I’VE LEARNED HOW tradition dies hard here. And that goes regardless of where in the city you are and how it may develop. Many neighbourhoods here have undoubtedly become prime real estate, where flats of barely 40 square metres can sell for over US$1 million.
But at the same time, Hong Kong resists the temptation of ‘gentrifying’. Within districts like Wan Chai, the alleyways beside the main roads are still damp, dingy and brutally honest. The activity that goes on here has been the same for half a century. I can certainly imagine – and have seen in in Hong Kong’s Museum of History – this sort of retail going on in the 1960s.
In any other city, the influx of old wealth, and the creation of new wealth, would have radically changed the streetscape long ago. I remember once when I was in Singapore, how a friend took me to a place known as a quaint hole-in-the-wall, but lamenting how the walls were laminated with signs telling the anecdote of the establishment’s history, in an ultra-modern font, and portraits, and were air-conditioned with new seating.
But it’s also particularly interesting to note how a place like this attracts the new wealth that supposedly goes elsewhere. You can tell by their usage of English. And besides, who would go from the poorest parts of town when you’d find a similar type of market there? In Hong Kong, old habits die hard – no matter how much you change.