The immigration and baggage claim process went smoothly; but since it was 5 in the morning, many shops were still closed. The hotel desk suggested I take the early bus into town, and then walk to the hotel from the public bus stop.
I love the Hong Kong Airport. For some reason, after 20 years it hadn't aged at all. The design was clean and spacious, there was little filth, and the place had been extremely well-maintained. Compared to the small and cramped passageways of American airports, it always feels like I have stepped into the future, even after all these years. I always imagine the contrast between Chicago O'Hare, completed in 2000, and Hong Kong Chek Lap Kok, completed in 1998. Chicago had aged considerably, with its yellow pallette, narrow hallways, and cathedral motifs. The contrast is probably the result of high labor costs in America -- and also the British pouring millions and millions into the Hong Kong Airport right before the 1997 handover.
The ride into the city captured the breathtaking and surreal character of the city - the convergence of mountains, water and sky - and a futuristic metropolis emerging out of the morning haze, with its cargo ships and layers of highways and bridges and skyscrapers, like the city of Blade Runner. Nothing seemed to be less than 40 stories tall. The scenery only emphasized to me, again, the (sometimes charming) quaintness of Boston, where a building over twelve stories tall is considered an expensive monstrosity and an "eyesore" ; I wonder what Bostonians would think about living on the 60th floor. I long thought that Bostonians were terrified of heights and/or tall buildings - unless it’s a natural landscape, like the White Mountains of New Hamsphire.
Every time I come back, the city has "grown", like a relentless mechanical organism. The subway lines have multiplied. Strange new skyscrapers have been added to the harbour cityscape. It's real-life Metabolism, even though I doubt the Japanese pioneers would have ever thought their ideas of a plug-in city would occur in a post-British Chinese city. There's always more design innovation, more new-ness; every time there's a remotely interesting architectural design element in Boston, like a parametric ceiling or a green roof, all the designers congratulate themselves and each other. Here in Hong Kong, it seems like everything is possible, and nothing is novel. This acceptance of a "design norm", I think, where novelty is a given, has actually improved design, because designer cannot resort to "novelty" as an excuse for poor planning; everything has to work AND look good.