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Tokyo and Hong Kong in 2018 (haywirez.com)
109 points by haywirez on April 20, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 70 comments

Think OP has misunderstood a few things about Hong Kong. First of all, the designer shops are not really for investment bankers; they are for tourists, particularly from the mainland. Hong Kong is the most visited city in the world and people from the mainland love to buy high quality tax-free goods. Sometimes for personal use, often to sell. It's easy to spot people from the mainland squatting and re-packing their bags outside these stores.

Second, about 90% of the tech scene is now Bitcoin or Blockchain. It's really unsustainable. I'm not sure where they got the impression that there isn't anything blockchain here.

Most of the other analysis was just on the stuff that exists for tourists. We don't use balloons filled with hydrogen and lights, most people don't study abroad, the meat is perfectly edible and the pipes are outside the buildings by design - it makes them much easier to service!

By the way, face masks are partly to prevent the cold wind (Chinese medicine) from entering your body and partly to stop others from becoming infected with your cough/cold.

I guess it depends who's counting, but I'm pretty sure BKK is the more recent, most-visisted city.

What you said about HK applies to BKK as well however. I'm really surprised of the opinions that tourists form of the city, given that there's basically zero correlation to the lives of residents.

For example, it's pretty common for (older, less enlightened) people to talk about the city's red light districts, as if they occupy the entire CBD. Although the well known ones aren't too far from major thoroughfares, you'd literally have to go out of your way to see anything seedy while traveling in the city.

People also talk about how difficult it is to get around, citing unprofessional taxi drivers. Residents drive cars or take the elevated train / subway, or more recently, Uber et al. The taxi industry serves (or preys on) the tourist industry almost exclusively now. Residents tend to avoid peak times and when you arrive somewhere you'll usually have the option of a valet or an underground car wash, so you're comfortably going from AC zone to AC zone.

Or I've known people who've stayed at a hotel on a major road and then complained about the city's congestion, not knowing they're too far from anything enjoyable in walking distance. Residents don't walk anywhere, really. It is congested but more importantly, too hot.

I could go on but won't. I'm sure the OP's take on BKK would have made me cringe as well.

Was it really too much of a strain to actually type the whole name of the city, and the districts, so that those of us not familiar with every city in the world could have had a clue?


BKK = Beer Kept Kold. Or BangKoK

CBD = Cajun Beer Draught. Or Central Business District

AC = Air Con. Or DC

TMA-2KTO: Too Much Alcohol 2: Kept Too Cold

OP : One Punch, a great Manga

To be fair, although perhaps a bit impenetrable to outsiders, pretty much everyone I know uses airport codes almost exclusively to refer to cities in texts... or made-up TLAs like JKT for Jakarta when the airport code (CGK) is non-obvious.

It's just a habit and I'm sure the GP didn't intend to be obtuse.

As a fellow BKK resident, I beg to disagree. I use Taxi (regular one). I walks a lot (yes it's painful), but that's life.

But I avoid rush hour CBD like plague, yep.

One thing I was surprised to learn this week is that Hong Kong doesn't have a tax treaty with the US! I wonder how that will go with any capital gains taxation on Bitcoin / cryptocurrency profits...

Hong Kong doesn’t tax capital gains so if you’re American you pay normal capital gains and if you’re not you pay nothing.

"Many flats have pipes rigged on the outside" as if that's a bug and not a feature. Hong Kong doesn't get cold enough to have exposed pipes be a freezing risk, and in the meantime you get a) access to the pipes for repairs and maintenance with ease and b) no risk of property damage, cascading down the many floors of a typical residential highrise, if a leak does occur.

Reading other people's assessments of countries always reminds me to stay humble and open in my own.

And it's ugly as sin too!

Well so are exposed air conditioner compressors, fire escapes and hanging laundry. Most of these things and those pipes look as though they are placed on the back of the building facing an alleyway.

I've lived in Hong Kong and Tokyo as well Bangkok and Manila. Many of these observations totally miss the mark, which isn't unexpected from someone just visiting as a tourist.

