BC's Windest Farms shares their success story on their expansion to Asia through Hong Kong. see more
HK-Canada Connector: Windset Farms
In our inaugural edition of the HK-Canada Connector, we share Windset Farms' success story on their expansion to Asia. Read on to learn more about the company, why they chose Hong Kong, and what's up next in their global expansion plans.
Tell us a bit about your company and how Asia factors in.
Windset Farms is one of North America’s largest producers and marketers of greenhouse grown produce. We are based in Delta, British Columbia and have growing operations in Santa Maria, California as well as partner growers in Mexico.
Our diverse portfolio of products, which include a variety of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, eggplants and lettuces, appeal to a broad spectrum of end consumers. We employ sustainable and socially responsible practices in all levels of our operations to ensure consistent, high quality produce is grown. Currently, we supply every major retailer in Western Canada and the United States. In recent years, as our domestic markets became more saturated, we looked elsewhere for opportunities to expand our consumer base. Asia presents a huge potential market which is relatively untapped in our categories. With a massive population, emerging markets and improving standards of living in many countries, we see Asia as the next strategic outlet for our products.
Why did you choose Hong Kong?
Hong Kong offers a unique set of benefits that makes it a very attractive market for Windset Farms. Hong Kong’s dynamic economy is driven by the principles of free trade and investment. Low barriers to entry, limited regulation and the widespread use of English make it a relatively easy market to operate in. Currently, all Windset products are exportable to Hong Kong. Limited domestic supply, shifting consumer behaviour towards health-conscious food choices and an increasing population have all heightened the demand for fresh, imported vegetables. Canadian fruit and vegetable producers have an international reputation for supplying high quality, sustainably grown products. As a result, Windset has experienced consistent year over year growth since it entered the market in 2014. In addition, multiple direct, daily flights and sound infrastructure provide great flexibility in minimizing transit time. In fact, despite the seemingly vast geographical distance between Asia and North America, transit times to Hong Kong are significantly shorter than many of our Canadian and American customers. Its favourable location makes it a strategic gateway to Mainland China and other nearby economic hubs.
Can you share a challenge your company faced and how you overcame it?
Market access continues to be a challenge for our export program. Only a select few countries in Asia currently allow Canadian and American hothouse imports. Over the years, we have garnered much interest and attention from nearby countries particularly in Southeast Asia and from Mainland China. Unfortunately, we have been unable to pursue opportunities in these markets based purely on these restrictions. Gaining market access to a country can be an extremely lengthy and tedious process. Windset played a critical role in opening the Japanese market to Canadian bell peppers, a process that took over 25 years to complete. We, subsequently, became the first Canadian company to successfully export bell peppers to Japan. We intend to do the same with Mainland China for Canadian peppers and tomatoes. Currently, we sit on the working group that aims to gain market access to the Mainland. We plan to continue to work closely with various government bodies and agencies to make this process as speedy and fluid as possible.
We are looking to expand our reach into Asia even further. We currently export to Hong Kong, Japan and Taiwan. We are constantly exploring and researching new opportunities. Our next target market is Singapore. Similar to Hong Kong, it plays a pivotal role as an open, attractive and stable business center in the heart of Asia. As previously mentioned, we will also continue our efforts to open the market to the Mainland.
HKCBA celebrated the Year of the Dog in full force in Calgary this past February. see more
HKCBA rings in the Year of the Dog in style
The Hong Kong Canada Business Association (HKCBA) Calgary section rang in the Chinese New Year with a spectacular gala at the Regency Palace, celebrating the Year of the Dog. This event gathers business members together for an evening of networking, and celebration. It is also an opportunity for HKCBA to give back to the community through the annual scholarship program.
The gala attracts 400-500 guests every year from the business, academic and government communities, with VIP guests including the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta, the Mayor of Calgary, MLAs, Consul Generals, foreign diplomats and industry executives.
“The key inspiration for me is the opportunity for the business, academic and government communities to meet and to further strengthen the innovation ecosystem for the City of Calgary. As well as leveraging Hong Kong as the platform to expand the Asia Link for trade and investment opportunities,” says Manford Kwan, President for HKBCA. Manford became the President in 2016 after being a member and attending the Gala for many years.
