Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Hong Kong

Hong Kong is an old lover. Once I longed to move here, and might still given the right chance. Every few years I check back in.

I’ve been coming here since 1985. Even then, Hong Kong was Asia’s glitziest city, and despite competition from Tokyo and Shanghai, for me Hong Kong retains top honors. It's a vertical city jutting skyward from an exquisite harbour, rimmed by enough neon to give Vegas a run. And this week, rimmed by fireworks, as the city celebrates 10 years since it left British rule and became – at least nominally – part of China.

Unlike the rest of China, Hong Kong enjoys broad freedom of speech. It uses a different currency from the mainland – the Hong Kong dollar instead of the yuan – and flying here from the mainland is considered an international flight (complete with the usual hassles.)

Tonight it is raining, fists and spurts of downpour marked by periods of calm.

Hong Kong has a reputation for being one of the world’s truly expensive cities, and true, Canton Road is rimmed with the monikers of success: Coach, Chanel, Dior, Ferragamo. But it’s possible to stay in a good location without dropping a mint if you know about the YMCA hotels.

Most trips I’ve stayed at the YWCA Garden View with … yes … great views of the garden from the round tower on Hong Kong. I’ve longed to stayed in the Salisbury YMCA, which commands some of the city’s best real estate adjacent to the original Peninsula Hotel in Tsim Sha Tui. It's usually booked...but this time, a single ($100 US) was available. From my window, I can see straight into Peninsula guest rooms. Maybe next time I’ll finally stay here.

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