Every year Mitch Altman goes to China to visit the Manufacturer he uses for TV-B-Gone. And for the last 5 years he has brought people with him to meet and mingle with the Chinese hacker community, visit factories, and generally just be tourists. I was lucky enough to go this year.
Our rough itinerary started in Hong Kong October 1st, then Shenzen, then Shanghai, and finally Beijing. Spending around 5 days in each city.
There is no way I begin to convey everything, especially because I'm writing this 2 months later. But I have pictures, and reconceived conceptions, and new friends.
I'll start by writing about Hong Kong, then add the other cities later.
People in Hong Kong (Hongkongers 香港人) generally do not consider themselves as "Chinese".
The de facto language is Cantonese. Which is different from Mandarin, the language most spoken throughout China. The "Chinese language" is actually a group of languages which are un-intelligible in many cases. Cantonese and Mandarin are in this group and they are mutually un-intelligible.
They also write in Traditional Chinese, while the official script of mainland China is Simplified Chinese.
Hong Kong is a "Special Administrative Region" of China. Which among other things means that HK is not necessarily beholden to Chinese laws. So the internet is not censored, they have their own currency, and their own passports, etc.
This special status is because HK is a former British colony that is currently in a 100 year process of being handed over. China however would like to have more control over HK. And Chinese attempts to exert this control inspired the Umbrella Revolution. Basically China told HK that elected officials would have to be approved by China.
When you get to Hong Kong
Immediately buy an Octopus card. This is your ticket to the amazing public transportation system. Hong Kong has the best subway system I've ever used - period. Some subway systems in China come close, but they all have the annoying x-ray your bags every time thing. Hong Kong doesn't have this.
Visit Dim Sum Labs.
Wander the markets, buy some used electronics you don't need.
Take the trolley up to Victoria Peak. Go in the morning when the line is short. Hike up to the radar towers on top of the mountain and enjoy the view. Take the trail down through the city.
Eat at a cat cafe.
Go to the top of the ICC building. Enter the OZONE bar for $120 HKD, this goes toward a drink ticket which is required for entry. The bar is a bourgeois shit hole, but the view is of the city is amazing. When I went the patio was closed due to a typhoon, but the view was still good.
Note that sneezing in public is very rude.