Helping out the HK Tourism Board

This has been a week of unrelenting trauma, and there are six more days to go. I am unwittingly helping the Hong Kong Tourism Board’s latest campaign to cram millions of additional visitors onto our shores, regardless of the city’s capacity to accommodate more bodies in its midst. In particular, they are targeting families.


(In addition, they are trying to lure professionals aged 25-45 – those 46 and above apparently being undesirable, which sounds about right. And Mainlanders keen on ‘quality and honest tours’ (as opposed to those who prefer being ripped off and assaulted). And travellers who find the idea of our ‘Wine and Dine Festival’ appealing, if any. Ditto something called a ‘Formula E Championship’. These special ‘events’ are secretly designed to repel potential visitors, surely?)

It’s all part of the Great Hong Kong Tourism Hub-Zone Strategy of the 2010s. Take all the buildings, neighbourhoods, culture and activities that give the city its characteristics and ambience, unique in the world – and eradicate them. In their place, put the same plastic, designer-label, Disney-fied, fake, tacky, sterile crap you get everywhere else in cities-that-look-like-airport-departure-halls. Then scrabble around trying to find people brainless enough to want to come here.

So, as I say, I am contributing to this noble effort. I have guests: a family. My brother’s.

As (allegedly) a world ‘leader’ in his creative field, he has been on a lecture tour Down Under, and is holding a workshop here on his way back home. He has his wife and two tweeny youngsters with him, because if he left them behind they would be wasting time on stuff like bringing in a second income and attending school.

A typical day… We start with the Botanical Gardens (monkeys – can’t go wrong). A swing past the Peak Tram to confirm the Tourism Board’s worst fears about plummeting numbers of Mainland visitors; yes, it is nearly all Westerners lining up. The HK Park aviary is of course brilliant. Lunch at Pacific Place proves impossible, as the sort of kid-friendly food-hall outlets have vanished because the landlord has focused on luxury blah-blah retailers whose Mainland money-laundering clientele has sadly dried up. So off to CanTeen in Queensway. I have eggplant, pork and rice. HK$38. Simple. Yummy. But one of the things I have noticed with family/kids is that ‘simple’ is not good enough if ‘horrendous problem’ is at all possible.

Snag: there’s ‘not much’ on the menu. That’s because my brother’s family voluntarily impose upon themselves a rule that they must not eat meat. Seafood is OK (in reluctant deference to nutritional science), so they go with Portuguese baked fish – the gooey coconut/egg thing. The kids pick at the rice but can’t handle the vivid yellow sauce and accompaniments. (Raised to fear meat, they also seem to distrust vegetables. So far, I have seen them eat only refined starches like breakfast cereals, bread, toast and crackers, with a bit of cheese thrown in.)

The big excitement is to ride on a tram – part of authentic Hong Kong that the bureaucrats and tourism/property sector have not wiped out. But as always, ‘simple’ is not an option. Despite a visit to the facilities at Queensway, a restroom emergency is declared. So we bail out at Victoria Park, where the squat toilets cause some initial amusement. But then things take a sinister and nightmarish turn. The little girl, who has not been herself, has… worms.

I am advised that I am not helping by displaying my extreme horror so visibly. The well-travelled kids have had this before; we just need the right remedy. The first place we find in Tin Hau does not look promising, offering mainly milk powder and shampoo. But behind the counter, they have everything, including expert advice on intestinal parasites. (You can look up ‘pinworm’ if you like. I wouldn’t.) Thank you, Mr Cool Dude-with-beard at the Yan Tak Pharmacy, Electric Road.

We stroll on, enjoying the fruit stalls, the toy shops, the niche pudding outlets and all the other fun stuff Hong Kong has outside its malls. To help get my mind off distasteful childhood ailments, I drag everyone into the wet market to observe eels being chopped up into blood-gushing, still-wriggling segments (alongside the chicken-decapitations, pig innards, and all the rest). The kids put on a brave face, while their mother looks on slightly enviously (she is both a closet-carnivore and mildly sadistic). My brother judges the place ‘a little bit abattoir-ish’, as if it is supposed to be something else.

Eventually, we are back home. As part of his workshop materials, he has painstakingly accumulated a couple of dozen empty drinks cans. In our absence, my dedicated helper has – of course – disposed of them (in fact, passed them on as usual to the neighbourhood elderly indigent recycler). So we have 48 hours to drink many, many beers, again. The kids get their joyless, nutrition-free dinner: frozen pizza with virtually no topping save for cheese, and frozen oven-ready fries. What were the worms living on?

I declare the three-day weekend open, with dread.


