Acres of neon winking. As soon as the liberty boat touches the dock you feel the East
pressing in on you. Hong Kong is British owned, and British operated, but it is staffed –
and largely managed – by Asia. You know who’s in the minority as soon as you jostle
your way down the street. You may be stronger and taller than anyone else, but
suddenly you are aware that there are 480,000,000 ChineseThere is an air of gayety
and prosperity on Queen’s Street. The young men are dressed in shorts or slacks and
sports shirts or linen suits. The girls are striking, in their silk or linen sheaths, slashed
from the knee in what is called the Shanghai slit.
Ferry from Kowloon to Victoria is the Star Ferry – slip at Victoria is Connaught Road.
When the ferry docks, the people rush off as if it were a subway in Times Square.
I don’t think Hong Kong ever really closes down. The restaurants and cafes and
intimate clubs and taxi dance halls are always packed, and even the stores remain
open until almost midnight. Every street is like Fourteenth Street, Manhattan, on
Everywhere, in the neon canyons or the steep lantern-lit alleys, people tugged at your
arm and whisper what I could buy. You can buy and sell anything in Hong Kong,
including gold and diamonds and opium and people.
Early in the morning I left the bright lights and wandered down by the waterfront,
where shabby junks and darkened launches were unloading or loading who knew
what cargo. I began to notice that every doorway was packed with men and women
curled up in sleep. When the gutters began to fill up with people and sleepers began
to clutter the sidewalks, so that it was necessary to walk with care so not to step on
them. Later I discovered that half a million people sleep on the streets of Hong Kong
every night. The Chinese have a fondness for forming organizations, for mutual
protection. These people call themselves simply, “The Society of Those Who Sleep in
In Hong Kong you can buy everything cheaper than anywhere else in the world. You
can buy Swiss watches cheaper than in Switzerland, and British woolens cheaper than
in England, and Japanese cameras cheaper than in Japan. You can buy American
goods much cheaper than in the United States.
Hong Kong is a free port, with no customs duties, and no sales tax. Furthermore, Hong
Kong is the city where the twain finally met, so that the goods of every nation were on
sale. If you brought a bargain-happy wife to Hong Kong I doubt that you would ever
persuade her to leave the place.