Congested HK Skyline

This past summer I was fortunate enough to visit the Asia after a long hiatus. My first visit to Hong Kong was four years ago during that visit I had the impression that it was a city all too small for an extended stay. This summer however was my first extended stay in Hong Kong and apart from the plethora of new opportunities opened by four years in age difference, the city did have a lot more to offer and see.

Tsim Sha Tsui & The Chinese Tourist Mob

Chinese Tourists Raiding LV Store

Despite its small size, the city of Hong Kong can be quite diverse in its many small suburbs. Central and Wan Chai are predominantly expat areas with Lan Kwai Fang being at the heart of HK nightlife. Though I did have many memorable nights in Lan Kwai, in retrospect my favourite area would have to be Tsim Sha Tsui. Unlike Central, TST has just the right amount of commercialism blended in with a touch of spice that makes it seem more genuine when you’re not spending cash on luxury items. In TST, you’ll find your batch of expats, tourist, locals, mainland Chinese but also Africans and Indian tailors whom speak Chinese. Added into the mix you’ll also find a bevy of laid back beer bars (recommend Ned Kelly’s last stand) plus more higher end bars and clubs (Aqua).

Of course with that being said, Hong Kong is known for its luxury goods and you’ll find them at TST as well. What makes TST different is the horde of mainland Chinese tourists raiding luxury goods stores as the picture above shows. On many occasions whilst heading into the office on weekends, I had the opportunity to observe a viking style pillage of the Louis Vuitton store in TST Peninsula. It usually starts with a tourist bus dropping 30 or so mainland tourists followed by a guide.

The group will congregate with the guide announcing the group’s time limit plus the benefits of buying in Hong Kong due to the luxury goods tax added on the mainland. Then the fun begins. Standing on the second floor and looking down, one gets an omniscient view into this commotion. What is fascinating to this is the propensity for the mainland Chinese to carry large amounts of cash abroad. Though this practice has lessened in recent years, if one observes carefully, small suitcases and bags loaded with RMB are still prevalent. When it comes to check out, the amount of goods that are brought is truly astonishing. A massive (and obnoxious) LV patterned bag for a short stocky Chinese man, small LV bags packed to the brim in a larger LV suitcase and so on. Before you know it, the horde has left and store looks odd due to the absence of display items being brought in large quantities.

To the careful observer, it is absolutely fascinating to see this materialism and insatiable appetite for luxury goods. Seeing many instances of stores being raided viking style was one of the experiences which made TST more “out of the box” than any other areas in Hong Kong. For me, you need some spice in life, something very different and TST definitely has flavours for the discerning taster.

Mong Kok – Haggling and Its Lessons

Mong Kok Night Market

Mong Kok is a region of Hong Kong, which is known for its vibrant nightlife and shopping culture even up to 2am. This part of town has an interesting mix of markets for a plethora of fake goods and it was here that I came one Sunday evening with a colleague in trading.

Wandering through the many streets of fake electronics, one could not help but stop and see (and laugh) at the many replications of original equipment. For instance, Dr. Dre headsaets, Apple iPhone USB and so forth. Though there were many cheap and cheerful goods, my biggest takeaway was how to negotiate and drive a hard bargain which applicable in so many other areas of life.

At a younger age, it is very imperative to develop negotiation skills and ways of meeting halfway as opposed to yielding. Of course, haggling at a market will be different than in a sell-side M&A situation, but haggling does nonetheless sow the seeds which will bear fruit later down the track.

Like TST, Mong Kok can be a little run down for the discerning tourist, but one has to only dig a little to find an interesting experience and have fun while haggling.

Hiking & Stanley Market

Stanley Market Waterfront

My last stay four years ago was too short to do any “non-touristy” activities, which was why I was left with the impression that Hong Kong was a one dimensional city. This summer however, I discovered the hidden gems laying on the south side of the Hong Kong island, namely hiking trails and Stanley Market.

Though the city of Hong Kong is very congested and built on a the small amount of flat terrain facing Kowloon, the rest of the Hong Kong island consists of hilly terrain that opens up into nice sand beaches on the south side. Due to the small size of the island, one doesn’t have to go for to get a slice of nature. Trails like Dragons-Back wind through the hilly terrain behind the sprawling office towers. The terrain itself can be very steep and presents a decent challenge for any amateur hikers. The trails’ proximity makes them very convenient even for the busy professional to get away from the hustle and bustle of the Central district.

Certain trails will also cross the peaks straight to an area called Stanley Market. Stanley is essentially an upscale Mong Kok selling locally produced and antique goods for mainly Western tourists. The market is small enough and filled with an interesting array of oriental antiques for gifts or personal use. It is also very close to a bevy of bars which allow drinking out on the streets.

The ability to drink freely in the open in Hong Kong is one of its libertarian perks, but in the context of Stanley it is just wonderful. One can stroll through the markets or street with a icy cool Corona in hand and actually enjoy the humid weather with a touch of cool ocean breeze.

Stanley Market is definitely one of the more laid back places I visited during my stay and it is a great destination for a Saturday hike and some beach time during the afternoon.