Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Bottle Overflows

The population of Hong Kong last year was figured at 7 million "usual residents," as opposed to "mobile residents." In July of this year, the number of visitors from mainland China, according to yesterday's SCMP, was 4.9 million for the month. This number is expected to dwindle to a mere 4 million visitors per month now that China's economy is cooling off a little.

That is, of course, a staggering number to someone who grew up in a state with a population that was far below a million people. It is even more staggering when I consider that more than half of the total population of all of Hong Kong (including Kowloon and the New Territories) floods into this area every month.

It explains a lot, including why I no longer enjoy Hong Kong as I used to. There are just too many people in places I used to love--Nathan Road, the Star Ferry, the core of Hong Kong Island, the train that travels between Kowloon and the Chinese border. Most of them have a wheeled suitcase to transport goods back over the border, which makes the crowding even more problematic.

When I first visited Hong Kong, almost seven years ago, it was far from underpopulated but it was navigable. Now it's a claustrophobe's nightmare and a shopping frenzy the likes of which I have never seen anywhere--and I am a survivor of Bangkok's Chatuchak Market. This is changing parts of the city that used to make me want to come and wander--luggage stores and currency exchanges are crowding out noodle shops near Nathan Road and fabric shops in Chungking Mansions. It makes me think of the disappearing grasslands in Wolf Totem and I realize this may be my last visit to Hong Kong.

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