An Evening with Su and Her Friends

Su asked me last week to clear my diary for last evening to accompany her and her longtime friend from New York City, which I did.

It turned out that he was her ex-colleague in Morgan Stanley operating mainly from NYC, but unbeknown to her had worked in Hong Kong for a month in 1993 staying at Mandarin Oriental such that he had not seen much of Hong Kong. Su had introduced him to me when we visited NYC in 2014 when we demolished four bottles of red wine in a bar at Le Parker Meridien where my son was working at the time. I recall that I had also asked a brother Bob Schroeder to join us. Bob was then working in NYC too.

Now this friend who has raised four children and is a diehard and practical American, had since left Morgan Stanley, and at 57 is holding down a job in a small firm in the financial services sector. The firm has seen it fit to send him and his team head who was 53 to Hong Kong, flying economy class, to look for business in a niche market which values high-end research and IT in the sector. They are here for less than a week, and yesterday was their only free day to see Hong Kong and indeed was his first time in Asia for the team leader.

We picked them up from the Renaissance Hotel at 6:30 pm. Su had earlier given them directions to visit the Peak, take the ferry to Tsim Sha Tsui, visit the wet market at North Point and take the tramline, among other things. They had yet to try our MTR.

We took them to the Senior Common Room at HKU, by taxi. Even before they were seated, they were already all praises about what they had experienced in our City. First, they found the people in Hong Kong very relaxed, composed and living without fear, unlike the ones they met every day in NYC many of whom they were afraid to have eye contacts with. The ordinary people in the streets appeared healthy, confident and self-sufficient, regardless of their age or gender. The air was clean and free of the smell of drugs and marijuana which was everywhere and rather prevalent in NYC. They could feel freedom in the air such as freedom of movement and so on. For example, they saw workers carrying goods in Amazon boxes which back home they thought was banned in Asia or Hong Kong. Before they left NYC, the company had issued them phones made by Vodaphone and advised them to use only those phones lest they could be eavesdropped or have the data captured by the authorities should they use other devices with parts manufactured or assembled in China. From Wanchai, they took the ferry to Tsim Sha Tsui, walked the food stalls under the flyover where they noticed shoppers selling Halal meat, did the sidewalks and promenade round the Cultural Centre, but accidentally took the Star Ferry back to Central where they walked around the Hong Kong Observatory Wheel and bits of Central, before taking the tramway to North Point. At the wet markets, they noticed perfect cleanliness and orderliness. They were surprised at the lack of flies or other insects on the fresh meat and there was absolutely no stench of dirt, foul or filthy smell. They wondered how the shoppers had managed their stalls so well.

They were more than impressed with the Peak Tram and had taken the walk round the Peak as Su had recommended, marveling at the breathtaking views and sceneries. They almost lost their way around their Consulate in Garden Road. Previously they had been taken to the China Club, but were not too impressed.

They found the food and the ambience of the Senior Common Room delightful, comfortable and welcoming; and they were more than happy with the two bottles of red that Su took from our wine cabinet. Su and her friend had plenty to catch up on the days they had – albeit separately – at Morgan Stanley and on the common friends they had and above all their common experience in the financial services sector in the hey days.  After dinner, we took them on foot to the HKU MTR Station from where we got to Admiralty before switching to the Convention Centre Station and from where we walked to Grand Hyatt Hotel for a final night cap. As expected, they enjoyed the walk and the MTR ride which were incomparable and indeed beyond compare to the similar facilities back home. They learnt that HKU is a top university in Asia and the world with English as the primary teaching medium and that the fees were heavily subsidized by Government; and of course, they were humbled and very much impressed by the clean and efficient connections from HKU to the MTR. It was late after the night cap. They had a 9:30 am flight back to NYC this morning; and they had both done more than 20,000 steps for the day. We walked them back to Renaissance Hotel before taking the MTR back to Mei Foo.

I hope our friends would tell good stories on Hong Kong when they are back to NYC. I am confident that they would.

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