purchasing power across cities

posted in: bangkok, hong kong, montreal, new york | 0

as a follow up–when comparing the price of public transport, a friend duly noted that it would be more interesting to see the relative purchasing power of people in these cities.

conveniently, UBS has published a 2009 report on Prices and Earnings in 73 cities.

using New York as the benchmark, here are the relative purchasing powers (income / price of basket of goods & services) of some cities of note:

CityNet Hourly PayAnnual Income
New York100100
Hong Kong52.358.1
Kuala Lumpur38.439.5

In its report, UBS notes that when comparing purchasing power, the basket of goods and services would be different in Asian cities versus European or North American ones. For that reason, they came up with a measure based on the Economist’s Big Mac Index: working time required to buy a big mac (this is from page 11–download the full report for more info).

cities BM

It’s funny to use Big Macs as a comparison, since going to McDonald’s in North America (as a cheap place to eat) is not quite the same as in Asia, where it’s more a gimmicky thing (since it would be much cheaper to eat, say, a bowl of noodles). I’m sure McDonald’s considers that when marketing (& pricing?) its menu…

costliest cities for public transport

posted in: hong kong, new york | 0

New graphic from the Economist. The cost for Hong Kong is interesting, given that its MTR was completely privatised in 2000. Compare with New York’s MTA, which is a (government owned) public-benefit corporation.

public transportation prices - economist

To be fair, the way trips are priced is different for the two cities: in Hong Kong your fare varies by distance (paid for using your trusty Octopus card, which by the way is also accepted at places like Starbucks or KFC), whereas in New York it’s a flat rate of $2.25. Economically speaking the Hong Kong method is of course more efficient, while New Yorkers get a better deal when taking longer rides.

In my personal experience, taking public transportation in Hong Kong is a dream–it’s seriously one of my favourite things to do in the city (including trips on the Star Ferry). But in NYC, frustration rules–subway stations are falling apart, there are always delays, and don’t get me started on the number of re-routings done on the weekend… however, the NY subway does run 24/7, and the unique express trains give the satisfying psychological illusion of going fast.

According to wikipedia the New York subway has 1.6 billion passenger rides per year (4th largest in the world) versus 1.3 billion in HK (7th). The top three most used subway systems are Tokyo, Moscow, and Seoul.

archetypal HK

posted in: hong kong | 0

I’ve decided to purge my cellphone of pictures.

typical HK street:


mcdo + kfc + mosque:

the main mosque in kowloon
the main mosque in kowloon

fog over victoria harbour (guess that’s not typical–ordinarily it would be pollution):

victoria harbour
victoria harbour

不中不英 = chinglish

posted in: hong kong, words | 1

I could not leave HK without mentioning how lovely my last few days (post exams) were! I got to see some less visited places of the city, including the 10,000-buddha temple (boasting over twelve thousand buddhas), and kowloon-walled-city park (which is pleasant, though more interesting for its colourful history as a lawless enclave). I was also in town for the June 4th demonstration in victoria park to commemorate the tiananmen square massacre–and on the way I caught a glimpse of “long-hair” leung, rising to the occasion in causeway bay!

long-hair Leung
long-hair Leung

(hmmm, for once he is the one without the che shirt.)

and after a month of trying to go, I finally made it to the chinglish exhibit at the art museum. I loved it! it was like it was tailored for my taste, with lots of pieces circling around language plays and so on. totally mirrored my initial experiences in HK trying to figure out what the heck various signs and menus were saying in chinese (and realizing they were transliterations of english: like how 的士 could only ever mean “taxi” in cantonese, not mandarin).

here is a pattern made from english and canto swear words, that an artist used to cover an entire room from floor to ceiling:

english-canto vulgarities
english-canto vulgarities

I also really liked this installation that projected your image with two cameras, while various chinese gibberish characters would fly between your movements:

kid having way too much fun
kid having way too much fun

I’m glad I delayed my departure from HK at least a few days after my exams–it gave me the chance to say goodbye to the various friends I’ve met in the past few months, as well as having a swanky dim sum with my relatives (who would have thought of truffles in dumplings? the restaurant in the four seasons hotel, apparently.)

Even the air became “cleaner”! a friend mentioned that once it gets really hot in summer, the pollution rises higher in the atmosphere, showing off the city at its most spectacular. leaving HK at its best, and on a good note…

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