HONG KONG – There are three Hong Kongs. There’s the one you see during the week. There’s the one you see on the weekend. And there’s the one you see on TV.
During the week, Hong Kong is the most normal place you’ll ever see. As you walk past schools and playgrounds, the din of children running around and enjoying themselves fills the air.
The buses and trains are filled with commuters headed to work in Hong Kong’s giant banking industry. Investment bankers, wealth managers, lawyers, traders and entrepreneurs all share the same space during rush hour. Seats on the buses and trains are hard to find. Silence tends to be the norm during the commute. It’s not the type of silence you get when people are tired, though. This atmosphere feels more like quiet intensity. It surrounds and envelopes you. Only the most zen can relax during this commute.
Even at 11 p.m., the buses and trains are full. Hong Kong isn’t a 9-to-5 sort of place. Working deep into the night – whether it’s in the office or at a client dinner – is pretty common.
And for the most part, there are no protests during the week. The students who have been leading the protests go to school and focus on their education. The businesspeople who have been supporting the protesters are hard at work, trying to make as much money as they can. Neither group wants to interrupt their daily lives to make a political point.
But the weekends are a completely different matter. On the weekends, you can divide Hong Kong into two parts – the places where there are protests and the places where there aren’t any protests. There actually aren’t that many protests in Hong Kong. During my first weekend there this month, there were three protests.
The protests were largely peaceful. The only real conflict came when some protesters attempted to veer off the “approved path.” Nothing serious came of the confrontation.
But most visitors to Hong Kong never saw the protests that weekend. People were visiting Hong Kong’s major tourist attractions like the Peak, the Big Buddha statue and Discovery Bay (which is also quite popular with expats).
As for the Hong Kong on TV, all you saw was the same clip of protesters briefly coming into contact with the police over and over again. The same way TV played the same clips on an endless loop earlier this year showing a small minority of protesters clashing with overzealous police.
The Hong Kong you see on TV or in the mainstream media isn’t real. It’s distorted by a cable news industry desperately trying to fill 24 hours of programming and online news sites with an insatiable appetite for clicks.
My journey through Hong Kong last week also brought me to Tsim Sha Tsui. That’s the part of Hong Kong where The Chairman’s Circle Financial Discovery Cruise begins.
Tsim Sha Tsui, or TST as it’s known to locals, is a fun place for tourists to visit. TST is in Kowloon, just across the harbor from Hong Kong Island. It has dramatic views of Hong Kong’s financial district (sort of like looking at New York City from Jersey City). It’s home to some of the best tailors in the world. Some of them can even you get you measured and fitted for custom suits and shirts in 24 hours. And it has some terrific five-star hotels that are notably cheaper than their central Hong Kong counterparts.
The InterContinental Hotel (where cruise-goers will stay the night before the cruise) shows no signs whatsoever of being affected by the protests. Neither does the cruise terminal, which is about a 10-minute walk from the hotel.
I stopped by the InterContinental to see how business was doing last week. Its main restaurant was packed. And the views of central Hong Kong were spectacular.
As I walked from the InterContinental, the sidewalks and promenade were filled with people taking in the sights. From sculptures to ice cream, wedding photo shoots and high-end shopping, visitors were enjoying themselves.
Junk boats and ferries came and went. Children watched a model train display with a mixture of awe and curiosity.
And everyone was taking pictures.
There were no police. No protesters. And no signs of trouble.
This is the Hong Kong I’ve come to know and love over the past several years. It’s definitely safe and worth visiting. And as I wrote in late September, the time to visit Hong Kong is now – before China inevitably takes over.
So please, visit Hong Kong. It’s the safest city I’ve ever lived in. Even with the protests, it’s probably the safest city in the world. And if you’re booked on The Chairman’s Circle Financial Discovery Cruise, don’t worry about your trip. You’ll have a great time.