Megamalls and Clumsy Change


When I left NYC there was no evidence that the Sun exists. When I landed in HK, there was still none. The first ten days of my stay were filled with cumulonimbus clouds and grape-sized rain droplets. Stepping outside is like entering a sauna or breathing with a hot wet rag smothering your face. The CEOs here are taking three to four showers a day to gain short-lived relief from all the humidity-induced stickiness.

Some brief musings about HK:

1. HK (and China for that matter) is not ethnically diverse compared to NYC. The city’s 95% Chinese. 2. There are so many mega-malls that look exactly alike. Armies of cleaning staff ensure they are all freakishly clean.

Mao is rolling in his grave.
These malls cause you to feel like a lab rat in a Escher-like maze.

They are chock-full of foreign brands like Bossini, Giorgio Armani, and Louis Vuitton – brands I am neither able nor willing afford. Curiously, there are relatively few Chinese brands.

3. Western influence on HK is very apparent. The British legacy lives on in cars driving down the left hand side of the road, double-decker buses, British spellings, and women using umbrellas as parasols on sunny days. Meanwhile, America’s footprint manifests itself in McDonalds and KFC.

4. Coins are inconveniently large and heavy. You can easily find yourself loaded down with five pounds of change in your pockets.

HK’s banks print their own money, resulting in a variety of bills of the same denominations.

HK bills
The whole monetary machine is somehow overseen and lubricated by the HK Monetary Authority.

5. HK is an extremely wasteful city when it comes to air conditioning. The AC’s on full blast in every public building while doors (if any exist) are left fully ajar. There’s neither a powerful stream of air near the doorway nor thick plastic strips to prevent the cold air from dissipating.

6. Hong is dead serious about “resisting the virulent swine flu together.”

HK health form
A swine flu health form mandatory for entering HK.

Subway and megamall employees periodically wipe down escalator handrails. The city has shut off public water fountains and proudly announced that their door handles are “disinfected four times a day.”

7. Vegetarians are not well accomodated in HK (or China for that matter, where confessions of being a vegetarian are treated with wonder and amazement). Take for example this menu from an average noodle bar: