Nation

Take a walk on Hong Kong’s wild side

Tour guide Alla Lau (right) speaks to tourists during a visit to Mong Kok in Hong Kong. — Reuters

Tour guide Alla Lau (right) speaks to tourists during a visit to Mong Kok in Hong Kong. — Reuters

HONG Kong is known for its skyscrapers, luxury shopping malls and amusement parks, but Alla Lau shows visitors a grittier side of the city.

“I don’t want them to just see that Hong Kong is wealthy,” said Lau, 26, after leading nearly a dozen tourists on a free walking tour of the city.

“There’s always two sides to a story and I think people need to see the other side,” she said.

Lau is a guide for Hong Kong Free Tours, which offers visitors an alternate view of the financial capital, where 970,000 of its 7 million people live below the poverty line, according to Oxfam.

Lau, who acts as a guide on nine tours a week, led the group past homeless people living in makeshift shelters and spoke about the impact of soaring housing costs.

She explained that many locals pay up to HK$1,600 (US$205) a month to live in tiny subdivided apartments known as “coffin homes.”

Soaring property prices have made Hong Kong one of the world’s most expensive housing markets.

House prices in April alone were up 20 percent from a year earlier.

A typical tour also includes elderly people selling knick-knacks in one of the poorest areas, Sham Shui Po, and sheltered walkways where domestic helpers gather.

English tourist Barry Franks said he found the tour “very authentic” and an eye-opener.

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