It might be hard for those in the West to believe that there are foreign kids and Expats living among the local Chinese of Hong Kong. It may also impress you to know that they have lived there their whole lives. It’s not bullshit — and I should know… I’m one such dude. And returning home after a stint in Montreal, I had much to reflect on and even more to (re)appreciate.
The Pearl of the Orient
This might sound self-evident, but Hong Kong is vastly different to any other place in the world. From the massive, disgusting, Lovecraftian spiders to all the crazy adventures, “HK” is truly a unique city to have grown up in. Outsiders who see Hong Kong as a concrete jungle that just screams of “Asian New York” not only have their wrongness to suffer but a lack of curiosity to overcome as well. All together, I hope you shed your illusions and allow this Gweilo to rope you into the new frontiers of the cosmopolitan Orient.
As I said, we have massive, disgusting, scary spiders. But, it’s not the only reason that makes us different from New York, Shanghai or Singapore. There is an obvious transacting of culture between migrants, expats and the local Chinese.
As Hong Kong was a British Colony until 1997, foreign companies were streaming in and that brought many different people and cultures to the table. Under the prosperous tenure of the English, HK became an attractive job fair for many Filipinos, Nepali, Indonesians and others to call home. Due to this wave of migrants, you can imagine how diverse and multiethnic the service sector became. Hong Kong, perhaps owing to this internationalism, also chances to be one of the financial capitals of the world.
I was born in Hong Kong, before the Handover in 1997. I was fortunate to have lived in such a great place and wouldn’t, for my travels, have it any other way. All in all, I had a great childhood. We had a maid — yes, I have a domestic called “Auntie”, (authentic) Chinese food, the opportunity to meet so many people from around the world and the chance to travel to South East Asia. This is why it was a blessing to have called HK home for as long as I did. Nevertheless, when you live in Hong Kong as a foreigner you are pretty lucky. The people are nice here, you have so much to do and most of the time you are only 30 minutes away from a beach.
Now that you know more about the city, let’s get to the real stuff. I could contrast visiting Hong Kong to the life I had as a HKer, but I’d rather you follow me like a camcorder through the Nightlife, beaches, island hopping, food, things to see, and the many many many things to do. Even though this might sound touristy, it won’t be, because these are things the kids and young adults of Hong Kong actually do.
The way the International schools and the Chinese schools coordinate together is truly inspirational. They do everything together. I mean everything! From rugby, to athletics, to swim meets, to charity events, you truly get to mingle with plenty of kids of your age thanks to the organization of the administrators. Concerning the charity events, we have the 24 hour race where a charity fighting sex slavery competes in a sedan chair race with another charity fighting cancer. This brings all the participating students from neighboring districts together — and you can’t be shy if you want to make new friends in a town of 7.2 million.
Throughout the city, you’ll most likely catch most locals out in one of the 2 main places to go out in Hong Kong. The first, Wan Chai, is notorious for their strip bars, cheap drinks and their beer-bellied Englishmen. It has a certain charm to it, no doubt. You can also have cheap deals for everyday of the week at Carnegie’s. Or you can always play beer pong at Scratch.
(sidenote: you can play beer pong pretty much in any bar in Wan Chai).
Wan Chai is set on a straight road, so if you don’t like a particular bar, you can always switch to the next one a door over. Be careful though, one way will bring you closer to the darker side of Wan Chai or to the end of Club X, which every guy over 18 knows is jail bait central due to the schools of under age girls there(pun intended). Aside from the underagers, or “UAG” for short, it’s a good place to go pre-drinking if you want 4 Jager Bombs for 100 HKD (roughly 15$CD). If you’re tight on money and you cannot afford anything around, there’s always a 7/11 there to save you. 7/11s are pretty much everywhere in Hong Kong and most of them sell booze, beers and mixers. If you’re from Canada or the US don’t worry, we have Budweiser and other “imports”. Tsing Tao to us is pretty much your Budweiser (pisswater). What you really must try here are the tea shots, they’re sold on the counter at 7/11 and pack a punch.
The second party place in Hong Kong is Lan Kwai Fong, which translated means “The Lonely Ghost”. Ironically it is the complete opposite to what it means. If you go to the dead center of LKF, you will be surrounded by a crowd of people dancing in the middle of the street. As you walk by, every bar plays a with different song like “Timber” by Pitbull or Avicii’s “Hey Brother”.
(Why those songs? Who knows… )
Some bars even have their own live bands, if that’s more your speed. My recommendation, and this could be argued agaisnt, is to go to the shot bar and do the 10 shot challenge. There are even Thai restaurants if you want to grab some grub before hand.
There are two parks where people meet and grab 7/11 drinks and chill. It’s also a great meeting point if you lost your friends which happens a lot because of all the pretty girls around. There’s Ula Bu La, a very swanky bar, but you don’t have to pay for entry and they have good music , so stock up on those 7/11 drinks. Stormies is one of the best places to dance to old school music and try syringes full of jelly shots. Have at it!
There you have it, an unofficial intro to my city and a guide to pass time and unwind in busy Hong Kong.