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City Weekend

‘Like a university lecture’: tourists learn inconvenient truths about Hong Kong

Local guides on an alternative tour explain the less glamorous aspects of a city that regular visitors rarely see

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 August, 2017, 9:16am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 August, 2017, 11:30am

While most who sign up for Hong Kong tours led by guides Alla Lau Sui and Michael Tsang Chi-fai joined out of convenience, the consensus was that having locals share insights into the city’s underlying tensions was a worthwhile experience.

Molly Henry and Malcolm Thomas from Melbourne, Australia, scheduled a week in Hong Kong for their summer travels. They signed up for the “Kowloon free tour” on their first full day in the city.

“The tour was convenient, because we’re staying in Mong Kok,” Henry said. “It’s insane how all this poverty exists silently alongside all the wealth that the government seems to promote.”

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“I think its good to have tours that discuss the deeper issues in the city, it takes you off the main roads and shows you a lot of the poverty here, and really lets you absorb the reality,” Thomas said.

“It sort of feels like a university lecture, with all the statistics and numbers,” he added with a chuckle.

For local Victoria Hui Tin-bor, an online article about the Kowloon tour stating how it showed the “dark side” of Hong Kong’s glitz and glamour, enticed her to sign up.

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“As someone born here, I was intrigued by a tour that seemed to actually tell tourists the truth about the city they’re visiting,” Hui said.

“It is really a cool idea to show the underside of Hong Kong, because everywhere we go, the list of things to see are the major landmarks, the best shopping places, and the nicest restaurants,” she said.

“Seeing the worst is a revolutionary idea, and I really liked it.”

While Hui noted her appreciation for the concept and the route taken by Lau, she added that actual interaction with people who live in “coffin homes” or subdivided units would have added a deeper dimension to the tour, instead of just images which were shown to them.

Dutch tourist Jomi da Costa attended Tsang’s “Hong Kong free tour” on her fifth day in the city.

“As a tourist who came without any preparation and a minimal knowledge about Hong Kong, I found it really interesting that Michael talked about all the political issues the city faces and how it has developed to where it is today,” da Costa said.