Student Blog: The China Ten - Business Study Tour of China
Experiencing Hong Kong by Air, Land and Sea
by Brad Ross '09
Our tour guide, Calvin, had a lot planned for us today so he made sure we were awake by 7:30 a.m. for our dumpling breakfast and on the buses by 9:00. First on our agenda was to visit Victoria Peak, which overlooks the entire city and provides tourists a breathtaking view.
During our bus ride, Calvin proceeded to elaborate on many interesting facts about Hong Kong and its people. He explained that Hong Kong is sometimes viewed as a separate entity apart from the rest of China. This is primarily due to its severe Westernization over the years from North American and British influence. But being separated from mainland China also allows Hong Kong to formulate its own laws and regulations. One prime example can be seen in China's single child law. To control the growing population, mainland China allows married couples to bear only one child. If not obeyed, they are vulnerable to being fined and are looked down upon by the government. But in Hong Kong, there are no such restrictions for family size.
Once we arrived at the top of Victoria Peak, we got to see an almost aerial view of Hong Kong. After soaking up the spectacular view, we were then informed that our next stop was down by the water at a place called Repulse Bay. After arriving, we were given free time to go test our bartering skills at the nearby Stanley marketplace for Chinese trinkets. But some of us took this opportunity to hitch a ride on a local fisherman's boat for a tour of the harbor.
The local fishermen take select seasons off from fishing in order to promote tourism by providing their services to taxi people around. The cost of the boat ride was $50 HKD (Hong Kong Dollars) or $7 USD. So for the price, it was a must. The fisherman's boat I boarded was everything I envisioned. The bow and stern were all made of dark wood which had been aged and warped from consistent use over the years. From the ceiling hung numerous red paper lanterns with images of smiling cats and floral designs. And to top it off, the driver of the boat was a little old lady who, though was missing a few of her teeth, was not afraid to smile and greet us as we boarded. As we treaded around the harbor place, not only did we watch fishermen go about their daily routine aboard their vessels, but we had the opportunity to see the largest floating boat restaurant in the world. This brilliantly colored ship serves excellent seafood provided by the local fisherman and was featured during the filming of the James Bond movie, Tomorrow Never Dies.
After the boat ride, we were shuttled away from Repulse Bay and back to the city for lunch. Calvin had reserved a table at a high-end restaurant for a traditional Chinese dumpling lunch. We sat down at a large table with a rotating center platform upon where the food was placed. There were a total of 7 different entrees that were served with each appealing to a different taste bud. We each helped ourselves to the delicious bounty of food only making sure that everybody got a good taste of everything. Of the 7 entrees, my personal favorite was the seafood spring roll. The light crispy tempura-fried exterior was blended perfectly with the shrimp, scallop, mushroom and cilantro filling. Of course no meal would ever be complete without washing everything down with a cold swig of the Chinese beer, Tsing Tao.
After lunch, Calvin huddled us all up and got us on the Hong Kong subway to take us to the shopping mecca of Hong Kong known as Wong Kok. After a crowded and hectic ride through the tube, we emerged in this famed shopping district. The categories of merchandise are organized by three streets running parallel with each other. The first street specializes in boutiques and higher end electronic goods. The second street is where the street venders are located where you can pickup your bargain finds and "copy" merchandise. The final street is devoted more towards sporting goods and footwear.
So once we were let free to wander, I, and a small group of fellow travelers, decided to head straight for bargain street. Looking back, we had not even the slightest clue of what we were about to get ourselves into. This stretch of about four blocks was jam-packed full of vendors carrying everything from replica Chanel handbags to Rolex watch remakes. About the third booth in, I was approached by a man who said he had quality Rolex copies. Intrigued, I followed him into his stall where he sat me down in the way back and gave me a catalogue. The catalogue included every high-end watch maker in existence and he simply said "Pick model, I make good price". So I flipped to the Breitling section and just for fun pointed at a timepiece with a sticker price well over $5000 USD. He said okay and sent a runner off into a building to retrieve it and moments later I was staring at the same exact watch on my wrist. I ended up walking away within my first 10 minutes of shopping with a $5500 watch for $40.
My fellow group members did equally as well on the bargain street. Classmates Sheri Keithley [a senior business administration major from Huntingtown, Md.] and Angelica Frescia [a sophomore business administration major from Jacksonville, N.C.] left the market very happy with a "few" key handbag purchases along with Kyle Overacker [senior business administration major from Albany, N.Y.] scoring four designer dress shirts for less then $30 total. I think that everybody was a little heartbroken when we had to depart from the fantasy shopping world that Wong Kok offered.
To round out the night, the China Ten got to watch the Hong Kong laser light show that takes place every afternoon over the harbor front. Each skyscraper near the water's edge had fiber optic lighting installed in order to pulse in patterns and in synchronization with neighboring buildings. This dazzling light display is coordinated with a music soundtrack played over loudspeakers to create a show for all spectators to enjoy. Many large corporate businesses use this opportunity to advertise their brands by having large LED signs affixed atop their building for all to see. The show lasts about 15 minutes in length and reminded me of the laser shows that Disney World's Epcot is renowned for. During the show, I gave my taste buds something to experiment with when I bought a bird's nest and honey jelly in mango and coconut juice smoothie from a local drink stand. From not backing down from my promise to myself, I drank the whole thing and surprisingly found the entire drink very refreshing.
So another day in the books and I find that our Hong Kong portion of the trip is coming to a close. With so much still to see, smell and, well ... eat, I am very anxious to see what mainland China has to offer!
PHOTOS: The China Ten: Business Study Tour of China