Warning: If you ever go to Hong Kong, you may never want to leave. I’m not alone in that sentiment, as the “Special Administrative Region” of China, Hong Kong, is bustling with people from all over the world. Living so close to Hong Kong, I have the opportunity to visit almost as often as I’d like. Getting there from Shenzhen is all about if you have more time or money. Since I live in 蛇口 (Shekou) in Shenzhen, I’m able to go to Hong Kong by ferry, bus, taxi, or train. By far, the easiest is the ferry: a 10-minute walk to the ferry terminal and then a 60-minute ferry ride to Hong Kong Central. However, it’s about half the price to take a taxi and then take a bus to go to Hong Kong. Generally, you get stuck in the border crossing lines, so it takes a bit longer. On the other hand, you get to go through a huge terminal swarming with hundreds of people every weekend. It looks like this:
When taking the ferry, you get dropped off at the Central docks. My first time going there was a real trip, as it was a gorgeous day and absolutely perfect weather: blue skies, sunshine, a light wind. The docks are on the Victoria Harbour, so you can see the stunning skyline and over to Kowloon. You’re dropped off on a sky-pier, so you’re also removed from the hustle and bustle of the traffic below. As you walk out of the terminal and towards the city proper, you start to see why Hong Kong is a truly global city: excellent English and Cantonese signage, a dozen different languages being spoken in the streets, and little restaurants from all over the world. Truly a magical first foray into this unique city. What caught my eye next wasn’t the magic of “Asia’s Global City” (as described on some Hong Kong travel literature), but rather a bunch of women in boxes.
Coming from the United States and having been to places like India and Thailand, you get to see your fair share of beggars. A lot of times, they use cardboard boxes as some sort of shelter. It’s saddening, sure, but a relatively common sight in certain parts of town. Here, though, there were dozens, no, hundreds of Filipino women sitting in those same paper shanties. Eating, playing cards, and overall having a good time, these didn’t strike me as homeless people. On the other hand, they were in cardboard boxes. Obviously, I wasn’t in Kansas any more. After doing some digging and asking a few people, I learned that I had come on a Sunday: the only day off in the week for the many Filipino and Indonesian housemaids.
The reason I was in Hong Kong on a Sunday was because I needed to renew my Chinese working visa. I was wholly unprepared for an experience with East Asian housekeepers. The weirdest part of it all was they completely blocked off streets and took over whole subway stations. Had I not already been confused with the cardboard boxes, I would have thought this was one of the famous Hong Kong protests. These were relatively well-dressed, relatively young women just having fun on their day off. Blocking traffic. Surreal as it was, I had to make it over to the other side of the Victoria Harbour to the island of Kowloon to get my visa renewed, so I dodged some more crowds of women and took the escalator down to the MTR subway station…
If you’d like to see more of my adventures in Hong Kong (and other cities and countries), check out our Flickr page! There will be more to come on this beautiful city.