Travel news update: An unexpected visit to Hong Kong
By Andrea Saayman
During the first week in May I had the opportunity to visit the School of Hotel and Tourism Management (SHTM) at the Polytechnic University in Hong Kong. It was a couple of firsts for me – first visit to Hong Kong and first time I attended a PhD viva. It was also the first time that a South African was examiner of a PhD in the SHTM.
My first impressions of Hong Kong were influenced strongly by the extreme helpfulness of all the people. I took the airport express to Kowloon station and upon arriving at the station I was searching for the escalators. A lady walked up to me and walked with me to show me where they are. The same thing when I arrived in the main building – a random station worker escorted me to the transfer busses. While you might think you’ve landed in mainland China, this friendly service in good English is in stark contrast to what you’ll find in other parts. And the hotel staff was equally helpful and accommodated my early arrival by offering me a lounge (with refreshments and free wifi) and getting my room ready before 11 am. (Okay, the transfer bus driver was not friendly and his aggressive driving style had me clinging to my seat while my bag slid everywhere in the bus.)
My seminar presentation the next day was well attended with a number of post-graduate students as well as staff members showing interest. One of the students is from Swaziland and he was glad to see someone else from the southern part of Africa, although he shows little interest in returning home. The friendliness of the Hong Kong inhabitants showed again when I was taken to lunch by two staff members of SHTM – I have to admit, the pineapple fried rice is one of my favourites.
The following day was the PhD viva. The BoE for the viva was prof. Rob Law, while the supervisor of the PhD was prof. Haiyan Song and the rest of the examination committee consisted of me and the other external examiner – prof. Dilek Önkal from Turkey. The PhD candidate, Vera, has done an excellent job to summarise and present her PhD in the 30 minutes allocated to her. Since anyone can attend the viva, I was surprised by the interest as well as the number of questions that came from the audience. After the audience had left, it was the examiners’ turn to ask questions about the study. The viva was finalised with a lovely lunch – I am always amazed at the variety of food that is, it seems, standard in a Chinese meal.
The weekend was open for shopping and sightseeing and, as my colleagues know, I do excel in both. With the help of Vera and her sociable sister, Jingjing, a trip to the peak of Hong Kong island, my first Vietnamese dinner, beers with free peanuts and a ferry ride made the Saturday afternoon pass too quickly. A huge attraction was the yellow duck which arrived in Victoria harbour on the Friday. It was designed by Dutch artist, Florentijn Hofman, and travels across the world to bring a message of peace and harmony to everyone. Naturally, I had to take a closer look – as did about 2 million others!!
On Sunday Vera and Linda escorted me to Lantau island to visit the Big Buddha and the old fisherman’s village before I had to fly back home again the evening. Again, it was a wonderful outing and something worth seeing. If I was to summarise my trip to Hong Kong in one phrase, I would say “more than I expected”. This is true for the city, the people and the sights. I hope to return again, since my time there was clearly too little. Thanks to the SHTM and especially Haiyan for inviting me over.