Sing and I love to follow the steps of locals when we travel. Of course, as every tourist I will go to those ‘must-see’ places, but I won’t mind getting lost or leaving subway one stop earlier just to see more. You might find a small local diner that is not in your guidebook or you might get a chance to learn more about the place you’re about to visit.
- It’s cheap. Let’s face it – if something is in the guidebook you’re carrying, it’s probably quite pricey. I don’t know why, but literally every single guidebook that I had while traveling would suggest some posh-y places that I would be too cheap to go and I know the prices there are high mostly because the spot is focus on the tourists. Before the trip I would try to read local forums, sites like OpenRice, whatsapp our local friends or just randomly wander around the streets and look if the price is in my ‘worth my money’ range.
If the place is typically for locals (i.e. no English menu), you’re more likely to find good prices.
- It’s entertaining. In some cities like Paris, those hop on – hop off buses make sense, it’s just cheaper than taking a subway and will get you to all of the destinations you should see. But I don’t see the reason why would you have that kind of bus in Hong Kong. I mean, a trip with star ferry takes around 8 minutes and less than 3 HKD (0.38 USD/0,35 EUR). Double-decked tram will take you to many places in Hong Kong island for the same price! For that price just enter on the first station and take a ride around the island until the last station! You will find so many hidden gems on your way!
And if my words cannot convince you, just look at the video!
- Getting lost is a great adventure. So you took my advice and went with a random tram to some random spot… How cool is that! You now have the opportunity to practice your language skills, doesn’t matter if it’s English or Cantonese or any other. Just go out of your comfort zone and ask for a directions or ask if someone knows a good foodie spot somewhere near!
Sing forces me to go out of my speaking-Cantonese-comfort-zone and asks me to order the food for us. And when you go to a Hong Kong diner or dai pai dong you will more likely approach an aunty whose English is limited to ‘Bye, bye’. Now if you enter my room in the middle of the night, wake me up and ask me to order you a beer I will be like ‘Yat zun bejau, m’goi’.
- It’s tasty. Local Hong Kong food is just A-W-E-S-O-M-E. There’s everything for everyone – for vegetarians, for meat lovers, for people who like Asian cuisine and for those who want some Western tastes. Baked pork chop rice and Hong Kong style milk tea or lemon tea with barbecue meat over rice and gai lan. Did I mention the choice of fresh and dried seafood? Snack stands opened until late? Noodle store where for 30 HKD you can get a bowl of noodles filled with happiness and other ingredients? Or maybe you have a sweet tooth and you love mango? I should actually become Mango Chan (I bet there’s a lady named like that in Hong Kong already – still better than Iceland and Rainbow, though). I ate mango sago with a coconut milk EVERY SINGLE DAY during this trip.
- You can learn a lot. You can learn about the customs, history, traditions. As I mentioned previously, you can practice your language skills. If you’re lucky enough, you might encounter people who will teach you more than you expected.
I was lucky enough, my bridesmaid (my male maid of honor and self-called the King of Karaoke) is originally from Macau and when we told him we are coming to visit him, he took his car and drove us around to the places we wouldn’t go ourselves. Most of the tourists will only see the fancy hotels and then walk to the ruins of St. Paul’s cathedral, maybe see what is up the hill and here you go – ‘I’ve seen a lot in Macau’, that’s what I used to say but thanks to our friend we could see more and learn more than we would normally do. Not to mention he took us to an amazing Portuguese restaurant and now Sing is always like ‘I would eat something Portuguese now’. Thanks, Raymond.
And yes, of course I made a video – I will upload it in near future on my YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/myhongkonghusband.
- You support local businesses and not big chains. In my opinion that is the most important thing – you probably have seen that picture online saying ‘If each of us spent $100 a year more on local businesses instead of chain stores, it would put an extra $3 million a year into our economy.’
I won’t argue if it’s true or not, I’m not an economist but I have my eyes and my mind. I can read the property prices. Hong Kong’s properties are probably one of (if not) the most expensive in the world. Even luxury stores like Gucci say they might quit because the rental prices are too high, how can those little local family businesses survive without our help? How many fish balls have to be made and sold to cover the high cost? I don’t say ‘Quit eating/buying at chain stores’, because that’s not a solution, but getting your meal or whatever you’re looking for at a local store and the other one in the chain could greatly help and actually make a difference.
So what’s your take on this topic? Do you prefer to travel like a tourist or try to blend in as a local? I would love to hear your opinions and maybe even have a discussion! 🙂