Seeing HK as the locals do

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MODEL Kelly Misa (L) at the Sai Wan swimming shed in Hong Kong.

HONG KONG has always been a favorite out-of-the-country haunt of Filipinos and the numbers prove it: from December to January 2017, 894,489 Filipinos visited “Asia’s World City,” a 13.1% increase from its year-to-date numbers.

The Philippines is the city’s sixth largest market (excluding mainland China) according to the most recent statistics by Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB). (In total, Hong Kong welcomed 58.47 million tourists in 2017.)

But beyond its most famous sites — Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park Hong Kong, among others — the HKTB is making a push for tourists to see Hong Kong through the eyes of a local, and that’s what model/blogger Kelly Misa experienced during a trip with her family upon the invitation of HKTB.

“Hong Kong is very much like my second home. That’s why I found it so surprising because even though I’ve lived there for so long, I discovered so much during the trip,” Ms. Misa told BusinessWorld in a phone interview on February.

She worked as a model in Hong Kong and was in and out of the city for much of 2004 until 2010 but she said she didn’t have time to explore the locale as much as she did on this latest trip.

“It’s funny because even though I lived in Hong Kong before, I was still too touristy [then]. I never really got to experience Hong Kong like a local,” she said.

Ms. Misa told how she dined in one of the oldest tea houses in Hong Kong, Lin Heung Tea House which opened in 1962, located in 162 Wellington St. There, she experienced eating dimsum the traditional way — choosing a dimsum from a cart which passes around the store.

But Ms. Misa isn’t the only one seeing Hong Kong through the eyes of the local as the HKTB is making a push towards promoting popular destinations for Hong Kongers in order to “connect better with today’s travelers,” Simon Wong, regional director for Southeast Asia of the HKTB, told BusinessWorld via e-mail in March.

“While Hong Kong continues to be a destination of choice for shopping and entertainment, we also hope to connect better with today’s travelers, who constantly seek local authenticity and new experiences. It is crucial for us to identify and communicate the local uniqueness of Hong Kong. With this in mind, we developed and continue to develop strategies that highlight the different dimensions this remarkable city has to offer,” he explained.

While known for its theme parks and for its singular shopping choices, Mr. Wong said there is so much more to see in the city.

“The city’s vibrant food scene, fascinating cosmopolitan life and efficient infrastructures juxtaposed against the backdrop of its ancient templates and breathtaking natural wonders, offers visitors a delightful contrast of experiences,” he said.

One of the examples of the vibrance of the food scene is Lan Fong Yuen, a cha chaan teng (café) which opened in 1952 located in 2 Gage St. which serves — among others — a traditional Hong Kong breakfast: noodle soup with luncheon meat on top and Yuenyeung tea, a combination of coffee and milk tea. The beverage is called kopi cham in Malaysia.

Another less well-known place (for tourists) that’s worth visiting is the Sai Wan swimming shed in the Hong Kong Harbor. The shed was used mostly in 1960s and ’70s when locals would go down and use the facilities to swim in the harbor. Nowadays, it has become a popular place for photographers although locals living in the area is still use it for swimming.

Mr. Wong said that since the millennial contingent has matured, Hong Kong needed to “engage [this market] through offering authentic experiences in local districts and urging them to discover hidden gems and artsy spots.”

“People may have visited Hong Kong so many times but there’s still so much to see. I never get tired of going there,” said Ms. Misa. — Zsarlene B. Chua