There is a cross-roads at the tip of Tsim Sha Tsui that buzzes with tourists. They disgorge from the historically wonderful Star Ferry, which crosses Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor, and are immediately assaulted by South Asian touts pushing tailored suits, ladies’ handbags and “copy watches” on them. With the hot sun in their eyes and flyers shoved into their hands, many bee-line for the cool air conditioning of the Harbour City/Ocean Terminal shopping complex.
Two weeks ago, I loitered in this area waiting for my husband and his parents to meet me off of the Star Ferry. I had forgotten just how packed with tourists, touts, buskers and pro/anti-Falun Gong groups this spot can be.
It’s a mildly irritating hustle, but most Hong Kong tourists safely and happily brave this chaotic cross-roads.
Except for one sad group: a self-selected segment of cruise ship passengers who seemingly only visit tourist sites from the ship via hermetically sealed bus.
After re-uniting with my visiting family, we sat down for dinner at one of the restaurants in Ocean Terminal with ring-side seats for the 8 pm harbor light show. Yes, the daily light show where all of Hong Kong’s major buildings light up and blink for 10 minutes like anemic slot machines.
As we tucked into our steaks, at around 7:50 a convoy of buses — interiors and passengers bathed in fluorescent light — streamed past us from the cruise ship berthed at Ocean Terminal. White paper taped to the coaches’ front windows stated: “8 pm harbor light show.”
Now, aside from the area around Ocean Terminal, the only other area to view the light show from is “The Avenue of the Stars,” which is a perfectly flat two-minute walk from Ocean Terminal.
And yet these cruise ship passengers boarded buses to get there.
Were they afraid to walk through the rather tame gauntlet of Indian and Pakistani salesmen?
Do they exclusively participate in activities entirely orchestrated by the cruise ship’s sightseeing team?
Hong Kong is probably the safest big city in the world; can’t the cruise ship hosts encourage their passengers to temporarily leave their comfort zones and mix?
On watching the third busload of gloomy cruise ship people stream by, I said to my husband in (condescending) half-jest: “cruising: the self-hatred is free.”
I am certain their evening ended safely back on ship with a “Cantonese-inspired” dinner capped off with fortune cookies and light entertainment by Filipinas in qipaos that just hinted at “The World of Suzie Wong.”
*Every time I judge other people it comes back to bite me. Thus it is now karmically inevitable that I will spend my golden years on a cruise ship through Asia.