Hong Kong Number-One Again

Which city is the 10th best in the world for a vacation? Here’s a clue: it’s so pristine that it rates a magnificent 88.89 for cleanliness, which as we all know is about as near as you can get to godliness itself. The answer is Hong Kong, according to readers of British lifestyle magazine Conde Nast Traveller.

Some may snigger at the idea of the Big Lychee as pristine. Birds of prey swoop down onto bits of McDonald’s hamburger buns floating in the fragrant harbour. The aroma of raw pig meat permeates the street markets. Prime tourist attraction Lan Kwai Fong hosts a constant procession of rancid garbage trucks and has a bombed-out road surface that would be considered a disgrace in Manila.

From my own experience as a tour guide, British visitors do spend much of their time wandering around this city raving in amazement about “how clean everything is.” Maybe they were expecting even more trash in the sea, even more pork odour, and even more carrion and peelings being transported through the famous bar district. But what seems to strike them most is the shining, sparkling appearance of much of the public space within and around buildings.

I lead them through the shopping centres, office lobbies and connecting overhead walkways, and watch them stare in wonder at the absence of dust or specks, let alone grime or disrepair. I sit them in a mall coffee shop near the window and wait for the inevitable kid to drop his ice-cream on the gleaming marble floor; then I enjoy my guests’ admiration and amazement as the emergency response team of estate managers, security staff and cleaners descend on the scene with safety barriers, warning signs and mops, barking orders into walkie-talkies and expertly maintaining crowd control until the crisis is over.

But to hell with being the 10th best city. The same survey puts Shanghai – a dull mélange of tacky skyscrapers and vanity projects with a scattering of art deco – in 15th place, presumably giving it 87.63 for fried dumplings. No, Conde Nast Traveller also names Hong Kong as the absolute best top number-one island on the planet. In other words, the finest piece of sub-continental territory surrounded by water anywhere.

Is the survey trustworthy? Manhattan doesn’t rate as one of the top 20 islands, though New York comes second in the list of best cities, which seems a bit odd. But can we seriously doubt the integrity of any system that gives percentage scores for friendliness accurate to two decimal points? And let’s not forget that the magazine fails to rate Singapore as either a city or an island – which surely confirms the reliability of the methodology.

Indeed, it is easy to see why Hong Kong is superior to the other 19 islands. Whoever heard of the Zanzibar or Crete stock exchanges? The Sardinia or Galapagos mass transit systems? Where can you get 20 different styles of Hello Kitty lip gloss in Cuba? They don’t even have gold toilets in Cuba. How many minutes away is the nearest 7-Eleven when you’re on the Great Barrier Reef? Do they make movies like Devil Fetus in the Maldives? Do they have the world’s highest number of luxury Mercedes cars per mile of road in Antigua? These other so-called islands never stood a chance.

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12 Responses to Hong Kong Number-One Again

  1. Maugrim says:

    Two recent sojourns make me realise that whilst HK isn’t exactly top ten material, it aint so bad. To wit, the man clearing his nostrils onto the floor in a Department Store in Shanghai, the state of public trains in Melbourne, where it looked as if the trains operate as porcine livestock transport in off-peak hours, judging by the amount of brown matter smeared across almost all seats. I’ve seen more matresses, TV’s, couches you name it disgarded onto streets in Sydney suburbs where the prices of houses are circa 2 million AUD.

  2. expat says:

    Public urination is still a popular pastime in Shanghai – saw three shanghaiers indulging in it during a short taxi ride last month.

  3. The Shonky Honky says:

    This assessment has about as much credibility as the ones used to rank the politeness and efficiency of immigration staff at Chinese airports – where persons lining up to have their passport stamped are invited to press one of two buttons (one a smily face, and the other an unsmily face) to rate the service provided. I assume most people’s view of this choice will be as mind – that if I ever pressed the non-smily button, the chances of getting my passport back will be between zero and Donald Tsang’s popularity rating. I wonder if anyone has ever tried?? But anyway, I digress..

  4. Donald Tsang says:

    I resent the implication that my popularity rating is low. In recent times, it has been rising 2 points for every citizen killed overseas. All I need is one Cathay plane hijack and I’ll be back in positive territory in no time. Al Qa’eda, where are thou?

  5. Doctor Disbelief says:

    Sorry but, despite the upmarket veneer of the magazine, to put Liverpool 4th, Glasgow 5th and Manchester 7th favourite UK city ahead of Bath, Cambridge, Canterbury and York is to tacitly admit that their polls were predominantly distributed to football terraces, prisons and borstal homes.

    Avoid all the results. This is another example of “survey abuse”:


    Robert Chung must be laughing his socks off.

  6. noantenna says:

    @ Maugrim, that is the regular council cleanup. A highlight of the Sydney suburban calendar and a boon to all treasure hunters, opportunists and impoverished students. It would never work in HK which is pro-hoarding, anti-recycling, riddled with kiasu and terminally short of roadside space.

  7. Maugrim says:

    noantenna, in this case it wasn’t the annual cleanup, more due to back packers and renters. Actually, the dumping system does occur in HK, though it’s usually in the basement of flats. The leftovers spirited away by the building’s laap saap por for a few extra dollars. I’m not sure anything goes to waste in HK.

  8. noantenna says:

    Maugrim, points well taken, although (and I don’t have time to look up the stats) isn’t HK’s per capita output of municipal solid waste (ie landfill) pretty high by the standards of other developed societies? Certainly the lack of recycling infrastructure here is a disgrace, and I can’t really accept that a few aging lap sap pors can do as good a job as paper/plastic/etc recycling bins for every block, which you’ll find in Australia, Japan etc.

  9. Kinky Friedman says:

    If Hong Kong has a high per capita output of solid waste, it’s because we are blessed with a low per capita ratio of environazis intent on telling other people how to live their lives.

    If some people wish to reduce their own solid waste, good luck to them, but please leave the rest of us alone.

    The fact is, more Hong Kong residents feel disgraced by the dreadful behaviour of Rugby Sevens fans than they do our fair city’s lack of recycling infrastructure.

    Maybe the Civic Party should focus on ridding our community of that stinky trash first.

  10. Robin Parke says:

    At least in Hongkong you don’t get a broken beer bottle smashed into your face for mis-pronouncing a drunk’s name, like you would in Glasgow or Livverpul.

  11. Glasgow boy says:

    Oi… Stop bad mouthin Glesga or i’ll glass the lot of yeez.

  12. Big Al says:

    Expat – you mean all three were in one taxi, or there were three separate taxis? Now I know what that smell is in Shanghai taxis!

    Noantenna – If we are to believe the Environmental Protection Dept, Hong Kong’s waste generation rate in 2009 was 1.28kg/person/day, of which 49% was recovered (i.e. exported to China for “recycling” = set on fire to then dumped in a river). That should put us in the Top 10 global waste producers, if Conde Nast Traveller were to produce that list!

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