The festivities included a champagne reception courtesy of Stikeman Elliot, traditional lion dancers, a delectable ten course Chinese meal, door prizes, and raffle items, followed by a dance. Canadian artist Ellen Doty, provided musical performances, drawing the crowd to the dancefloor to close the night.
Proceeds from the raffle and silent auction items contribute to the HKCBA Scholarship Fund, a program that supports Calgarian students.This year, the raffle items were His & Hers Baume & Mercier Watches valued at over $5,580.00 courtesy of Birks at the CORE. Silent auction items included luxurious items from Michael Kors, BMW, Brooks Brothers, Hy’s Steak House and Cocktail Bar, The Calgary Flames, The Calgary Zoo, Shaw and many more.
The HKCBA scholarship program recognizes four outstanding students from the Bissett School of Business (Mount Royal University) and the Haskayne School of Business (University of Calgary) with $10,000 worth of scholarships. Students are chosen based on interest in establishing business links between Canada and Asia, Asian studies, and participation in an international exchange to Hong Kong, China or Southeast Asia. This year’s recipients were Parker Maris, and Zhixuan Lu of University of Calgary and Katherine Schwartz and Regine Siamen of Mount Royal University.
Maris describes his exchange at Tsinghua University as an incredible opportunity with indescribable value, giving him international education and life experiences. The scholarship will help him in his academic and career goals of attending the Peter A. Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia to pursue a career in international human rights law.
The Year of the Dog is fitting for these scholarship winners, embodying the intelligence and responsibility of the loyal animal. The HKCBA National Chair, Craig Lindsay, describes that “in business, it is said that dogs that show initiative will be rewarded with success and good fortune” and that is exactly what these students have done.
The HKCBA continues to strengthen the Chinese community, and support business relationships at home and overseas. With more events and programs in the future, the fun has only begun for the HKCBA in 2018.
-Domenica Chieffo, HKCBA Calgary Section Volunteer
l'ACHKC fête l'année du Chien
La section de Calgary de l’Association commerciale Hong Kong-Canada (ACHKC) a fêté le Nouvel An chinois en grand, lors d’un gala spectaculaire organisé au Regency Palace. L’événement célébrant le début de l’année du Chien a accueilli des membres du monde des affaires pour une soirée de réseautage et de festivités. L’ACHKC a également profité de l’occasion pour redonner à la communauté, par l’entremise de son programme de bourses d’études annuelles.
Chaque année, le gala attire entre 400 et 500 invités provenant du monde des affaires, du milieu universitaire et du secteur public, ainsi que de nombreux invités d’honneur, dont la lieutenante-gouverneure de l’Alberta, le maire de Calgary, des députés provinciaux, des consuls généraux, des diplomates étrangers et des chefs d’entreprise.
« Ma motivation principale, c’est l’occasion de mettre en contact les communautés d’affaires, du milieu universitaire et du gouvernement afin de renforcer l’écosystème d’innovation de Calgary, ainsi que de promouvoir Hong Kong comme une plaque tournante pour élargir l’accès à l’Asie et aux possibilités commerciales et d’investissement qu’elle présente », affirme Manford Kwan, président de l’ACHKC. Manford a été nommé président en 2016, après avoir été membre de l’association, et assisté au gala, pendant plusieurs années.
Les festivités ont compris notamment une réception au champagne offerte par le cabinet d’avocats Stikeman Elliot, de traditionnelles danses du lion, un succulent repas chinois incluant dix services, des prix de présence, un tirage et de la danse. La soirée s’est terminée sur la piste de danse avec des prestations musicales de l’artiste canadienne Ellen Doty.
L’argent recueilli dans le cadre des tirages et de l’encan silencieux ira au fonds de bourses d’études de l’ACHKC, un programme à l’appui des étudiants de Calgary. Cette année, le prix du tirage était un ensemble de montres Baume & Mercier pour lui et elle d’une valeur de plus de 5 580 $, une gracieuseté de la bijouterie Birks du centre commercial The CORE. De plus, dans le cadre de l’encan silencieux, les invités ont pu miser sur une variété d’articles de luxe offerts notamment par Michael Kors, BMW, Brooks Brothers, Hy’s Steak House and Cocktail Bar, les Flames de Calgary, le Zoo de Calgary, Shaw.
Le programme de bourses d’études de l’ACHKC récompense le travail exceptionnel de quatre étudiants de la Bissett School of Business (Université Mount Royal) et de la Haskayne School of Business (Université de Calgary), en leur accordant des bourses d’études d’une valeur de 10 000 $. Les étudiants sont sélectionnés en fonction de leur intérêt à établir des liens commerciaux avec l’Asie, la poursuite d’études asiatiques et leur participation à un programme d’échange à Hong Kong, en Chine ou en Asie du Sud-Est. Les récipiendaires de cette année sont Parker Maris et Zhixuan Lu de l’Université de Calgary, ainsi que Katherine Schwartz et Regine Siamen de l’Université Mount Royal.
Parker Maris a décrit son échange à l’Université Tsinghua comme une occasion formidable d’une valeur inestimable, qui lui a offert la possibilité d’étudier à l’étranger tout en acquérant de précieuses expériences de vie. La bourse l’aidera à atteindre ses objectifs d’études et de carrière, soit d’étudier à la Peter A. Allard School of Law (la faculté de droit de l’Université de la Colombie-Britannique) pour ensuite poursuivre une carrière en droit international des droits de la personne.
Il est approprié que ces bourses aient été remises au début de l’année du Chien, un animal fidèle qui incarne l’intelligence et la responsabilité. Craig Lindsay, président national de l’ACHKC, explique que dans le monde des affaires, on dit souvent que « les chiens qui font preuve d’initiative sont récompensés par le succès et la bonne fortune », et c’est exactement ce que ces étudiants ont réussi à faire.
L’ACHKC continue de renforcer la communauté chinoise et de soutenir les relations au pays et à l’étranger. Avec de nombreux événements et programmes à venir en 2018, les festivités ne font que commencer pour l’ACHKC.
- Domenica Chieffo, bénévole, section de Calgary de l’ACHKC
HKCBA : A look back on 2016. see more
HKCBA’s Year In Review: 5 Things We Learned in 2016
2016 was everything but normal. Normal is a setting on a dryer.
It has been an eventful year for the world as well as for the Hong Kong Canada Business Association. We celebrate 2016 as a year of phenomenal achievements, refreshing initiatives, and they all owe their success to local chapters’ endless efforts and our members’ active involvement.
In honour of the first Hong Kong Canada Business Association blog post of 2017, we compiled a list of just a few of the most important things we have learned in 2016.
1. Each member has successfully invited 4 of their friends to HKCBA events.
We had 908 members combining 8 chapters from coast to coast by the end of 2016. However, we are an inclusive meeting place for influencers, professionals, business owners, and youths who operate at the intersection of Hong Kong and Canada. There are more than 4,600 hosted at 46 business seminars and networking events across Canada.
2. There’s more to the Hong Kong Forum than conveniently escaping the Canadian winter.
59 HKCBA delegates attended the 17th Annual Hong Kong Forum in November. The HKCBA co-hosted the Transpacific Entrepreneurial Conference with Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong featuring distinguished speakers. We have also brought home 3 Hong Kong Forum Awards including the Success Story Award, the Best Initiative Award, and the Outstanding Membership Award.
3. Stampede is not the only time of the year when Calgary is rowdy.
The HKCBA welcomed over 220 attendees in Calgary, Alberta in June for our National Conference. The event uncovered recent trends in Hong Kong, China and Asia, celebrated successful business initiatives between Canada and Hong Kong as well as shared insights on Hong Kong’s startup friendly environment.
4. The concept of “starting small” clearly does not apply to entrepreneurship.
The National Investment Pitch competition at the National Conference highlighted Canada’s entrepreneurial spirit. Post-secondary student teams pitched their business ideas, leveraging the “Canada-Hong Kong Advantage”, live to conference attendees and a panel of seasoned professionals for their shot at $50,000 in cash and prizes.
5. Never “fly” solo.
We could not have done it alone. A huge thank you to our partners HKETO, HKTDC and our corporate sponsors Cathay Pacific and WestJet for their support. Cathay Pacific continues to be our National sponsor in 2017 and their airline tickets are offered as raffle prizes at some of our upcoming New Year Galas.
In the Chinese zodiac, 2017 is the year of the Rooster which is associated with fidelity and punctuality. We are looking forward to a new year filled with possibilities and promise with each and every one of you. We wish everyone reading this blog a very prosperous New Year, with the warmest of aspirations.
HKCBA hosts annual Chinese New Year celebrations from coast to coast. You are cordially invited to ring in the new year with HKCBA as well as connect with members from across the country. In light of the Year of the Fire Rooster, the night will be a blast where you rekindle old partnerships and fuel your career with flickering opportunities. Register now and secure your spot.
Hong Kong takes measures to addresses the issue of opening and maintaining bank accounts see more
Hong Kong Banks and HKMA announce Simple Bank Accounts
As part of the joint effort of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) and the banking industry in addressing the issue of bank account opening and maintenance, the three note-issuing banks in Hong Kong have, with the support of the HKMA, introduced a new tier of accounts, namely – “Simple Bank Accounts” (or SBAs) for corporate customers to further enhance customer experience in opening bank accounts in Hong Kong.
SBAs are in essence a new tier of accounts derived from traditional bank accounts which focus on provision of basic banking services such as deposits, withdrawals, local and cross-border fund transfers, etc. With narrower scope of services compared to traditional accounts, the risks involved in SBAs would be relatively lower to banks, and hence less extensive customer due diligence (CDD) measures are required to be carried out at account opening. For example, banks may require less detailed information and supporting documents from applicants. The streamlined account opening process of SBAs aims to offer more choices and improve customer experience, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), start-up companies and companies from outside Hong Kong which are seeking to establish a presence in Hong Kong, when they do not require the full range of banking services generally offered by traditional bank accounts, cannot readily furnish certain CDD information or documents required for traditional bank accounts, and yet do not require the full range of services at the initial stage of banking relationships. SBA customers who require more comprehensive banking services in the future may upgrade their accounts to traditional bank accounts by completing the necessary CDD process.
The HKMA attaches great importance to the promotion of financial inclusion in Hong Kong, including addressing the issue of opening bank accounts by the business community. The HKMA has set up a dedicated email account (email@example.com) and hotline (+852-28781133) to handle any comment and feedback from the business sector and the community at large with regard to issue on bank account opening and maintenance. The business community are welcomed to send comments and specific cases to us, and all information received will be handled and followed up by our dedicated team.
For details, click here for an article by Deputy Chief Executive of the HKMA.
In our first HKCBA Member Feature we share Vivian Ching's success as an active member of the HKCBA. see more
HKCBA Member Feature: Vivian Ching, Vancouver Section
In our first HKCBA Member Feature, we share Dr. Vivian Ching's success as an active member of the HKCBA Vancouver section. Read on to learn more about Vivian and how she has leveraged the HKCBA platform to build her business.
Tell us a bit about yourself…
I am a full-time university professor for undergraduate and post-graduate level courses on organizational behaviour and business strategy in Vancouver, BC. Having worked and lived in New York City, Hong Kong and England; I have extensive work experience in business analyses and project management in a variety of Global Fortune 500 companies. I am also a professional artist who has held 11 exhibitions in Asia since 2012. Due to my unique blend of business and art experiences, I also partner with Fortune 500 industry leaders to conduct corporate training.
Your artwork has made a trip to space?
In 2014, I collaborated with Canon to become the first Canadian-Hong Kong artist to show artwork in space. My “Glasses” design was showcased 120,000 feet above the earth’s atmosphere via cutting edge aerial technology provided from Face in Space Ltd. The project gained extensive mainstream regional media recognition and significantly boosted my exposure in Hong Kong, China as well as Canada. In fact, I was recently interviewed on 2 popular television shows on Fairchild TV. City Chat【都市有約】was broadcasted last month, and Leisure Talk【大城小聚】will be coming today. In both shows, I chat more more about my unique career path.
So, what brought you to the Hong Kong-Canada Business Association (HKCBA)?
I moved back to Vancouver from Hong Kong in November 2017, and was looking for a way to meet people in town. As a former active member of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, I realized that Hong Kong would be a great starting point to forge connections here in Canada. HKCBA popped up in my searches and joining as a member struck me as a great way to maintain my Hong Kong network in Canada, while having the opportunity to attend interesting events and getting to know local members.
And how has the HKCBA platform helped to increase your profile?
By connecting with the local Board of Directors with the goal of expanding my network in Canada, I was able to integrate my artwork as a part of the HKCBA Vancouver Annual Spring Dinner festivities. For the last 2 years, I have auctioned off my paintings during the event which helped me to gain exposure to a unique audience in the Hong Kong-Canada business community. This even resulted in 2 additional commissioned pieces, which are now prominently displayed in Vancouver-based law practice. I appreciate that I have been able to develop new clientele while maintaining Hong Kong connections, and HKCBA does a great job in linking these two strong communities together.
Finally, what’s up next for you?
I look forward to continuing to stay active with HKCBA and leveraging the platform to meet new people, network and connect with clients. I will also continue to look for opportunities locally for my artwork, as well as growing my academic, consulting and corporate training presence in Canada. For more information, visit www.vivianching.com.
We learnt what's in the Belt and Road Initiative for Canada from Hong Kong's September Summit. see more
Don’t miss the boat on opportunities in China’s Belt and Road Initiative
This past September, over 3,000 delegates from around the globe including over 120 from Canada attended the Belt and Road Summit in Hong Kong. Belt and Road is a massive infrastructure project designed to more effectively connect Asia with Europe by both road and rail. The initiative will ultimately deliver significant economic benefits to not only China, which arguably has the most to gain, but all 65 countries that will be interconnected by the project. To highlight the magnitude of this undertaking, Belt and Road countries will account for 62% of the world's population, 34% of merchandise trade, and 31% of global gross domestic product, with countries involved most likely seeing their economic numbers rise significantly as the Belt and Road advances from policy to a bricks and mortar reality.
What’s it in for Canada?
The questions many Canadian businesses are asking include what is the relevance of Belt and Road for Canada and how can Canadians capitalize on emerging Belt and Road opportunities across the Pacific. Belt and Road is the largest global infrastructure project underway, with nothing comparable to its size and scale. As such, now is the time for Canadian business stakeholders who to take the time to understand the initiative and begin the process of analyzing how their business can play a role in its development and implementation. While it's easiest to stick your head in the sand and focus on immediate opportunities that are in your company’s own backyard today, this would be an opportunity missed. Belt and Road is in the infancy of its growth, and Canadian business must take the time understand the project, its implications for global trade and industrial development, and how all Canadian companies, from SMEs up to large multinationals, can play a role.
Three simple first steps to get you started
- Visit the Belt and Road website at <http://beltandroad.hktdc.com/> This portal is a great tool with lots of information from backgrounders down to specific commercial opportunities.
- Contact Canada's Consulate General in Hong Kong <http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/hong_kong/index.aspx?lang=eng> Canadian businesses can access some of the best trade and commercial counsellors in the world at the Consulate who are specialists in a wide variety of industries; they are an incredible resource and are there to assist you.
- Get on a plane and visit Hong Kong; what is being referred to as the "buckle" of the Belt and Road, to see things first hand. Many Canadians simply don't understand what is going on in not just China, but across Asia from the perspective of industrial and infrastructure development; it is staggering and dwarfs anything going on in Canada. For instance, at one end of the Belt and Road, China is just completing a 46 kilometre bridge linking Hong Kong to Zhuhai (a major town with growth potential next to Macau). This bridge will cut transportation time in half and vastly facilitate the trade of goods by more efficiently linking factories with ports.
Belt and Road, while intimidating due its massive scale, could potentially be the most important development to global business over the next century. It is not just about large global construction conglomerates; everyone can capitalize on emerging Belt and Road opportunities. Ignore it at your company's peril. We encourage you to take the time to understand Belt and Road, and actively begin the process of figuring out where your business can fit into this picture. Check back at this blog regularly, as we plan in the future to share a deeper view into specific opportunities that are emerging for Canadians, and provide tools that can help you navigate the Belt and Road ahead!
« La ceinture et la route » : ne ratez pas les occasions inégalées présentées par cette initiative chinoise
Au mois de septembre dernier, plus de 3 000 délégués du monde entier, dont 120 du Canada, se sont rendus à Hong Kong pour assister à un sommet sur l’initiative de « la ceinture et la route » (ou « les nouvelles routes de la soie »), un projet d’infrastructure d’immense envergure visant à mieux relier les marchés asiatiques et européens par voies ferroviaire et routière. L’initiative, qui bénéficiera principalement à l’économie chinoise, générera également d’importantes retombées économiques pour les 65 pays qu’elle traversera. Quelques données pour illustrer l’ampleur de l’initiative : les pays situés le long du futur réseau de « la ceinture et la route » représentent 62 % de la population mondiale, 34 % du commerce de marchandises et 31 % du produit intérieur brut mondial; sans compter que ces chiffres devraient augmenter à mesure que le projet se concrétise et que les travaux progressent.
Quels sont les avantages pour le Canada?
De nombreux chefs d’entreprise et entrepreneurs canadiens cherchent à savoir en quoi l’initiative de « la ceinture et la route » présente un intérêt pour le Canada et comment ils peuvent tirer parti des occasions qui en émergent de l’autre côté du Pacifique. L’initiative de « la ceinture et la route » est le plus vaste projet d’infrastructure en cours de construction à l’échelle mondiale; en termes de taille et de portée, il n’y a rien de comparable au monde. C’est pourquoi les intervenants du monde des affaires canadiens se doivent de s’informer dès maintenant sur cette initiative et de commencer à penser au rôle que pourrait jouer leur entreprise dans le développement et la mise en œuvre de celle-ci. Se mettre la tête dans le sable pour se concentrer sur les possibilités immédiates dans son propre marché, c’est risquer de passer à côté d’une occasion d’affaires unique. L’initiative de « la ceinture et la route » n’étant encore qu’à ses balbutiements, les intervenants du monde des affaires canadiens ont tout intérêt à prendre le temps de bien comprendre ce projet, ainsi que ses implications pour le commerce international et le développement industriel, et d’examiner les façons dont les entreprises canadiennes (des PME aux grandes multinationales) pourraient y prendre part.
Voici donc trois étapes toutes simples pour vous aider à amorcer vos recherches
- Visitez le site Web de l’initiative de « la ceinture et la route » ici : <http://beltandroad.hktdc.com/> Ce portail constitue un excellent outil et une mine de renseignements. Vous y trouverez notamment des documents d’information, des occasions commerciales précises et bien plus.
- Communiquez avec le consulat général du Canada à Hong Kong par l’entremise du site <http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/hong_kong/index.aspx?lang=fra> Le consulat compte dans son équipe certains des meilleurs conseillers commerciaux du monde entier, spécialisés dans une variété d’industries : une ressource inestimable pour les entreprises canadiennes.
- Prenez un vol pour Hong Kong, communément appelée la « boucle » de « la ceinture et la route », pour voir ce qui s’y passe de vos propres yeux. Plusieurs Canadiens ne sont tout simplement pas au courant de ce qui se passe en Chine et à travers l’Asie; sur le plan de l’infrastructure et du développement industriel, cette région connaît des changements titanesques qui surpassent largement tout ce que l’on peut voir au Canada. Par exemple, à l’une des extrémités du réseau de « la ceinture et la route », la Chine vient de terminer la construction d’un pont d’une longueur de 46 kilomètres reliant Hong Kong à Zhuhai (une ville importante près de Macao, présentant un fort potentiel de croissance). Ce pont réduira de moitié la durée du trajet entre ces deux villes et facilitera considérablement le commerce de marchandises, en reliant plus efficacement les usines et ports.
