I love looking at old photos of Hong Kong, a city where I have lived for several years now, and I am always amazed to see how much the city has changed in a few decades.
Before the arrival of the English, Hong Kong didn't really exist. There were only a few fishing villages in the bay and there were a lot of pirates. Lord Palmerston, who was in charge of the expansion of the Empire, wasn't very happy to receive this small piece of land from China at the end of the Opium War. He even said that Hong Kong was just "a desolate island with hardly a house on it".
However, the town, created next to a well-sheltered port, grew little by little and annexed more territory (nowadays Kowloon and the New Territories) until it became the city it is today. It was only after the advent of communist China in 1949 that Hong Kong began to develop so rapidly due to the rich entrepreneurs who were exiled there. This development, despite fears about the hand back in 1997, continues today.
Nowadays, Hong Kong is a world financial center, the door to China, and one of the cities where you see the most Porsches and Ferraris in the world...a change that has been so rapid and so radical that it has wiped out a lot of history.
If you come to Hong Kong on a day where there is good visibility, don't forget to go up The Peak to admire the buildings from above. Alternatively on Kowloon side, on the "Avenue of Stars", at 8 pm every evening there is the "Symphony of Lights" show when you can see them illuminated .
You could think that the city was all about modernism but there are still numerous symbols from its colonial past: the Star Ferry, for example, which continues to tirelessly cross the bay (even if the journey has become shorter with the years, because a lot of land has been reclaimed from the sea), or the former courthouse, which looks a little odd among all the modern skyscrapers of Central...and there are others...
Even if Hong Kong became Chinese again in 1997, it is still very influenced by the western culture which the English brought there. Other than English, the official language which is gradually losing out to Chinese, you can cite the legislative system, freedom of expression, and the cultural scene.
Hong Kongers are proud of their distinctive features (Cantonese, the right to protest) and fight to protect them. They also consider themselves a bit superior to the continental Chinese, ("mainlanders" as they are called here), for whom they feel a sort of racism.
But Hong-Kong is still a Chinese city, where Feng Shui is very important, where buildings never have a 4th floor because 4 brings bad luck...a city that is a balanced between two worlds really .