As I flew to Hong Kong I had a few images rolling in my mind: a futuristic Anime or an Hong Kong action flick, despite that I’m not a hardcore fan of either of those genres. I was expecting a massive movie set: vintage neon lights, tall colorful posters that cover an entire facade, massive big screens or small blinking LED signs lighting the streets. Obviously there was more to this trip than that, more than just “that” Hong Kong, more than just cities and streets, but the visual reference most vivid in my mind was a chaotic universe of lights and colors that seemed to come out of a movie. And I ended up looking for that cinematic world not only in Hong Kong, but also in Macau and Taiwan.
Despite all sparkling casinos, it wasn’t what draw my attention in Macau, maybe because it’s too artificial, inflated with air and soulless. And in the narrow streets around Ruins of Saint Paul, while charming and full of character, you end up hitting a wall of busy tourists carrying boxes of egg tarts to take back. I found my movie set elsewhere, while walking further North, until I couldn’t seem the flash casinos between the dark concrete buildings of the city, by the quarters closer to the Red Market and the border.
In Taiwan I found a different China, a tidier and more organized one. And specially in Taipei, a bustling city with street crossings where you’re surrounded by screens and lights and, for a brief moment, all traffic stops and people walk from all directions. With trendy neighborhoods filled with hipster shops, tasty night markets where people line up for the best midnight treats, and by those food stands are entire halls screaming loud music to lure inside, to its dozens claw machines filled with useless toys. It’s a different China, one where you feel the distance from mainland and the proximity of Japan.
Finally there was Hong Kong, the last stop before flying home and the main character of that cinematic world in my mind. The chaotic metropolis where the old and new share the same crowded and limited space: the shiny skyscraper built every other year will surely have passing underneath it trams that have been doing the same route for more than 100 years, just like the ferries crossing Victoria Harbour. On the other margin it gets even more stimulating, with the busy and chaotic quarters of Kowloon: streets packed with markets selling every kind of useless stuff, packed with people trying go through the little available space and, above them, large neon signs try to fighting for their attention. And those haven’t disappoint me at all!