Thursday, June 24, 2010

I havent had much time to update the blog while in Hong Kong as everyday has been filled with plenty to see and do, leaving me exhausted when I get back to the Mansions at night. Hong Kong is a fascinating place to visit, and aimlessly wandering always yields something of great interest. One of the best (and most dangerous) aspects of Hong Kong is the accessibility to just about anything I want to do, buy, eat, etc.

It's like the scene in a zombie movie where the main characters find themselves in a grocery store or mall and momentarily forget about the nightmare outside by losing themselves in unbridled consumption. Hong Kong is an example of consumption in overdrive, where you move through mall space almost continuously, as it is integrated into all metro areas. When you wander at street level, you are invariably surrounded by 7-Elevens every 3 stores, mixed with jewelry shops, camera stores, juice bars, and boutique clothing. The model of the city is the convenience store, where you can easily procure anything with a certain anonymity and with minimal personal transactions.

The Octopus card embodies this ideal so perfectly. The card was originally created to make metro usage and payment seamless, removing the need to use coins, tickets, etc from the process. It is a contactless, RFID-based smart card that stores value, which you can add to at machines found at all metro stations. It has grown beyond just metro usage and is now accepted at many convenience stores, fast food restaurants, and vending machines. As it is RFID based, you dont need to withdraw it from your wallet like a magnetic strip based card, but just wave your wallet near the card reader. It is perfectly convenient for a city that seems to strive for it.

On the other hand, the traditional street markets represent a very low-tech but all the more exciting venue for those unaccustomed to it. Under the dripping rain and neon glow, the street markets are just stunning. I cant help but be fascinated by the many butcheries, where meat hangs on display, cuts of fish are laid out for you, and shops are just filled wall to wall.

I could go on, but I am rushing to catch my flight to Shanghai tonight. Ive heard is blocked by the Great Firewall of China, so I may be absent for the next 10 days or so. If flickr works, which it should, I can at least update through there, so we will see.

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