*Lest anyone makes a report to the child welfare agency, the kids do deign to consume some fresh fruit, which probably explains their lack of scurvy, etc.

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15 Responses to Helping out the HK Tourism Board

  1. Enid Wilde says:

    Now I understand. Relatives in town. Nothing more stressful. I lost my mother in Mong Kok Ladies’ Street. Sadly, then 75 she found her own way home. I also lost her on a tram in Zurich, the only time I have jumped into a taxi and said FOLLOW THAT VEHICLE. Relatives are no excuse for alcoholism but potent mitigation. Keep that microwave spitting out the oven chips.

  2. Cassowary says:

    The sterile plastic Disneyfied route seems to work well for Singapore, because apparently there exist people who go to Singapore on holiday. Usually the parents of Hong Kong’s coddled, antiseptic-wiped children, who don’t dare bring their precious darlings anywhere less hygienic like the Philippines or Thailand. A put-upon father of two whom I work with spent quite some time moaning about how for his first trip after the birth of his children, they had to go to bloody Singapore, and bitterly complained about how he won’t be able to do anything fun until they go off to university.

  3. gweiloeye says:

    Our thoughts are with you Hemmers at this arduous time. Alcohol is the only remedy I am afraid to say. I only had the mother in law at Christmas, and we even had her in a hotel, still more than painful.

    Keep thinking happy booze laden thoughts and as the song goes ‘I will survive..’

  4. PCC says:

    You’re going to miss them when they’re gone. Or not.

  5. Big Al says:

    At present I am taking some well-earned R&R at a posh resort in the Seychelles, full of posh resortees. Not a Mainlander in sight (which is probably why the place is still teaming with wildlife). Just checking in on Hemmers between cocktails. Strikes me that what we need is not “quality and honest tours” but an entirely more truthful approach to inbound tourism. Could be the cocktails talking, but I was thinking about “Hong Kong: Low quality tours for low quality tourists” and extending the APM from the airport direct to Disneyland. …

  6. Probably says:

    Your brother is running a workshop? So that must involve hacksaws, drills and lathes. Those tools will make short work of a few tin cans so I would advise something more substantial to cut, shape dissect and form. How about a letter to the leader of the non-free world as noted in the Guardian this morning ?

  7. Joe Blow says:

    Here is this year’s Ching Ming quiz:

    When you hear the name “Margaritaville”, of what place in Asia do you think instantly ?

  8. WTF says:

    I’ve got relatives like that, won’t eat animal meat, but happy to consume resources gotten by spilling large amounts human blood and flesh. Now if you really want to get in trouble, tell the tikes how many dark skin children had to die to get the jet fuel to power this jaunt.

  9. Panama Papers says:

    Biggest headline of the day, possibly this year… the explosive release of a multi-year investigation of 11.5 million documents from some Panama law firm specializing in off-shore shell companies laundering trillions for the global elite blah blah blah…. notable mention…. Xi Jinping and Co. LMFAO….. quick perusal of SCMP front page…. *chirp* *chirp* *chirp*…..


  10. Panama Papers says:


    How could I forget to reference the punchline…. HSBC can still proudly hold its head high as the world’s premier money launderer, I mean, the world’s local bank….


  11. PD says:

    Nice article on:

    Basically, undermining successive CEs, preventing National Education and Article 23, and raising public awareness of China’s empty promises must be judged as successes, perhaps the best that could be achieved in the circumstances.

  12. LRE says:

    Never quite understood the “fish is OK” style of alleged vegetarians: thanks to massive overfishing, fish stocks are endangered. Cows, pigs, sheep et al will only be endangered if we all turn into vegetarians.

    Seems to me the “fish is OK” “vegetarians” seek to impose the worst of all worlds: killing off both all the fish and the farm species. I get that mammals are — to our mammalian minds — cuter than our rather more distant relatives the fish, but that still seems no reason to go about actively trying to bring about the extinction of both fish and farmyard mammals.

    And yet I still have yet to come across any alleged vegetarian that occupied the far more rational moral high ground that eating farmyard mammals is OK, but fish should not be eaten.

    Still, to paraphrase that infamously out-of-touch dietician, and award-winning ignorer of reality, Marie Antoinette: “Let them eat hake.”

  13. FOARP says:

    Guess who claims to have been “General Manager” for Mossack Fonseca in Hong Kong in 1991-2?

  14. Mr Mall Developer says:

    The solution is to turn LEGCO into an H&M

  15. nulle says:

    curious why Hemlock didn’t choose a vegan restaurant or choose the veggie type dishes (ie stuffed tofu, blanched local veggies) or faux meat dishes…

    There are plenty of places ot eat for vegans, even Hemlock’s vegan brood

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