Bien que cette initiative aux proportions colossales puisse paraître intimidante, le réseau de « la ceinture et la route » pourrait s’avérer le plus important projet du siècle pour le secteur des affaires à l’échelle mondiale. Et ce ne sont pas que les grands conglomérats de construction qui auront la possibilité d’en tirer profit; tous pourront saisir les occasions d’affaires générées par cette initiative. Ignorer ces occasions, c’est prendre un risque encore plus grand. Ainsi, nous vous encourageons à prendre le temps de bien comprendre l’initiative de « la ceinture et la route » et à commencer à examiner activement les façons dont votre entreprise pourrait y prendre part. Revenez régulièrement sur ce blogue, car au cours des prochains mois, nous vous fournirons un aperçu plus ciblé des occasions d’affaires qui s’offrent aux Canadiens ainsi que des outils pour vous aider à vous orienter en cours de route!
This app takes you for a tour through Hong Kong's overlooked backstreet gems. see more
iDiscover Hong Kong
by Craig Lindsay
As with many frequent business travellers to Hong Kong, I usually spend my days cloistered in the glass towers of Central and Wanchai, with occasional forays during my downtime to Bowen Road for an early morning run, a walk up to the Peak or very infrequent shopping trips to Stanley Village or Mongkok. However, on a trip to Hong Kong this past December, I came across an amazing app called iDiscover Hong Kong which opened my eyes to a whole range of “off the beaten path” communities such as Lei Yue Mun, Sham Shui Po and Kennedy Town. The app was developed by Urban Discovery, a not-for-profit group focused on assisting cities throughout China and Southeast Asia to better manage their heritage assets.
Working with local residents, non-governmental organizations and universities in Hong Kong, the app’s creators have mapped various routes to discover some of Hong Kong’s overlooked backstreet gems. The recommended walks range from 1 .5 hours to 9 hours (for Kwun Tong), and are displayed on interactive, downloadable maps that identify various points of interests. Because locals have been involved in the selection, creation and introduction of destinations and events, they highlight many roads less travelled by mainstream tourist guides.
Visitors can explore, for instance, Kennedy Town, which for years was seen as a backwater of Hong Kong because it was so far away from Central and lacked subway access. Many visitors will only know of Kennedy Town as they have seen the name on a tram running through Central. Nowadays, K-Town (as it is now known) is well-known for its vibrant bars and restaurants, while its famous Sai Wan Estate apartment blocks have been spruced up with colorful playgrounds. Sai Wan Estate, developed by the Hong Kong Housing Authority and dating back to 1958, is the second oldest public housing estate in Hong Kong in existence, making it a must-visit for visitors who want to take a close-up look at metropolitan history.
To experience traditional fishing villages, pay a visit to Aberdeen on southwest Hong Kong Island. Sai Kung, meanwhile, is known for its bay and islands where you can escape the crowds and noise and relax in a seaside resort vibe, enjoy fresh seafood and go hiking in the mountains. Sai Kung District’s Hoi Pong Street is filled with numerous cafes and little souvenir shops with both vintage styles and unique contemporary art.
Using the free app, visitors can connect directly to locals, stop by their businesses and living quarters or even get involved in everyday activities. These family-run businesses and traditional craftsmen traditionally operate on the fringes of the city, and are normally invisible to tourists. With the app, users can stop by veteran artisans who specialize in sewing or bamboo steamers used for Chinese dumplings, scavengers and recyclers of wood, generations-old family run restaurants or traditional handicraft workshops. In Sai Ying Pun, for example, you can visit the shop of Yu Kwun Yick, a legendary family-run chili sauce brand since 1922.
Yes, Hong Kong is dynamic, modern and sophisticated. But underneath this bustling metropolis lies a beating heart waiting to be discovered by a new generation of visitors. The iDiscover app can be downloaded at https://i-discoverasia.com/neighbourhoods/hong-kong/ (where you’ll also find apps for several other destinations in Asia).