Hong Kong - one of the biggest city in the world. Known for its fast-paced and efficiency, the city truly never sleeps, the powerhouse of Asia. A city where 7-11 is king, and 5 mins equals forever. Convenience and speed is the minimum requirement for anything you do here, everyday life is on fast forward x4. This week we look into what makes Hong Kong Hong Kong? Is it the Dim Sum, is it the Skyscrapers or is it *DRUMROLL* Minibuses?
So I am from Hong Kong. Anyone listening who has been to Hong Kong? You know what, a show of hands, put you hand up if you have not been to Hong Kong. Actually never mind I won’t be able to know…
Anyway, if you haven’t, come. It’s amazing here. It’s like this big big city but really really small at the same time. Lots of people but everyone knows everyone. And what’s really amazing is that it’s a blend of the old school Chinese culture with the modern Western culture all mixed into one really small place with lots of people in it. And there you have it, that’s Hong Kong. Hong Kong is obviously a very well-known city across the world, but you would be surprised to know how much people don’t actually know about Hong Kong. And people who doesn’t know much about Hong Kong will always ask these questions, and there’re some weird questions that run through their heads.
Oh cool you are from Hong Kong, so that’s like in Japan right?
So do you guys like eat dogs over there?
What languages do you speak, like do you have to learn English? I’m surprised your English is so good.
Oh and Jackie chan, he’s cool man. Do you know him?
And if you know what I look like, I tend to get this next question a lot.
Do you see less cos your eyes are so small, cause like you are Chinese?
If you are one of those people who have asked one of those questions before, then please take me of out your ear. I don’t need you on this. Actually sorry I actually do, sorry can you come back please, please, please stay and listen.
So I guess before we move on, let’s just get this out the way, here goes:
Hong Kong is a city technically part of China. But we do have our own rule of law, we do have our own currency, we have our own money, we have our own Government set up as well. And if you have been following the news, you would know that this is currently a touchy subject so yeah.
Cantonese is our native Language. We don’t really speak Mandarin but we do study Mandarin and English when we are in school.
I do know Jackie Chan, but he just doesn’t know who I am. Bro, we have over 7 million people in Hong Kong, so it’s like asking if I know fucking Jane Smith from London.
And yes I can see all your ugly faces just fine with my perfectly normal Chinese eyes.
And I have to say we have these amazing infrastructure here, everything is built on the idea of how convenient that thing is. It’s like Jackie Chan rush hour but rush half an hour.
We have amazing food here. We have amazing shopping malls! You can go to the beaches and go in these hiking trails within 30 mins. Everything here is just so quick and fast paced.
There are these apps for the HK restaurants that gives you a number so you are already queuing on your way to queue.
MTR - hands down the best transportation system in the world. There is a train every 2 minutes, and there are actual air conditioning installed, so you can actually breathe. You can get to the Airport within 25 mins from Central with big seats, suitcase storage and USB ports for you to charge your phone.
The more things you can do at the same time, the better.
But I would like to bring your attention to the Minibuses in Hong Kong.
It is another great system that people often overlook. Minibuses really scream the essence of Hong Kong. You know those guys live and breathe efficiency. They are the most ruthless drivers of all. They mean business.
First, in order for you to understand the concept of this, take road safety out of your head. Go take a survey in Hong Kong, I bet 99% of people who live here who doesn’t take Minibuses in Hong Kong firmly believes it’s not safe. Condoms made in china are probably safer than this.
These minibuses aren’t just built for anyone. You have to be physically fit to take these buses. It’s not for the soft spoken individual. You have to stand your ground. And I mean quite literally.
So they are these kind of like 19 seaters people carriers, and there are basically only green ones and red ones. Now the green ones are regulated so they are kinda okay but ha..ha.. the red ones… The drivers essentially can be owners or they are kinda self-employed. Within limits, they can set their own rules.
They can reserve seats for passengers who book by phone. They have these WhatsApp groups for people to reserve seats.
They can also charge higher fares at certain times of the day, or during special dates and even during bad weather. They are like the mafia of public transport.
They operate around the clock. Drivers are encouraged to run as many trips as they can. They speed down empty highways at night, and turn a journey that usually takes more than 75 minutes into a 20 minute drive. We have a nickname for these guys here and they are called -忘命 Van’ - which word for word translates to ‘fatal van’. I am just gonna let that sink in a little bit.
*PLAY INTENSE MUSIC*
So this is what actually happens. You are on your way home after a long day at the office. You are at the stop, waiting for your minibus. You see it coming from afar, you put your hand out and you flag down the driver. Next second, the tires scrapping noise let you know that the minivan gracefully stops right in front of you - but not completely so they can take off as soon as you toe is on the step. You must be ready.
You approximately have about 2 seconds to get on the bus. The driver will not wait for you to be seated or even have found your seat. The engine is already in motion the second the bus stopped to let you on. There is only 2 seconds between you stepping on the bus, scanning your Octopus card, finding a seat and actually sitting down on the seat.
If for any reason, you are unsure if this minibus is the right one for you, whatever you do, DO NOT, DO NOT ASK THE DRIVER. A - it is not their job to give you directions, it is only you, and only yourself as a paying customer to know where you are going and where you are spending your money on. And B - you have used up your 2 seconds. You are not fit to ride the bus.
If you have made it on the bus, you will feel this sense of achievement, accomplishment that you have just got on without causing ANY delay to both the driver and the rest of the bus. However you must not relax. Because the minibus is gonna from 0 mph to 90 mph. If you are not seated at this point, gravity will help you.
Once you are sat down, you should immediately find the position to where you want to put your bags into one hand, and have the other hand holding onto a rail. This is important, everything on these minibuses are old and loose. You will start to see the rails on the window vibrating aggressively, and you will find yourself bouncing up and down the seat as if you are doing the cowgirl.
Now speeding is one of the key key ingredients of the minibuses. It got so bad at one point they have to instal these speed monitor things and put them next to the driver right in front of the bus, and tells you the speed they are driving at. Which is a brilliant idea, simple, effective. What is does basically is that once you go pass a certain speed limit which I think is over 80 mph, it will start beeping like aggressively to let you know you are over the speed limit.
But the one thing we are all forgetting, one minor detail here is that these guys these drivers run by their own rules. They don’t care, their sole purpose is to drive their route as many times as they can. We should know this by now, Chinese people love their money.
Bear in mind these beeps aren’t your typically alarm clock beeps. These beeps are so fucking annoying.
BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP
So you ask, so what happens then when it beeps? Nothing. Nothing will happen. The driver won’t do anything and as passengers, we accept and we agree with all your actions, driver, at the same time, clenching onto our dear lives. And what we need to do here is just basically flip the idea of what the beep means.
The BEEP is actually a signal to the passengers, as if to say brace for your life guys.
At this point, the velocity that bus is moving means that you are no longer able to hold onto anything without full concentration.
That lovely bubble tea you just bought for the journey is now going absolutely everywhere, and you arrive at the next stop. Some idiot comes on and asks the driver if this is the right bus for them. NOT TODAY the driver said by slamming shut the door at the person’s face, so hard the door bounced for a few seconds.
Driver looks at you, you are next, you should have been thrown out too. Why would you bring a drink on the minibus, what are you thinking, AMATEUR. BAM 2 gone seconds, the bus waits for no one, the bus must go on.
And on we go on the highway, and just like that we are back on Formula 1.
If the driver’s nice, they will slow down just enough so it only beeps every other second, so you will hear this instead. BEEP….BEEP BEEP…. BEEP. This basically means, hey, look I have used the meter, I am aware of the beep and I have made the effort to slow down. Not my fault if it keeps BEEPING, it must be broken lah.
The driver also has the power to skip stops and areas. I told you, they operate pretty much in their own rules. But they are very nice about it, they will shout to ask if anyone needs to get off. If you say yes, you need to get off at the stop where he planned to skip. Well good luck my friend, just expect some kind of reaction from the driver, it’s nothing personal I promise.
And because there are no exactly set stops, the bus will simply not stop if you don’t ask him to stop. I once stayed on the minibus for 3 more stops, because simply I was too scared to shout and ask to get off the bus. So I ended up walking back for 20 minutes.
And you re just approaching your destination, and you need to get off. Don’t do what I did, Remember use you voice, you can shout “YAU LOK”.
The driver will stop pretty much immediately. Once the bus has stopped, the same rules apply for getting on.
You have 2 seconds to get off the bus. And I mean off the bus completely, not on your way out, walking down the steps. Your entire body and foot need to be fully out, because the driver will leave regardless of where your body is. I have seen countless of people falling on their face because of this. I promised I went to help, well after I have judged how much of an amateur they are.
Finally, you have made it to the pavement. Naturally you will feel a bit disoriented. Viola, you have saved a total of 10 minutes, you have gained a bleeding shoulder and a bruised ego.
And that is how you live in Hong Kong.