September 2022, Virtual
September 29 2022, Virtual
Now in its 27th year, the Business Travel Awards
Hong Kong ” Live it, Love it! This is just one of the slogans with which the former British colony associates itself and having just enjoyed the varying delights of this East-West crossroads full of contrasts and contradictions, I couldn”t agree more.
Officially known as the rather convoluted Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People”s Republic of China, Hong Kong has enjoyed a particularly chequered history that saw the British assume rule in the nineteenth century after the so-called opium wars.
After a brutal occupation by the Japanese during the Second World War, the British regained control as the regional superpower. However, with a resurgent political and economic China straining at the leash, the colony was finally ceded to the mainland in 1997, although the present day visitor would be hard pressed to notice any major differences ” the canny Chinese having long adopted the ”one country, two systems,” approach that has seen Hong Kong retain a financial dominance in south east Asia.
But away from the politics, a significant part of Hong Kong”s success must be down to the ease of getting around the place and there is no better example of this than the seamless arrival experience itself.
From touchdown on Lantau Island at the impressive Chek Lap Kok Airport, to a hotel on Hong Kong Island via customs, baggage collection, Airport Express train to the city (23 minutes) and taxi, is just more than an hour. Once in the city the fast, clean, efficient underground system (Mass Transit Railway or MTR) glides around in air-conditioned comfort, while taxis are cheap and plentiful.
And of course, no visit to the Hong Kong would be complete without a jaunt on the reliable and fun Star Ferry service to and from the Kowloon peninsular, that offers spectacular views of the ever-changing skyscraper vista painting such a dramatic backdrop to the city.
Trams, buses and public mini-buses complete the transport offering, ensuring that the business traveller or tourist can really make the most of the day, although such efficiency does mean you are likely to be in for an exhausting time, Hong Kong”s heart beats at a fast pace but just go along with it (when in Rome); even the escalators in the shopping malls and MTR seem to go faster than elsewhere!
Although this time I was in Hong Kong to meet friends and enjoy the HK Rugby Sevens tournament (24 international teams competing over 3 days), I have spent many months on business in Hong Kong and believe that it is its positive ”can do” attitude that is so infectious and integral to its continuing success despite the challenges of Beijing rule and in more recent years SARS. As somebody once said to me ”there is no point in being here unless are going to succeed, failure is not an option; work hard, play hard but definitely in that order!”
Having said that, it is easy to get away from the pressures and bustle of the fast-paced city itself. Hong Kong”s splendid parks and many islands offer a simple yet effective antidote.
My favourite is Lamma Island where no cars allowed and is just a short ferry ride from Hong Kong. Try the scenic walk from Yung She Wan to Sok Wo Wan and then an excellent seafood meal at the numerous seafront restaurants. Once you have done this you will be suitably ready for the next day”s work or to party till late.
Other places of note to unwind in Hong Kong are: Stanley Market, ideal for cheap clothes, gifts or just to sit and watch the world go by from a number of bars, cafes and restaurants with the South China Sea as your backdrop. Or I would suggest a journey from yesteryear on the world”s oldest and steepest funicular railway, the Peak Tram, which takes you to a breathtaking view of the harbour overlooking some of Asia”s tallest skyscrapers.
Hong Kong is a city full of contrasts: East/West, rich/poor, old/new, bustling city/peaceful islands. Whatever your reasons for going, you are sure to be in for an action-packed time.
My slogan would be: Hong Kong ” Live it, Love it, Leave it! But you will want to go back before too long!
Ten Top Tips for business travellers
1. If possible plan all your meetings on HK Island one day and Kowloon another
2. If you do have to travel between HK Island and Kowloon, the MTR is best; taxis can take too long getting through the Cross Harbour tunnel
3. Take taxis between appointments, don”t walk anywhere in the warmer months, you will arrive sweaty and late for your meeting
4. Ask your hotel concierge to write down the addresses of your meetings in Chinese before you embark on your day, not all taxi drivers speak and read English
5. Be smartly dressed, you will be surrounded by immaculately dressed business people in very smart offices
6. Tipping ” it”s up to you, but a small gratuity for hotel staff, taxis and restaurants is the norm
7. Purchase a local pay as you go SIM card, it will save you a small fortune and it is good to give business contacts a local number while you are there
8. Purchase an Octopus card on arrival at the airport, it can be used on most forms of public transport except taxis
9. Buy big bottles of drinking water from the nearest 7/11 instead of paying three times as much for half as much from your mini-bar
10. Try an evening meal in the Mid-Levels area (Elgin St, Staunton St) instead of the tourist traps of Lan Kwai Fong and Wan Chai
Director - travel portfolio, Centaur Media