Blockchain and Bitcoin are huge in HK tech circles right now, in fact I'd say it's way too huge. Same for all of Asia really, but the main Crypto operations are all HK or Singapore based. I know quite a few people in Asia caught up in the Crypto hype to the point that it feels like a cult.

If OP spent a bit more time in Asia he might start to see the dark sides to this "progress" he lauds and realize it comes at a human cost. Many in Asia are cast aside or left behind as a result of constant advancement. Europe tends to strike a better balance between change/progress and mitigating the human toll IMO.

I agree with the first part a bit less with the last. Blockchain and crypto are huge in HK and Singapore also after the ban in China. Many Chinese startup are moving in HK and Singapore and that make these cities the main hub in Asia.

> Many in Asia are cast aside or left behind

I don't see so many people left behind in Asia because of the progress, indeed in my opinion is the opposite. Even the elderly people are willing to embrace change and use smartphones for their daily life, something that is not so true in Europe. In China you may find street food stand owned by older women in their 60/70 using everyday smart payment systems. Something that in Europe would never happen.

> Blockchain and crypto are huge in HK and Singapore

There's a lot of blockchain companies in Singapore yes, but no ICO company can get a bank account. Singapore banks are notoriously backward/conservative.

As far as I can see everyone is going through HK/Malta et al for banking.

The note about hydrogen balloons makes it seem as if helium ones are somehow better.

It is not so. Helium is a non-renewable resource. It's extracted by mining and it escapes into space once released into the atmosphere. Using it for silly things like balloons takes it away from science and industry forever [0].

Hydrogen may be flammable, but it can be extracted from water. So please, don't waste helium.

[0] https://www.quora.com/Are-we-really-running-out-of-helium-Is...

I have no opinion on the matter but perhaps it's not so dire.


>> In most ways, Hong Kong turned out to be the exact opposite of Tokyo. If Japan is order, Hong Kong is chaos

He probably never went to proper mainland China! Hong Kong is not that chaotic compared to Shenzen, a couple miles away. I would even say it is less chaotic than central London or Paris

Yeah, Hong Kong is the place I go to get away from the insanity of mainland China when I'm on business trips over there (and even then China has toned down a lot in the past 5 years). For a westerner Hong Kong is a very comfortable city to visit, though a bit shocking the first time because of how dense it is.

He's comparing Tokyo and Hong Kong, not Tokyo and Mainland China. There are far more chaotic places than Mainland China.

I lived in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, New Zealand, and Australia. I think Hong Kong's tech scene is mostly about blockchain/bitcoin now. Most of the tech jobs I found here are in finance. Taiwan has not a very good tech scene, but is an amazing place to live. Singapore has a lot of startup hype and some good startup companies. It feels more diverse than Hong Kong and Taiwan for sure.

Melbourne, AU has a good startup scene and many interesting meetups. New Zealand doesn't really have much of a scene going on, except in Wellington.

I may want to move back to a Western country. Which other countries have a good tech scene going on?

Berlin has a good tech (and music and arts) scene but there's quite a bit of snobbery imho. Cheap for Europe though.

Barcelona has better weather.

There's a scene in the coastal towns of Morocco now too, which is much cheaper than anywhere in Europe. Not Western of course but the nature inland is beautiful.

What's your favourite place out of those you've lived in? Where do you live now?

New Zealand is an amazing place, but the distance to home(Europe) is really far and opportunities are limited. Taiwan is beautiful too, but English is not widely spoken and you really have to spend effort to learn Mandarin. I'd consider both for retirement, but not good moves for your career.

I'm currently living in Hong Kong.

I’m Kiwi, living in singapore, Wife is Taiwanese so I travel to Taiwan often. Learning mandarin but will probably end up in NZ and retire in Taiwan.

Truth is - Advanced Asia™ is just incomparably more vibrant right now. There's constant movement. A steady, fast-paced struggle.

This is what keeps me here. There's an excitement and energy in the air that I haven't found anywhere else in the world. Big Asian cities are not the place for you if you like stability and quiet but if you thrive on variety you should come experience it.

