Wednesday, October 15, 2008

World Tour: Hong Kong

Hong Kong overwhelms the visitor with its great density, dramatic vistas of highrise buildings, and the busy harbor.


From Victoria Peak, you get a good grasp of what it looks like when you have 7 million people living in a small space like this: The highrises look almost a little too tall and skinny for their own good.


Beyond the upscale shopping in Central, the fake watch hawkers in Kowloon, and the crushing density of Mongkok, Hong Kong has many peculiarities.


Against all economic incentive, shops that sell similar goods are all clustered together: For example, in Wan Chai, there is a block of a dozen shops which all sell high-end kitchen goods. In Kowloon, there is a street with pet shops selling only birds. Normally, retailers would want to be as far from their competitors as possible, in order to create a local monopoly. Is this government regulation at play or do all the stores belong to the same owner?


One thing I hadn't realized is that Hong Kong's center is on an island: Before the subway (1980) and the cross-harbor tunnel (1972), the only way to get to the financial center of Hong Kong was by boat.


I always wondered why Britain gave back Hong Kong to China. Here's what the Rough Guide says: The reason, ironically, seems to be the influx of people escaping communism: In the 1960s, millions of people fed from China to Hong Kong. The government was forced to heavily populate the New Territories, leased from China for 99 years in 1898. Dozens of planned new towns sprung up in the territory they were supposed to eventually give back to China, and became an economic unit with Hong Kong. This made it impossible to separate the two without damage to the population. Thus, the British were forced to return the whole thing and Margaret Thatcher negotiated the current "two systems, one country" deal in 1985 which returned everything to China in 1997. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall during that negotiation.


My stay here has been pretty memorable: It'll be hard to forget the tiny Internet cafe full of young Chinese girls chatting on webcam with Chinese boys, some of whom were topless. Lots of giggling all around. High tea at the Peninsula was quite an experience: As I was leaving, some celebrity was getting picked up by the hotel's very own fleet of Rolls Royce limousines. While it wasn't quite the peninsula, the first hotel I stayed in here was quite upscale and had dramatic views of the harbor. It was also quite expensive. Realizing that I had just blown a large part of my budget, I switched to a cheaper one. Only after I checked in did I notice that prices were quoted in hours, and the noise turned out to be pretty interesting as well.

It would be very interesting to live in Hong Kong for a little bit and there seems to be a steady stream of expats from all over the world. Maybe someday.

5 comments:

Philipp Schumann said...

"Normally, retailers would want to be as far from their competitors as possible, in order to create a local monopoly."

Not necessarily. Another incentive is at work here: retailers want to be as close to their customers, who are used to going to place X to buy Y, as possible. =)

Tanomsak said...

The area becomes number one in customer mind when they think about buying a particular stuff, in this case "high-end kitchen goods" or "birds". That is another incentive, I think.

Here in Thailand, we also have an street only sell gold.

BTW, as a Thais, I'm happy the hear that you're enjoy your time in Thailand.

Anonymous said...

Against all economic incentive, shops that sell similar goods are all clustered together: For example, in Wan Chai, there is a block of a dozen shops which all sell high-end kitchen goods. In Kowloon, there is a street with pet shops selling only birds. Normally, retailers would want to be as far from their competitors as possible, in order to create a local monopoly.

Gabikam,

Wrong. There is plenty of economic incentive in grouping together.

The classic way to illustrate this is the ice-cream vendors on the beach model. Let's say you have a 1 mile long beach, at the north end you have Tibor selling ice-cream and at the south end you have Jancsi. Assume the number of people on the beach are fixed and spread out evenly/randomly. And both Tibi and Jancsi have no supply constraints. Beachgoers want to minimize costs, walking is considered a cost. Therefore, a beachgoer will get ice-cream at the nearest vendor.

Both Jancsi and Tibi want to maximize ice-cream sales, their prices and quality are the same. We allow Tibi to make the first move.

Currently, Tibi is splitting sales about 50/50 with Jancsi as the average beachgoer is on average right between them. 50% go up to Tibi and 50 go down to Jancsi.

Tibi then decides to move down south, right next to Jancsi, but just north of him.

He now captures all the ice-cream sales north of him, while Jancsi, captures what is south of him.

Jancsi doesn't like this one bit and moves just north of Tibi, and so on, you can can see where this is going. They end up in the middle...right next to one another.

This is exactly why you see lawyers often in one office complex. Or dentists etc etc.

-Rossz Kutya

Aland said...

I think the logic of retailers clustered together runs like this…for instance you’ll find cheap hotels Hong Kong clubbed together, so you will find hordes of tourists landing in a particular area confident of finding some accommodation to suit their budget.

Joanna said...

Hostels are probably the very cheapest place you can stay during your travels.

Hostels in Cordoba Argentina