Our instructions were simple. Get to a specific metro stop, then look four our guide. My team of four, which was comprised of Gary, Nisha, and another guy who was also named Gary, felt confident that we couldn’t mess this up.
On our way to the metro, we got lost. We had to ask for directions three times before we managed to find it. Once were safely in the metro, we found our train, the got inside. Since it was rush hour, the train was packed. We were squished between people, and the entire car smelled suspiciously like fish. After getting off at our stop, we exited the metro station circled the block and then managed to find our classmates… But where was our guide? We waited outside of the metro station for what felt like hours before we found our guide.
Yeah, rough start.
After we sorted everything out, we headed over to Starbucks. The Starbucks we went to was so… hipster. When we walked inside there was a huge sign that read: “Coffee is about exploration”. We had to take an escalator down a level to get to the actual shop. Once downstairs, everything was dim lighting and wood paneling. There were low seating chairs scattered around and there were two different areas with cash registers. The first was set up like a tradition Starbucks. The second was where things got interesting. Here they offered simplistic coffees that could be brewed in four different ways. Unwilling to stray from my traditional coffee methods, I stuck with my usual caramel macchiato and chocolate croissant.
While I snacked on my food, we listened to a quick talk given by a woman named Shirley. When Shirley began working for Starbucks, she was stationed in San Francisco. She helped out with store design and helping set up new stores. Then she came to Hong Kong to help with the stores. She noted that the key differences was that Starbucks in Hong Kong was relatively new whereas American Starbucks have been around for a while. So American stores know what will and won’t work in addition to having success stories. Meanwhile, Hong Kong stores are basically staring from scratch.
After hearing her talk, we broke off into our small groups again. We were given a list of questions regarding housing, taxes, and government to ask the people who were living in Hong Kong. My group decided to interview a group of school girls and two Starbucks baristas. We learned that housing in Hong Kong is not too affordable. It is very pricey and expensive. We also learned that some people don’t look at the government too fondly. They think that the government can do better with using their tax money.
When we left Starbucks, we went to the Ladies Market. When we stepped out the market we were immediately swept into a massive crowd. On both sides were buildings selling everything from clothes to makeup with huge lights blinking at us. We went over to the street vendors to pick up some souvenirs.
The area with the street vendors seemed more hectic than the street crowds. Here, you could hear people yelling as they haggled with vendors and even a few vendors yelling out to potential customers. Energetically, we picked out souvenirs, arguing down the prices and bluffing our way to better prices. Once we had enough souvenirs, we headed to dinner then back to our hotel.