There are places in this world that just take your breath away, time seems to stop and you realise you are standing in a very special place. It could be because of important historical events that took place there, because you spent your whole life watching these cities immortalised in movies, or because they are so visually/architecturally spectacular. Hong Kong is one of these cities.
I wondered for a moment whether it’s due to spending a limited amount of time somewhere (I’ve taken three week-long trips to HK over the past few years), but I don’t think it is. Perhaps it does play a role, and growing up somewhere might mean you take it for granted or see it in a different light. But there are cities in my top 5 where I have spent up to a year and still find them enchanting and spectacular.
I have called Birmingham, UK my home since I was 18 years old. I moved there from a small city 30km away for university, and although I spent a year abroad during my degree and a year in China post-graduation, it is the place I’ve called home since then. Even after moving back to China 6 months ago and giving up all physical connections to the city – I now have no flat there, no job, no family – it is still home. And when I move back to the UK, it will be my ultimate destination. Despite this, it is still up there as one of my favourite cities and during the years I spent there, I had many a moment I felt the special feeling of a wonderful place. I don’t think that will fade with time.
It’s not that I don’t like Guilin and a week in Hong Kong is breath of fresh air, allowing me to enjoy home comforts and international foods. I enjoy living in China, studying Chinese and observing Chinese culture here. It is what I left my home, my job and my family for.
Hong Kong is simply a spectacular city. The scenary, both natural and man-made, is stunning – the skylines from both sides of the harbour, the green mountain peaks, winding roads through Mid-Levels, the beautiful beaches. Not only the scenary but the culture which allows East and West to live alongside each other, or moreover, to mush into a new culture where both are valued and respected. It’s both exciting and peaceful, it’s metropolitan but full of green spaces, has ancient temples and modern shopping malls. Chinese culture and cuisine is highly valued, but so are maintaining clean streets and smoke-free restaurants.
It may be something to do with acceptance. All the cities in my list (below) have something of a multiculture. One of my favourite places in Birmingham is Chinatown! One of Berlin’s best features is the many donner kebab shops (with it having been invented by the Turkish in Berlin). London has residents who speak more than 300 languages between them. I think it makes me feel comfortable yet excited to live in a city which accepts all. And I certainly feel accepted in Hong Kong. Whilst the map in my hand may give me away as a tourist, I feel I fit in in HK, and I can’t wait for my next trip!
My top 5 cities:
- Birmingham, UK
- New York
- Hong Kong
- Berlin, Germany
- London, UK
(with Shanghai closely making the list, and many more cities I haven’t visited yet)