New York City is the quintessential urban environment in the Americas. Over on the other side of the globe there are some tough contenders. Beijing is too polluted, Shanghai has killer traffic, and Singapore can be repressive. So my favorite is Hong Kong.
What makes Hong Kong perfect? Well, like all great cities it is highly urban. Traffic, tall buildings, masses of people. It also has a powerful personality all its own; when you are in Hong Kong you know it.
But what I loved about it when I lived there was that you can buy anything. The city has been a center of trade for hundreds of years. I remember stepping into an alleyway news vendor’s pitch — all it was was publications stuck to the brick wall in makeshift bamboo racks presided over by a wizened old man who spoke only Cantonese — and buying copies of Aquaman comics. There was probably no other place in Asia where you could do that in the 70′s.
And every great city has to have great food. Chinese food in Hong Kong is actually better than it is in China– if you are a good chef you can make lots more money there. Which brings me to the other essential requisite, money. Lots and lots of money flowing in and out has gotten Hong Kong a subway system, skyscrapers, all kinds of jazzy amenities. I haven’t been back there in years, but I love it still.
A short story has just been added to my Bookshelf: