Yes. Hong Kong might not be the safest place to travel to right now. Or at least that is what the media says. In fact, when I first arrived at Hong Kong Airport the situation looked quite grim. The airport express train that takes passengers to the city had been blocked down by the protesters. Not only that, but the protesters had also closed down big parts of the highway and as a result I had to wait for almost two hours for a taxi to pick me up. The trip to my apartment was a long one. It took the taxi 3 hours to get to Hong Kong island while it would have normally been a 40 minute ride. It may sound bad, but this is where my experience of the protests end. For the rest of the week I got to visit the much of Hong Kong island and Hong Kong University (HKU) without ever being bothered by protesters ever again. As a visitor, you can definitely tell that there is some sort of civil unrest among the people. Many students and every citizens appear to be discussing the issue. You can also clearly see blatant graffiti “eloquently” expressing the protesters’ opinions towards the Chinese government.
But enough about the protests. One thing that really surprised me when I started journeying around the city center, is the amount of people you hear speaking Cantonese, the local dialect. Judging from that fact, I would say that nearly 90% percent of the people you see in Hong Kong island (the financial center of Hong Kong) would be locals. A similar situation can observed in HKU as well. Nevertheless, the vast majority of the locals can communicate in English whether it be students, store clerks or street workers. Of course, the further away you go from Hong Kong island the more these demographics are going to change. In Kowloon, for example, you would expect to see less stores including menus or boards in English, and at certain points you might start hearing people speaking Mandarin (the language of Mainland China) instead of Cantonese. Nevertheless, the British influence is clear especially in Hong Kong island. There are plenty of double-decker buses (as well as trams!) operating, and you will always hear a British announcer in the subway stations. The subway is the easiest way to travel around Hong Kong. It connects all the islands and it is extremely modern. There is always the option to take a cab as well.
All in all, I had a very interesting introduction to the city. I hope that after getting to meet the local people for a while, I will be able to better explain their beliefs about the current crisis they are going through, as well as get to see the most memorable sites in the City.
Drexel International Health, Safety, & Security has been actively monitoring the protest situation in Hong Kong and providing guidance to students. Partner universities in Hong Kong are also providing information and support as needed.