I've compared it to the industrious attitude of the 'wild west'. Except a bit less wild and bit more east.

Probably more 'west'. From North America just go west until you reach far east!

I think author has an incredibly clear style of describing things and I enjoyed reading this a lot. It's also worth noticing that he stated from the beginning that he's no expert about Asia and is simply passing on his impressions.

> I don't know how to pin it down exactly, but it feels like Europe is suffering from the culture and attitude of pensioners who are still living in their ignorant version of a 20th-century fantasy. They are reassured by their situational wealth and are either unaware, or scared of reality. Everything is hedged, risk averse and there's a general sense of aimlessness and cluelessness.

Funny this is exactly how I would describe Japan

He's comparing 2 spots in Asia with the whole of Europe. Holy generalization, Batman!

I also find this amusing:

> there's a general sense of aimlessness and cluelessness.

That's how Europe has always operated. Its historical success came from chaos. Tons and tons of chaos from many sources, all competing. Columbus was looking for India and he stumbled upon the Americas.

My Favorite Para was:

"Nationality is a fading illusion, nobody cares where they were born unless they have nothing else to cling to. We are citizens of the globe. Home is basically where a good bed, a supportive environment and fast Internet is. The former you can get from IKEA pretty much anywhere. For the latter, we'll just travel and spend most of our time where things are easier, cooler and better"

I found that sentiment deeply off-putting, and I say that as an American in Taipei right now (which seems thematically similar).

The author says 99% of things written are unavailable to him -- and I'm sure it's even more of the spoken word around him. If you subtract out 99% of communication, and all the deep relationships and casual understandings that make a community, yeah, I guess every place starts looking the same.

But boy howdy, that stuff is really valuable to some people, and not just people with nothing else going on in their lives.

How did you end up in Taipei, and how are things there on the tech front?

Tech here seems more hardware oriented than I normally am, but beyond that, I don't know much yet. Taipei helps me study Chinese which is useful because 我的中文不好,但我每天学,住在这里让我沉浸其中。

You study simplified Chinese in Taipei?

My studies go back years, my residence here only weeks. I'm fixing the gaps in my education, but slowly.

He meant that he's surprised that you're learning the language using the simplified type system instead of the traditional one which is used in Taiwan.

Serious culture shock doesn't happen fast, it happens slowly. Often the person experiencing it doesn't understand what is happening - even for years. As an Irish-Israeli-Yemeni-UK-educated-Jewish-Catholic I am fairly much a citizen of the world...but Nationality and Home are radically different things. Years of digital nomadism sounds attractive on one level but will likely leave the OP with a profound feeling of something dark which they may never be able to name...

OP has clearly not noticed much of the politics and election results around Europe...

OP seems to be a young European urbanite, and given the average age of the active European voter base (pretty old), I wouldn't say that recent political/electoral trends are demonstrative of the younger generations' (read: the future of Europe) values and beliefs.

Above comment is correct. Moreover I'm fairly convinced that we're witnessing the dead cat bounce of nation states[0].

[0] https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/apr/05/demise-of-the-n...

When you travel to a new place you fall in love,everything is fantastic, not like the shitty place you come from, but if you live in a place long enough you start seeing the failures of the new place (and the good things of your native country).

I was born in Spain, and had experienced this effect multiple times, living in San Francisco, Boston, London, Shanghai, Tokio, Berlin...

Right now I value a lot more Spain and Europe at its culture than I ever did.

Living abroad gives you perspective and lots of options. When I started I thought it was risky. Now I think what is risky is living in the same place all your life.

It does change you for the better, I agree.

‍️emoticons and emotics.... Is it a utf test page or am I getting old?

It's a test to see if the reader is one of these cranky old guard. Congrats!

To comment on the face mask thing, locals told me that they wear it not so much for their own protection as out of consideration so as not to infect other people if they sneeze.

There's a lot of care about not disturbing other people in Japanese culture.

A few additional reasons, for wearing a mask, not in the article:

- Forgot or didn't have time to put makeup on

- Kafunsho (hay fever) protection

- Odor protection, there's also scented masks

- Hiding braces

>There's a lot of care about not disturbing other people in Japanese culture.

Not in Tokyo.

Their actual efficacy is questionable at best though. After about 10 minutes of breathing, water vapor from your own breathing would have rendered it more or less permeable to anything infectious. Sneezing into a handkerchief would probably be more effective.

If it catches your spit when you pronounce sounds like "p" and "t", and catches your sneeze particles, it's likely to be pretty helpful.

Efficiency is another question, it may be more of a "it's the thought that counts".

True. Also, in this season against pollen, especially from cedar which is all around.

If you are in Hong Kong, you can get a 5 day single entry tourist visa for the Shenzhen area very easily at the Chinese border (Luo Hu border and Shekou border also last time I checked - at the Futian border, you cannot get one).

Go in the morning (by boat from the Hong Kong harbor, train or bus from elsewhere), get lunch in Coco park in Futian or Sea World in Shekou and go to the electronics market in HuaQiangBei in the afternoon.

In the evening go talk to armchair experts on Chinese culture in on of the foreigner bars or if you don't care much for drunk westerners lost in limbo maybe better get some hot pot in HaiDiLao or Little Lamb or Chinese barbecue in one of the street barbecue shops.

I moved to Amsterdam 5 months back from Bangalore and couldn't agree more on the last paragraph.

Everything here seems so laid back which was one of the reasons why we moved to EU – to have a better/more relaxed lifestyle but at the same time, I do miss the vibrancy and liveliness around me.

"Internet connectivity is far ahead of Europe"

You mean Germany? And I agree German infrastructure can use quite the upgrade, it's 3/4G is pretty patchy and internet speeds lacking.

3 years ago in HK, (my last experience) 300Mbps connections were like an average connection speed.

> Nationality is a fading illusion, nobody cares where they were born unless they have nothing else to cling to. We are citizens of the globe. Home is basically where a good bed, a supportive environment and fast Internet is. The former you can get from IKEA pretty much anywhere. For the latter, we'll just travel and spend most of our time where things are easier, cooler and better.

What a nice, sheltered life :)

Ah, to be young and chock full of wisdom again. ;)

Two of my favourite places in the world.

Tokyo actually felt a lot less like the claustrophobic megalopolis it's often described as being. I stayed in an Airbnb in Shimokitazawa, (just a few short stops from Tokyo's main train station) and it felt distinctly village-y.

Because of all the self-imposed order and politeness everywhere it's an extremely pleasant place to visit.

OP had it backwards about the oyster and octopus cards.

The octopus card in Hong Kong led to the development of the London oyster card.


If you don't have time scroll to near the end of the article to the section called 'What this trip meant'. That is an incredibly succinct summary of my own feelings on this matter written better than I ever could.

I am getting a "500 Internal Server Error", here is a cached version [1].

[1] https://web.archive.org/web/20180420054609/https://haywirez....

Come to Asia for Tokyo, but live in Hong Kong...

To be fair I live in Hong Kong, and it's chaotic, sure when you first come here, but after a few months you adjust to it's normalcy... And it's really no different from New York, Toronto, London. I guess it's something about people more so than anything else.

A bit off-topic: I’ve visited HK once and it was really a great experience. I’d love to go back. Also, I accidentally find a great tailor (“Lapel”) that produced perfect shirts within 24h. Has anybody an idea how I could source those shirts from Europe? They’ve been very unresponsive with email and phone, it seems all so complex. Are there people who run back and forth Europe and are willing to do provide some sort of errand service?

Too bad he missed the real future city to compare to: Shenzhen.

I really wanted to check out Shenzhen. There were some visa issues that I thought I wouldn't be able to solve fast on the spot. Next time...

It’s hard to take any of this seriously from someone who hasn’t every travelled farther than 10 hours...

Please get more emojis in your written piece, it really helps make it seem more terrible.

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