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Finally Hong Kong is back on the Menu

We have just visited Hong Kong for the first time in 3 years.  I have to say it’s good to be back but the world has changed so much in the intervening 3 years and that includes Hong Kong.  Aside from the quarantine restrictions which are now largely lifted requiring just 3 days semi isolation the thing that strikes one most on arrival at Hong Kong international airport is how quiet it is.  We pleasantly sped through all the inevitable checks and were out of the airport with bags within 40 minutes of landing.    The quietness is not confined to the airport however, and as you drive into the city centre one can’t help but notice how empty this once bustling city is.  Footfall appears down by at last 50%. Given the entry restrictions this is perhaps not surprising.  The other major feature is the EVERYONE wears face masks EVERYWHERE, even the children with no excuses and no exceptions in stark contrast to western countries.   They still take the risk of Covid very seriously here.

Happily there is no queuing, even for the mandatory covid tests and everything seems to run remarkably smoothly.   It’s frustrating not being able to grab a coffee in a café or a meal in one of the many fabulous restaurants Hong Kong has to offer for the first 3 days – instead having to rely on takeaways to your room but it is a small price to pay to access this special region of China.    After a few covid tests and temperature checks your 3 days is up and you get a coveted blue QR code on their ‘Leave home safe app’, allowing you to travel freely, eat out, visit gyms, go swimming, visit temples etc.

The people remain delightful, helpful and courteous, and the food of course excellent too.  Walking through downtown in the evening one is again struck by the quietness with many shops closing at 8 or 9pm – something unheard of 3 years ago.  Inevitably some shops and businesses have failed to weather the storm and have closed up – again an unsual sight in this once vibrant city. The people seem to remain optimistic and like a flower as the sun rises in the morning one gets the feeling things are gradually opening up again.  I for one certainly hope so!   Commercially the sea ports seem as busy as ever, with containers stacked high and a steady stream of vessels coming and going which is encouraging.   Property prices remain astronomically high and although there is some discounting of asking prices and we saw prices being discounted by as much as 20% it is holding up remarkably well and Hong Kong remains one of the most expensive cities in the world to buy property.  How the property market will fair in the long term I suspect largely depends on how far things return towards the old ‘normal’.   I suspect however things will never fully return to how they were – but that’s progress and perhaps not a bad thing.  History will tell.

Overall impression – a subdued Hong Kong but with the resources and resilience to recover like many other cities around the world have had to learn to do.   Our next stop – mainland China.