I came back this week from a short trip to Hong Kong and Beijing, my first time to that magnificent city, and my fifth trip overall to the mainland. All I can say for now is that Taipei is very laidback and full of space and sparse compared to Hong Kong, especially Kowloon. I don’t know how long it can last, but I have a newfound appreciation for Taipei, spacewise. It was hot, crowded, and humid while I was in Hong Kong, that for now, I feel no crowd or hot weather in Taiwan can faze me. On the other hand, that’s not to say I don’t like crowds. Sometimes, Taipei can be too laidback and too placid. Beijing was better than I expected, and hopefully this is not the last time for me there.
(Added June 9) Some things I came away with from HK:
– People always laud Taiwan people for being friendly and polite, especially service staff. I’d say HK service staff are just as polite, whether it be in banks, malls, stores and the airport. Even taxi drivers in HK can be helpful and talkative; my father was in HK for the first time in almost 30 years and several drivers had no problem indulging his many questions on changes and developments. Where the difference starts to be apparent though is at the more working-class or informal levels, such as bus drivers, and small eating places. In Taiwan, even in the smallest and grimmiest eating places, the staff are usually pleasant and polite, no different from say, in a fancy restaurant.
– Sure, Hong Kong is a world-famous city with a great skyline, a world-class financial industry, and full of luxury shopping and hotels, but a lot of HK is gritty, packed, even squalid urban areas, sleepy rural areas and hills. Taipei isn’t exactly wide open, but in contrast to HK, it’s much more spacious, definitely less crowded, and despite a fair share of ugly residential buildings and small, twisting streets with no pavements, generally seems better-looking in appearance and maintenance.
– Mainland Chinese tourists get a lot of criticism and ridicule for their supposed poor behaviors and rustic manners. This attitude is widespread in Hong Kong, which gets loads and loads of mainland tourists. Yet I would say that some gratitude should be felt for mainland tourists, many of whom spend a lot and contribute to HK. I saw mainlanders at a few places I went to and I think without their patronage, attendance would drop severely. Sure, mainland tourists can be loud, but they also contribute to the atmosphere and are good for business.