Sunday, September 12, 2010

Couchsurfing & sight seeing in Hong Kong

It’s amazing to see all the different types of people, from different walks of life, that you meet when you are traveling. Staying at Sean’s tiny apartment on the outskirts of Hong Kong, with his mother, two brothers and lots of other couchsurfers, it really was like staying at a busy hostel. For a few days you cross paths with very different people from all over the world and connect through the one thing you have in common: a passion for travel (for those of you that aren’t familiar with couchsurfing, check out their website).
Out to dinner with Sean's couchsurfers. More pictures from Hong Kong here.
For the first few days of my stay, Sean was also hosting an Australian man, three German men, and a girl from the Netherlands. In his tiny apartment, that meant 2 people in a full-size bed, one on a cot, and two on the floor. So for the first two nights I slept on a yoga mat. But it was better than that hard seat on the train ride, and Sean’s family was quite generous, cooking me a few meals, helping me to wash cloths, and allowing me to stay for nine days. Through couch surfing I also met up with another women from Hong Kong named Margot, a very friendly, lively character who is conversant in several languages and is thinking about starting a business to bring street art into mass the main stream through a unique marketing campaign. She also offered to introduced me to several people she knows in Shanghai so that I have some people to meet when I get there.

A few days after I arrived, one the Germans, Marko, and I took a day trip to Lantau Island, Hong Kong’s second biggest island. Lantau is probably the least developed of Hong Kong’s Islands, aside from the airport. We first took a cable car that brought us from the train station half way across the island, up over the tops of some 2,000+ foot tall mountains, to end at the world’s largest statue of the Budda. This thing must have been over 100 feet tall and sits up on a cliff overlooking the ocean and nearby islands. After seeing the Budda, we traveled by bus down into a small fishing village, one of the few areas that has been minimally impacted by Hong Kong’s rapid development. We went for a boat ride through the village and then out into the open ocean where we saw dozens of large trade ships coming into dock at Hong Kong’s port. As we zoomed across the water, I was momentarily brought back to zooming across lake Annecy in a sporty little sailboat. Finally, as we rode the bus back around the island to the train station, Marko and I saw some beaches and stopped for a quick look that turned into three hours of hanging out on the beach and eating dinner in a little café on the beach’s edge. When I decided to go for a swim, I discovered that the water was a warm as a heated pool. “I could get used to living in Hong Kong,” I thought to myself. Unfortunately virtually no one in Hong Kong speaks Mandarin as a first language. I’d be hard pressed to perfect my Chinese here.
A refreshing, cold beer on the I was not paid by Carlsberg to include this.  
See more pictures of Lantau Island here.

I also was beginning to realize that Hong Kong has a lot of opportunity, but not much in the way of clean energy (at least not that I could find in a week). This was confirmed when I met with two Tufts alumni to get some career searching advice. Michael Fung, the Chairman of JP Morgan Asia, has an office on the 29th floor of a building in the heart of Hong Kong’s financial center. After meeting him in France this summer (the Tufts Board of Overseers had their annual meeting at the European Center in Talloires), he agreed to meet with me to give me some career advice when I arrived in Hong Kong. He said if I wanted to work in clean energy, and practice mandarin at the same time, I should go to Shanghai or Beijing. He also gave me some helpful advice on networking and presenting myself, commenting on how I was dressed that day (I scored pretty high marks except for not having a blazer), and how I could make myself memorable to people. The whole meeting was quite fast paced and formal, but went quite well overall. If I ever want to get a job in banking I might have an in…

My interaction with Tufts Overseer James Soutar on the other hand was quite different. One night he invited me to a “party” at a bar he owns in Hong Kong called “Home.” The party turned out to be a gathering of an organization called “Internations,” an organization that organizes social events for expats in hundreds of cities around the world. While James had to leave before I arrived, I met him the next day at his bar, in a very casual atmosphere. He gave me some similar advice, and especially emphasized that I should “do what I love, and the money will follow,” a mantra that I continuously try to live by. Hearing it from a successful hedge fund manager and bar owner though was quite insightful…

During one of my last days in Hong Kong I met up with my friend from Dan Resnick, a current graduate student at the Tufts Fletcher School. Dan was traveling through China with his girlfriend after doing an internship with the Clinton Global Initiative for two months in Swaziland. We spent most of the day walking around in Hong Kong’s various outdoor markets, taking a ferry across the Pearl River, and eating a delicious seafood dinner of crab and lobster (Though Dan thinks all lobster tastes the same, I insisted that Maine lobster is the world’s best).

And finally, I am off to Shanghai to continue my job search and see China’s current pride and joy, the Shanghai World Expo…

1 comment:

  1. Michael Fung came to Beijing Alumni Meeting over the summer and I heard him speak. His career was really impressive. You are lucky to meet him in France.