I thought it appropriate that my first travelogue should be about the country of my birth – Hong Kong. Although a popular tourist destination, Hong Kong has never held the same allure for me as it does many of my friends and the millions of tourists who flock there each year. Some go there for the cultural experience without too much of a culture shock (as English is still one of the languages spoken there, in addition to Chinese Mandarin and Cantonese), whilst others consider it a shoppers’ mecca. Many foreigners still live and work there given its status as a major trading centre for South East Asia. So this particular travelogue will not be so much a guide for tourists looking for travel tips as a walk down memory lane from my perspective.
Since my family emigrated from HK nearly 30 years ago, I have hardly looked back at Hong Kong with much affection, if any. I know it sounds harsh and many people may be offended by this admission, but Australia has been my home for most of my life and I hope will remain so for its remainder. The Hong Kong that I grew up in was polluted, crowded, noisy, dirty, smelly (ironically, the definition of Hong Kong in Chinese is “Fragrant Harbour”), and had signs in public parks that read “KEEP OFF THE GRASS”. So it is little wonder that I fell in love with Australia from the moment I stepped foot on the grassy pavements and the wide-open spaces.
Having said that, a lot has changed for the better in the tiny country, now formally known as Hong Kong SAR (Special Administrative Region). Old buses have been replaced by new gas and electric-powered buses, reducing the pollution levels significantly; smoking indoors is prohibited; and with the outbreak of SARS in 2003 resulting in fatalities, hygiene has become a major focus in public areas. And so, in the last few years, my appreciation for this tiny island, or rather, group of islands, has grown. It is a country that is ever-changing, and I find that the more I travel around the world, the more I appreciate all the things that Hong Kong has to offer.