much easier, especially for somebody like me with more than approximative kanji handwriting skills… Definitely a weird feeling (and not only for me), but utterly rewarding nonetheless.

The sights

Following Jonathan‘s great advice (he should be a freelance guide in Hong Kong: he definitely has the skills for it), I went and did a quick roundup of the typical touristy stuff there is to do in Hong Kong. Still, either because of the season or the day, most of the places I went to weren’t that crowded. Fairly quiet, even, in the case of the Big Buddha in Po Lin… Which made it all the more enjoyable.

Must be the Tokyoite in me talking, but I was amazed at how much real natural landscape there is in HK. As soon as you leave the city itself, it seems quite common to spot entire hills devoid of any construction or pristine beaches on the side of the road… Definitely not something you’d see in Tokyo and its surrounding. Of course, Tokyo’s got its parks, but being able to go to a real beach in HK, in less than it would take you to go to Yokohama from Shinjuku, makes it an incredibly cool place in my book.

On the other hand, the fact that the whole place seems perpetually shrouded in a veil of smog that makes Tokyo look like a febreeze commercial in comparison, is a serious downside… How is it possible to keep that much dioxydes when you are surrounded by water on all sides?…

OK. The rest tomorrow, as I am starting to fall asleep on my keyboard, usually the time where I start repeating myself to no end… Did I tell you about kanjis and Cantonese?

1 comment

  1. Ah, the case of 雞同鴨講 (lit. chicken with duck speak)… Mandarin itself varies across China and you were probably far enough south with what you did pick up being quite different to “Standard” (Northern) Mandarin. There’s also the possibility what you learnt wasn’t Mandarin at all, but rather the local dialects Wu, Hui or perhaps Min?

    As for Hong Kong, the locals more or less “expect” Westerners to speak English (even if they aren’t fluent themselves), so when Westerners do manage fairly fluent Cantonese or Mandarin, it causes the linguistic areas of the brain to jam… you may as well have been speaking Russian 😉

    Much kudos in being able to use your Japanese keitai in being able to write your point across however, and I’m sure it must have been a weird experience for the locals. I do wonder if any of them picked up it was actually kanji, and not hanzi that you were writing?

    Hong Kong does benefit from the strange quirk of geography (and history), ending up as an extremely dense, yet green place. Travelling the distance of Yokohama to Shinjuku in Hong Kong would actually take you out of the territory, into either China (Shenzhen) or half-way across to Macau, that other oddball ex-colony of Portuguese flavour.

    Regarding the smog… you have neighbouring Shenzhen and Guangdong to blame for that. Just seems to hang over Hong Kong once it has travelled a little way south. In any case, definately a lot cleaner than say back in the 60’s to 80’s when Hong Kong was choking in air pollution of its own making! 😉

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