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Three, two, one!
That's me onstage receiving a peck from a Beluga whale inside one of China's largest amusement parks.
Let me explain.
I'm taking a journey on boats, trains and buses through parts of China's Pearl River Delta.
Located in the southern part of China, it's home to cities like Hong Kong and Macau,
and increasingly becoming connected thanks to new infrastructure.
First, there's this new bridge.
It's the longest sea-crossing bridge in the world.
Then there's a new high-speed train, which seamlessly connects Hong Kong to some of China's megacities.
It's all part of a new effort by the Chinese government to bring the region together
into a network known as The Greater Bay Area.
It hopes to eventually rival the likes of economic hubs like the New York, Tokyo and San Francisco Bay areas.
What does this mean for businesses like this amusement park?
I'm traveling from Hong Kong, to Macau to Zhuhai
meeting people hoping to profit from the Greater Bay Area.
This is China's Greater Bay Area.
Centered around the coast of Southern China, it's home to 11 cities and more than 65 million people.
That's more than Canada and Australia's populations combined.
The combined GDP of the Greater Bay area is $1.5 trillion, similar to the economy of South Korea.
Which makes sense if you consider the area is already home to some of China's biggest tech companies,
like Huawei, Tencent and drone-maker DJI.
As well as one of the world's most powerful financial centers, Hong Kong.
This is the Hong Kong side of what's now the longest sea-crossing bridge in the world.
The idea's been in the works for some 30 years, but now it's finally set to open.
The appropriately named Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge is a whopping 34 miles long.
And because it's such a lengthy journey, calling it a bridge doesn't fully do it justice.
It's actually a bridge-tunnel system, which includes an undersea tunnel
and three artificial islands along the way.
It has cost an estimated $17 billion to build.
You can actually see the airport behind me. It's pretty much at the base of the bridge.
The bridge originates just near the Hong Kong International Airport and continues
all the way to Macau, the former Portuguese colony that made its name as the Las Vegas of Asia.
After reaching Macau, the bridge continues on to a city called Zhuhai,
one of China's very first Special Economic Zones,
it's a city with business and tax incentives to attract foreign investors.
In Hong Kong and Macau, cars drive on the left side of the road,
but in Mainland China, you drive on the right side.
At the base of the Hong Kong side, the lanes swap, so the bridge follows the same style as Mainland China.
That's not the only difference between Hong Kong and Macau, and Mainland China.
While the two are technically a part of China, they're what's called Special Administrative Regions.
That means they operate under their own sets of rules and economic freedoms.
Some critics have actually linked the bridge to sort of an umbilical cord, between Hong Kong and China
saying that by building this bridge, it's sort of a symbolic way
of China increasingly having influence over Hong Kong.
Opponents fear further integration means they'll lose some of that independence,
while others worry Hong Kong will lose business to Mainland China as it becomes more accessible.
Hong Kong's share of the Chinese economy has fallen from 27% in the 1990s to three percent now.
Most people I speak to in Hong Kong say
they want to play a big part in this new region and China's economy overall.
This is Eric. He's the co-founder of travel tech startup, Klook.
Say you're visiting a city and want to find something cool to do.
Well, his app matches you to things like a walking tour or boat ride.
It might not sound like a groundbreaking tech concept here.
But in just a few years, he's grown his company across Asia and has raised $300 million in funding.
He'll be using his latest round to expand in Europe and the U.S.
Since Eric's company provides travel experiences, he thinks the new bridge will create new ones.
Like a service that will bring people from Hong Kong to Macau by bus,
instead of having to take a ferry, or helicopter ride if that's in your budget.
When they come to Hong Kong, they would like to go to Macau, but then some of them say,
"Oh, I don't want to get on the boat," they might get seasick and so forth.
Now the bridge will be very convenient for them.
But Eric's not just enthusiastic about the bridge. He thinks the new train will help his operations, too.
The Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, or 'Vibrant Express,'
does what its name suggests, linking Hong Kong to Southern China's major cities by a high-speed train.
Some of his employees commute every day from Shenzhen,
a booming city just across the border, to his offices in Hong Kong.
Previously, the commute took one hour by bus. But now it will take them about 15 minutes by train.
Hong Kong was a lot more business, more professional, right.
