Fiona Lee slipped on a pair of high heels and left her home in Tai Wai in Hong Kong's New Territories yesterday morning and headed for the border, despite the weather forecast for wind and rain.
Aged 28, the office worker was going to the Guanyin Mountain Forest Park in Dongguan, where she would mingle with thousands of single men at a matchmaking event the city was hosting as part of the mainland's annual "singles' day".
Lee was joined by more than 100 other Hongkongers who are using such events, along with dating sites, to find a mainland husband, after deciding the pool at home was too limited.
"Hong Kong is too small to find a perfect husband," Lee said. She preferred single men from leading cities in Guangdong, in their late 20s to late 30s, who are "thoughtful and responsible".
"It will be great if they are professional or entrepreneurs. This kind of single man is hard to encounter in Hong Kong," she said.
Despite the predicted downpour, thousands of other single people turned out for the event in the mountain park after at least 6,000 filed applications online to attend. The event, which is in its third year, attracted 20,000 people from several cities in the delta, like Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Dongguan.
Another Hong Kong woman who travelled to Dongguan was drawn by the size of the event.
"It's my first time to attend such a mass matchmaking event. In Hong Kong, you might only meet eight men at a dating dinner party. Here you can talk with dozens," said Sally Jyun, who works in Sheung Shui.
The city's women are also turning to mainland dating and matchmaking websites in greater numbers, according to Kam Lau, the founder of the Shenzhen-based King Phoenix, a dating agency that counts half a million members on both sides of the border. "There are about 30,000 Hong Kong singles registered on my website. Two-thirds of them are male, and the rest are female," she said.
"Five years ago, only single Hong Kong women in their late 30s or 40s would even think of going north to look for a husband. But it has changed sharply in the past two or three years."
About a third of the women members from the website were aged between 25 and 35, Lau said. "Since the start of the year, more than 1,000 Hong Kong women have registered on my website, and many of them are urbane, young and well-educated."
Lau said that the city's young women were joining a range of dating activities organised in Guangdong. "They often come in a group of three or four and go straight back to Hong Kong after the event," she said.
Many had been following or at least knew about the matchmaking shows that were hugely popular on the mainland, such as If You Are the One and Run For Love, which have attracted hundreds of millions of viewers.
"Many of my Hong Kong female members told me they love watching these kinds of TV reality shows and see that many of the contestants on the shows are charming, educated and young with decent jobs," Lau said.
"These shows and the dating websites have inspired Hong Kong women to go north. However, Hong Kong single men are losing their appeal in the eyes of mainland women."
The mainland is reported to have roughly 180 million single people aged between 18 and 35. Revenue from the online dating market topped 1.2 billion yuan (HK$1.5 billion) and is forecast to reach two billion yuan by 2014.