I recently visited both Hong Kong and Beijing on an assignment, and while in both cities managed to do some personal images as well.
While in Hong Kong, I stayed in Kowloon, instead of Hong Kong Island. Unlike Hong Kong Island, which is much more Westernized and upscale, Kowloon has a certain grit and roughness that can be both charming and overwhelming. Coming from Tokyo, Japan, where the streets are spotless and people go out of their way to be polite, Kowloon felt a little rough. As you walk down the street, you are bathed in thick folds of humidity, and your nostrils are filled with a particular smell, a combination of garbage, fruit, and vinegar; or at least that's what the odor smelled like to me. You pass by stores where giant chunks of raw meat dangle on hooks in the hot air. The streets are filled with workers - people making things, grinding, sawing, nailing and so forth, in a flurry of activity.
I love the unpredictability of human beings. The dog in the photo below, however, doesn't seem so amused. When I came upon the chess players in the next picture, I wanted to explore the scene in more depth but was brusquely waved away by one of them. Hong Kong people can be rather rough sometimes, and as a photographer you have to learn 'when to walk away.'
Water and humidity are everywhere in Hong Kong. Every time I stepped outside of my hotel, my camera lens would immediately fog up, and beads of 'sweat' would form on my camera body.
Kowloon, like Hong Kong Island, is a very vertical city - the buildings are generally 'skinny' compared to buildings in other cities I have lived in, and they soar up and up, almost impossibly tall. The skyline is almost like a who's-who of Japanese corporations.
Beijing, on the other hand, is a very different city. Very flat and broad, with many nondescript office buildings. People of all ages bicycle everywhere, and often two or more people share a bike, seemingly unconcerned about the danger! There's a striking contrast between the 'modern' areas and the older thoroughfares, which are much more lively.
These two cities are strikingly different. Both really inspired me, and like all great places, posed more questions than they answered. I'll definitely be returning in the future and continuing my adventure!