But then Shenzhen was uniquely positioned for technology, for manufacturing,
so there is a unique combination of synergy, of culture and talents.
And does that excite you?
Absolutely, because for example, our business, we are based in Hong Kong,
but we actually have a major R&D innovation hub in Shenzhen,
so we leverage that power of China innovation as well as with Hong Kong as the window to the world.
Eric doesn't seem to be concerned by the politics of it all.
There's some critics, who will say politically Hong Kong is supposed to be independent,
is there a lot of concern around that?
I think you hear some voices, but we should look at Asia as a whole, how do we become more interconnected,
just like how Europe becomes one more interconnected region, so Hong Kong will be part of that.
Before I leave Hong Kong, I want to see what makes it
one of the world's most popular international destinations.
More than seven million people live in Hong Kong
and because it's spread out over a peninsula and a few inhabitable islands
it's considered one of the most densely-populated places on earth.
But in order to understand what makes this city iconic, you have to see it at night.
Hong Kong is quite an international and dynamic city.
In fact, any cuisine you can think of, chances are they have a restaurant for it here in Hong Kong.
And there's so many restaurants, it's such an important part of the culture here
that it's said that for every 600 residents here in Hong Kong, there's a restaurant.
That's a restaurant per capita ratio that rivals most cities in the world.
This area is known as Soho, it's one of the city's hotspots.
Could I try the pork and the truffle?
A signature truffle?
Each of the three areas that the bridge connects have different currencies.
So Macau has a different currency than Hong Kong, which has a different currency than the mainland.
Hong Kong uses the Hong Kong dollar.
Macau has the pataca and China has the yuan.
That's an issue, and could be a barrier to creating a truly interconnected region.
In order for it to actually work, people need to move away from cash and pay digitally.
Which shouldn't be too difficult in mainland China, where many people pay using their phones.
These soup dumplings aren't the easiest thing to eat. But they're so worth it.
I end my night on an old Chinese sailing ship, more commonly known around here, as a Junk.
This is Victoria Harbour behind me, which separates the two main parts of Hong Kong,
and the view behind me is one of the most iconic here.
The next day it's time to leave Hong Kong for Macau.
This has been the most popular way to get from Hong Kong to Macau.
It's about a one-hour ferry ride and costs around $25.
If you look out the window, you can actually see the new bridge.
It's along the same route as the ferry, and the ferry business could lose out on customers
now that a bridge will offer a cheaper and faster option.
The thing about Macau is that it's sort of China's answer to Las Vegas,
you even have a lot of the same casino resorts, right here.
You have the Sands over here, you have the Venetian behind me
which is actually twice as big as the Venetian in Vegas, you even have a replica of the Eiffel Tower,
which is something you would see on the Las Vegas Strip as well.
Here you have what's known as the Cotai Strip, the name was even coined by the Las Vegas Sands Corporation.
Home to more than 600,000 people, Macau is the only place in China where gambling is legal.
Its gaming revenue is a whopping five times higher than Las Vegas'.
But the glitz of this area is only part of why visitors come to Macau.
If you walk a few minutes from the Cotai strip, you'll find this area.
It's known as Taipa Village, and there's quite a contrast between the glamour of the casino resorts there,
versus the more historic, tranquil side of Macau here.
I meet Pamela, a veteran in the tourism and hospitality world, now working at Taipa Village.
The area is hundreds of years old, preserved by the government,
and it brings together Western and Eastern culture.
Visitors primarily come from Hong Kong, Taiwan and the mainland as well.
This looks popular. I think we need to try this.
We have to cue.
Every day they are selling like 9,000 egg tarts per day.
Can we have two?
Oh, it's hot!
So this is the famous egg tart here in Macau. What makes this famous?
It was founded by an English pharmacist who tried to modify the recipe
and add more Portuguese elements into the egg tart.
And is it one of your favorites as well?
Yeah, it's one of my favorites.
I guess I should try it.
That's delicious.
There's going to be a new bridge that connects Hong Kong with Macau,
how might something like that impact tourism here?
I think it will probably have an impact because a lot of Hong Kong people,
they can start to travel from Hong Kong International Airport to Macau.
The egg tarts were nice but wanted to end my day in Macau on an even higher note.
If you look over to the left, just a little bit you'll see the bridge that connects Macau to Zhuhai.
