Hong Kong: The last year as a British colony

This British Territory on the South China Sea is a vibrant and booming city with a cosmopolitan feel much like Tokyo or New York. Hong Kong is a classic mix of Europeans, Americans, and Chinese, all with one expressed interest in mind -- to make money. Lots of it.

The famous skyline of Hong Kong Island.

As one of Asia's Economic Tigers, this city offers modern restaurants, banks, fancy cars, and affluent shopping boutiques -- unlike the Chinese cities I had been accustomed to. Along with better goods and services comes a higher price tag. Hong Kong is not cheap.

Admiring the views atop Victoria's Peak.

The biggest question on everyone's mind is: what will happen to the colony when it reverts back to Chinese sovereignty on July 1st, 1997? Answers vary from another Tienanmen Square massacre, to no change whatsoever. Regardless of what will happen, the uncertainty has led to a massive drain of educated Chinese to settle in the U.S., Canada, or other parts of Asia. This has created shortages of professionals in all fields.

A woman poses in front of her walled village in the New Territories.

Now that China has liberated its economic policies, several new Special Economic Zones have sprung up around the fringes of Hong Kong. In fact, the whole coastline up to Shanghai is booming. The resulting prosperity is drawing rural Chinese in by the millions, and space is very much a commodity. The most populated square mile on earth is Kowloon in the New Territories. If you cannot build out anymore, build up.

One golden Buddha in the Ten Thousand Buddha Monastery.

There is much to see and do around Hong Kong, and never a short supply of Western travelers to explore with. Most of the Westerners at my hostel were working as bartenders, waiters, bankers, or teachers on their three-month tourist visas. Everyone with a job seemed to enjoy this kind of work-holiday. Hong Kong is also a transportation hub, so leaving with three-month wages seemed like a cool way to spend a year or so on the Far-East Circuit.

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