"Cities? Meh. Wherever you go, they're all the same, you know. When you travel, you've got to stay away from them. Go out to the countryside — that's where the real people are."
We've all heard those words of "wisdom" before. At first I just found them dull, but with each new city I visit, I find them more and more false as well. No two cities of any respectable size have seemed alike to me in any aspect beyond their commercial high streets. And cultural specificity abounds even in those unpromising spaces, if you know where to find it. And why on Earth would you think you've found the "real" people in the countryside when, in most of the world, they're fleeing not from, but to the cities?
At some point, we traveler-urbanists can't even settle for cities; we need to feel the ambient ambition of megacities. These massive accretions of people, places, and things, usually defined as metropolitan areas of ten million people are more, provide the subject for National Geographic's Megacities, documentaries, three of which you see here: New York, Hong Kong, and London.
Each of these hourlong programs examines not just the points of interest in the classic megacity under discussion, but the elements on the strength of which they first became and continue to thrive as megacities: New York's subway, London's rivers, Hong Kong's financial heritage. (To exemplify the proud Hong Kong moneymaker, the program rings up Jackie Chan, whose hometown tour we featured not long ago.) Reckonings differ as to whether Los Angeles, where I live, has yet become a megacity — it depends on the borders you draw — but the day when it indisputably gains that status now looks inevitable. And when it comes, well — fellow traveler-urbansits, start booking your tickets now.