It's much smaller because Zhuhai is just right over the water.
It may be called the Sky Walk, but it's definitely not the place to come if you're looking for a leisurely stroll.
This is where tourists come to bungee jump or walk the perimeter of the Macau Tower,
and even though you're wearing a safety vest and a safety harness,
the feeling of it all oscillates between an adrenaline high and just downright terrifying.
The views up here help me better understand the area.
In the distance, I can see where the bridge gets in to Macau and from there it goes up to Zhuhai.
That's where I'm headed next.
My last stop is Zhuhai. The city of 1.6 million people shares a border with Macau
and is known for its islands, golf resorts, and duty-free shopping.
Not a bad way to roll up to a theme park.
I'm here to visit a theme park you've probably never heard of, but it's growing rapidly.
It's called Chimelong Ocean Kingdom and even though it opened just four years ago,
it gets nearly 10 million visitors a year.
That makes it the 11th most popular amusement park in the world
and the top park without the Disney or Universal name attached to it.
It's quite a hot day so many visitors are taking comfort here in the penguin exhibit.
Four years of Ocean Kingdom opening, we basically did nonstop building.
When you see the park is like that, we have actually cornered off an entire section to do the second phase,
and then we do an upgrade. So basically every year we have new attractions and new entertainment.
That's Paul. He opened the park in 2014 and tells me he hasn't stopped building since.
Right now, about 90% of his visitors are from other parts of Mainland China.
He's hoping to double their visitors in just three years,
and he thinks the new bridge will help him bring in a new, international audience.
Spending a day in the park, I don't think I saw one non-Chinese person,
so how do you adapt the staff for that? I mean, it seems like a lot of them know
some pretty basic English at least, is there any training that's involved with that?
We are working on that part actually. For this park when we design, we already consider foreign guests.
So, if you can hear all the announcements we have in the park, all the signage, all the brochures and the website,
we have Chinese and English available right now, but you're right about that,
for staffing we still need to work out something.
The park is full of your classic amusements,
everything from riding a roller coaster to exploring its massive aquarium.
The park's success comes at a time when marine parks are rising in popularity throughout China,
yet live animal shows are being canceled throughout the U.S. and Europe due to opposition.
I end my night with an action-packed night show
that includes a drone show, fireworks, and even people on jetpacks.
And if you're feeling exhausted and need some shut-eye at the end of the day,
the park offers this experience of sleeping under the sea, next to its aquarium.
It's quite a popular experience, in fact, it sells out most nights,
but it's not a bad problem to have for a company that's seen such rapid growth in just a couple of years
and to keep up with demand, it's planning to expand the theme park next year.
It's time to return to Hong Kong. But first I have to go through two checkpoints.
One when I leave Mainland China and another when I enter Hong Kong.
Government officials are hoping to streamline that process
with the final piece of the Greater Bay puzzle, the Vibrant Express.
There's Chinese officials in Hong Kong to operate a joint checkpoint.
Convenient sure, but critics say it violates Hong Kong's autonomy.
I want to see it for myself.
I wake up at 3:30 in the morning, so I can witness the buzz around this new station
and catch a glimpse of one of the train's very first passengers.
You have an entirely brand new train station here. You have a brand new ticket counter, brand new terminals,
brand new turnstiles. Every store is completely new, from a Godiva store, to a Sunglass Hut.
Everything is new, in fact it smells like a brand new building.
After seven years of construction, the project has ended up costing nearly $11 billion,
$2.5 billion more than the original projected cost.
But the project's advocates point to the economic benefits.
First day on the job!
Yeah, hello, welcome.
They say his job, and approximately 11,000 others, have been generated by the railway project.
And the government estimates the train will have 95,000 daily riders by 2021.
This is one of the first passengers to ever use the station and his shirt says,
“Life is like riding a bicycle. In order to keep your balance, you must keep moving.”
Expectations are high.
From business hubs like Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Guangzhou, to tourism hubs like Macau and Zhuhai.
And with one major consulting firm tipping the Greater Bay Area to become
the world's biggest bay economy, these ambitions may soon be met.


香港中國 (The Greater Bay Area: Bridging Hong Kong, Macau and Mainland China | CNBC Reports)

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PENG 發佈於 2019 年 3 月 14 日
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