PEOPLE often view Hong Kong both as a business and a tourism destination especially that it houses one of the three Disneylands in Asia. When we hear the word Hong Kong, most often than not, we associate it immediately with the famous theme park.
But during my first visit to the city two weeks ago, I learned that more than a business and tourism district, Hong Kong actually serves as an entryway to other neighboring places that people are interested to visit such as Macau and Shenzhen.
During our five-day visit to Hong Kong together with the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB), we were lucky enough to be able to see other places that Hong Kong made easier to access via modern transportation infrastructure.
The distance from Hong Kong to Shenzhen is approximately 27.5 kilometers. From the West Kowloon station, we went through the Immigration and presented the necessary documents before taking the Hong Kong High Speed Train that ran on about 180 kilometers per hour. In less than an hour, we were settled in Shenzhen.
Shenzhen: City of opportunities
Shenzhen is a relatively young city celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. Its skyscrapers losing the tip on the overcast skies can attest to how Shenzhen is doing in terms of their business sector. We particularly took notice of the 600-meter tall Ping An International Finance building whose top we cannot see anymore.
Patiently, the guide made remarks on which building is on our left and right. We learned that most of them are main offices of huge international companies, hotels, and financial buildings. But even so, with the seemingly business-oriented atmosphere of Shenzhen, we were told that the average age of people working there are at 25 to 26 years old.
“Most of the people working at Shenzhen are not originally from here. They are peasants from other places. I love this city because everyone is a foreigner. This city is a melting pot of different cultures. You can taste food from your home here. Shenzhen is full of young people because people see this as a city full of opportunities,” the Shenzhen guide told us adding there is an approximately 15 million people in Shenzhen right now.
He went on to share that the real natives and residents born and raised in Shenzhen are those rich Chinese who need not work. They own the lands where the skyscrapers are built.
“If you have some business idea and you don’t have any means to fund it or achieve it, just come to Shenzhen. You will meet a lot of investors who you can partner with,” he said.
In the past, Shenzhen is known to be a city manufacturing clothes and shoes. But because this industry caused too much air pollution, they are now focusing on other business sectors such as shipping, financing, and internet business.
Shenzhen, for some young professionals, is but a transitory city. They work here for experience and for the monetary savings before they head back home to their respective provinces to start a family or to open their own business. The guide shared that his brother-in-law used to work as a waiter for several years in Shenzhen before heading back home to their province to open his own restaurant.
But this is not all there is to the business-oriented Shenzhen. We stopped by for a museum tour and lunch at Overseas Chinese Town (OCT) Loft, the home to art and fashion exhibits as well as cafes and restaurants. It was formerly a factory compound before it was opened as an art and design scene compound in 2015. We will be talking more of OCT Loft art compound in the future articles.
From Shenzhen, we head back to Hong Kong via the same High Speed Train which I found out was very convenient and hassle-free. On the same day that we left Shenzhen, we also made a trip to Macau where we decided to stay the night.
Macau: The city and the culture in one
From Hong Kong, we boarded a bus that took us through the new HK-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge. This is the latest transportation infrastructure that HKTB was very proud to share to the team. The bridge-tunnel recently opened in October 24, 2018 and stretches 55 kilometers and is reported to be the longest sea crossing and longest open-sea fixed link worldwide.
It stretches over Lingding and Jiuzhou channels on Pearl River Delta and connects the major cities Hong Kong, Zhuhai, and Macau.
It was completed on February 2018 and was shown to the press before being opened to the public eight months after. It was designed to last for 120 years at US$ 18.8 billion. If before people who plan to go to Macau from Hong Kong need to ride a ferry, now it’s more convenient with a 6-lane expressway of HK-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge.
Aside from the beautiful bright buildings of Macau that reminds me of the pictures and videos of Las Vegas I see online, what I love the most about the city is the successful juxtaposition of the city life with the more laid-back lifestyle.
Our Macanese tour guide Joao Sales showed us how Macau actually has two parts: the old Macau, where the history of the city is very rich and where old buildings are present, and the new Macau city where the Las Vegas-like hotels and casinos are located. In a way, Macau City is the best of both worlds. A 20-minute ride to the outskirts of the city will also take you to a humble beach already.
But as a Filipino, I am especially interested of the number of Overseas Filipino Workers I met and talked with in Macau. I met hotel staff, waitresses, museum staff, store attendant, and a casino guard who are Filipinos. Some of them have been in Macau for around 10 years already.
On our morning walk through the cobblestone roads of old Macau, we found ourselves at a specific alley where a scene of Indiana Jones was shot; where Anak, a Filipino bread house is; and where free tastes of their version of tapa are abundant from one store corner to another.
Hong Kong is more than just the Disneyland, although it is one of the most exciting places to be in the city. Hong Kong is a gateway to other cities and arts and culture-rich destinations that you can imagine. Especially with the newest and modern transportation infrastructure, going from Hong Kong to another city is very easy and convenient.
The next time you visit Hong Kong, it would be best to consider visiting other cities that it is connected to. You will be in for a treat.