Hong Kong was ceded to the British by China through the Opium Wars. The British were buying vast quantities of tea and the Chinese were not buying much from the British. The Chinese people however were, unsuprisingly, susceptible to opium addiction. The British seized on this used India to produce vast quantities of opium. The Chinese attempted to stop all opium trading. The British spent a couple of years capturing parts of China including Shanghai. A deal was signed that would let the British continue to trade opium and run Hong Kong. A decade later, the New Territories would be ceded as well for pretty much the same reason.
So in summary: the British were selling opium in order to fund their tea addiction.
I had expected Honkers to be a constantly moving, writhing, mass of people. Never stopping and never dawdling. The reality of it is a place where I have never been more frustrated trying to walk down a street. The city is teeming with people. The city, unlike other densely populated cities like: Ho Chi Minh and Ha Noi, teems in a different way. The people teem, eyes down, faces illumiated by backlit devices. No one is in a rush and their short steps and dense packing make it difficult for those who have a longer gait and no device to gaze into. Even then Honkenese of my height have grown up in a city of short-gaited people and shuffle along at the same pace.
Hong Kong is also the city where I saw the tallest women I've ever seen. She was some kind of Chinese-Amazonian woman loping through her own urban jungle. The contrast of height between Hong Kong and the rest of South-East Asia is startling.
I found Hong Kong didn't match my expectations. This isn't to say it didn't meet my expectations, just that there was an expectation-mismatch. It certainly contained endless buildings, billboards doubling as street lights and it is densely populated. But outside of the city proper there is a different Hong Kong. More relaxed; calmer. I took a bus to Stanley –a small town on the back side of Hong Kong island. I's definitely on the tourist route. But, because it was winter the place was mostly deserted. It felt like any seaside town in winter. It didn't feel like Hong Kong.
This feeling would continue when I took a boat with a friend to Mui Wo on Lantau Island. A crisp sunny day was offered up and a walk was had along the beach. The beach was for us only. There was no one else here aside from the occasional municipal worker cleaning the pavement. After our stroll we sat by the harbour. A few boats passed by, navigators waving to us as they sailed on. In the distance were green islands jutting up from the ocean. It was sunny, clear and quiet. The opposite of the city with it's racket, it's haze and chilled shadows cast by towers of concrete and steel.