Hong Kong, the land of mixed ideals and unimaginable contradictions. It has attracted tourists, travelers, expatriates and mainlanders for decades. In some ways, not much has changed but it has also changed in many countless ways.
There is a charm in Hong Kong that is not found anywhere else. Today, I will share with you some unique phenomenons found only in this little piece of land that is my birthplace.
Every Sunday, you will find a smattering of volunteers holding a sturdy plastic bag, representing the charity of the day and asking for your donation. In exchange, you will receive a sticker from the charity. It is known as 賣旗 (literal translation: selling flag).
The volunteers are at the entrance/exits of the MTR (metro/subway station). They are outside the local supermarkets. They are at street corners. They are students. They are blue collar employees. They are parents with their child. They are a human being with a caring heart, a thoughtful mind. If you are not an early riser, you will never see them. They all disappear back to their regular lives by 12 noon.
The Octopus Card
One of the essential items to carry when in Hong Kong is the infamous Octopus card, 八達通. Since its introduction in 1997, it’s presence has grown and has become an important method of payment. It is a contactless payment card, just tap it and your purchase is complete. It is the ancestor of the Oyster card in London (and countless other cities) and similar to the technology now used by Visa and Mastercard on their contactless cards.
I highly suggest anyone staying for more than 3 days in Hong Kong to add it to their wallet. Once bought and loaded with money (cash or credit card), tap this card to pay for all modes of transportation (except for taxis), groceries at the supermarkets, cosmetics at pharmacies and movie tickets. Walk into your local McDonald’s, Starbucks, 7-11 store to reload the card with more money or step up to a reload machine in the subway station. For those living in HKG permanently can activate the automatic reload option on their card.
On occasion, certain businesses offer promotional discount when the purchase is paid with the Octopus card.
Maids in the Park
When visiting Hong Kong, one cannot help but notice the large amount of live-in maids found at the markets, supermarkets and schools waiting to pick up their bosses’ kids. They are mainly from the Philippines and Indonesia. Most work 6 days per week. Their existence allows the micro families in Hong Kong to have children and work multiple jobs to sustain their chosen lifestyle.
Sunday is traditionally known as the day of rest. On this fine day, countless imported workers can be found sitting on tarps and blankets, occupying the parks and the empty central business district of Hong Kong. Though they have been banned from the assortment of pedestrian bridges, due to safety concerns. This phenomenon occurs typically on Sunday and that is when it is the most hectic, however, some take Saturdays off instead due to the crowded situation.