Hong Kong

glitter and gleam

Ni hao from Hong Kong,

Hong Kong looks like a thriving modern metropolis, blooming and gleaming in the brilliant sunshine against the backdrop of blue harbour and steep, green hills. But there’s a sordid side to the gleam and glitter and on Sunday it’s all exposed to the sun. Sunday is the day off for the maids.

expatriate Filipinas

With a shortage of flat land, the city goes up – and up. Reclamation of new land from the sea goes on but everyone lives in apartments. And most of the workforce are foreigners. And most of them employ maids – for cooking and cleaning, dogwalking and child minding. Many of these maids are expatriate Filipina women.

On Sunday, the maids congregate in the city centre, chirpily picnicking with others of the same ilk and sending packages back to families in The Philippines. Because there is almost no public seating in Hong Kong, they sit anywhere they can: on fountains; on footpaths (elevated above the road in Hong Kong); or in loading bays (!). There are about 200,000 of these Filipina domestic workers – as they are euphemistically called – so they dominate the streetscape on Sundays. For the rest of the week, they are invisible.

beatings and underpayment

It seems the local hospitality industry has sufficient political clout to force the city to avoid placing public seating in parks and other recreation areas. This is city planning at its worst. It takes the desperation of poor workers for granted. This is a seedy side of a glamorous city. Quite apart from this injustice, there are verifiable stories of maltreatment by the employers here in Hong Hong. Beatings and underpayment are common.

The first thing that strikes you about Hong Kong – on any day other than Sunday – is the number of people. There is almost nowhere you can go without seeing another person. Of course, this is the norm in this part of the world. On top of The Peak – the mandatory walk to the 554 metre top will raise a sweat – there is a circuit around the summit. At one moment, I noticed there was no-one in view but the moment was predictably fleeting. The rarity of the experience reinforces the point: there are a lot of people here.

faster escalators

There are so many people here that the escalators need to go faster and the double decker buses are chock full. When you are on a double decker bus, you definitely need to know your stop. I wasn’t commuting so it didn’t really matter but I soon discovered that you need to work your way through the tight human cargo so you are in alighting distance when you need it, otherwise you miss out and get a bonus trip.

Some perceive Hong Hong as a modern metropolis. If you visit on Sundays, you might just get a different view.

Zoi gin from Hong Kong


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