Ask the foodie: Warren Baumberg

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 September, 2012, 9:50am

Two summers ago Warren Baumberg, a high school teacher from New Zealand, launched Hong Kong Pub Crawl, a weekly HK$100-a-night tour of some of the city's independent bars. It is now ranked the city's No1 nightlife attraction on travel site Tripadvisor, with an estimated 6,000 party-goers having signed up for the Thursday night knees up.

Where did you get the idea from?

Hong Kong is a high-end city. That's great. It can be a very flashy city, people popping bottles of champagne with fireworks and that sort of stuff. It gets 41 million visitors every year and if even 1 per cent are independent backpackers, they can't access that lifestyle. We've got so much more to offer.

What's on the itinerary?

We go to four bars and one club. At every bar we've got free shots and two bottles of beer for HK$40 and HK$30 cocktails. We have free club entry and HK$50 cocktails all night in the clubs. We charge HK$100. We don't collect the money until bar No2 so that people can see if they want to join us.

Does the route change?

Every week. At the moment we work with 20 bars. We're always looking for new ones, trying to showcase the best independent venues. It's tough for an independent bar to survive in Lan Kwai Fong, so the back alleys have the most interesting places.

Who shows up for the crawls?

It's different from a night with the suits on Wyndham Street. We've got people from all walks of life, all countries of the world. Throw in a big group of locals and expats, and you get an energy and atmosphere that's different to the typical finance-obsessed side of town.

So it isn't just for young travellers?

We had three couples from Australia celebrating their 60th birthdays. They booked four months in advance and timed it so they'd be here on a Thursday night. They were still out dancing at 2am.

We've had the cast and crew of The Lion King on a stopover to Singapore. We had Cirque du Soleil. And at Halloween, Ocean Park sends about 200 US-based make-up artists. They've joined us twice.

Does it ever get out of hand? We've had more than 6,000 people since we started and I can count the incidents on one hand - our customers are just nice people.

Your liver must take a beating.

I scarcely drink now, it reminds me of work. Going out is work on a Thursday night so on a Saturday night I'd rather read a book.

I saw a chance to support independent businesses and for people to meet each other. For me it's not the party, it's more the tourism side that appeals.

Have any of your students shown up on the tours?

Two students I taught in my first year of teaching in New Zealand in 2001 randomly showed up the year we started. It was funny to see them in their mid-20s.

What's next?

We hope to open up Kowloon side, with a monthly "Crawl on the Dark Side". We also have access to a huge junk boat. Junks are a classic Hong Kong thing, but unless you have 40 friends, they're off limits for a tourist. Oh, and it would be nice to be in the Lonely Planet guide.