New tour aims to show grittier, poorer side of Hong Kong

Lau speaks to tourists who join a free tour at Mong Kok district in Hong Kong. Source: Reuters

HONG KONG may be known for its towering skyscrapers and luxury shopping malls, but one Hong Kong tour company is trying to change tourists’ perception of the city, reported Reuters.

Alla Lau, a 26-year-old who runs Hong Kong Free Tours, offers visitors an alternative view of the Asian financial capital where 970,000 of its seven million residents live below the poverty line.

“I don’t want them to just see Hong Kong is wealthy,” said Lau. “There’s always two sides to a story and I think people need to see the other side.”

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Lau acts as a tour guide who has led tourist groups past homeless people living in makeshift shelters and has spoken about the soaring housing prices in the city.

According to Reuters, she has explained to tourists many locals pay up to HK$1,600 (US$205) a month to live in subdivided apartments of just 20sq ft known as “coffin homes”.

Hong Kong’s Sham Shui Po district is known to be one of the poorest areas in the city. Source: Reuters

Other highlights on the tour include elderly people selling knick-knacks in one of Hong Kong’s poorest areas, Sham Shui Po, as well as sheltered walkways where domestic workers gather.

On top of that, Lau and Hong Kong Free Tours founder Michael Tsang want to show tourists the locations where pre-democracy demonstrations brought the city to a standstill in 2014.

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The pair believes it’s important for tourists to understand the relationship between Hong Kong and mainland China, who was returned power over Hong Kong by the British 20 years ago.

English tourist Barry Franks told Reuters the tour was “very authentic” and an eye-opener.

“Having a chance to go on street-level to see what it’s like in a densely populated part of the city … it does contrast with the other side, the richer Hong Kong,” he said.

Additional reporting by Reuters