Gus Carter

Hong Kong’s fading Britishness

Among the luxury travellers and Chinese influencers

  • From Spectator Life
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Not much of Hong Kong still feels British. There is the odd tube stop – Admiralty, Kennedy Town, Prince Edward – but that’s about it. On the car ride from the airport, I chatted to the driver as we passed under half-built concrete arches covered in green construction cloth. He told me the authorities were building another runway; we’ve been arguing over a third runway for the best part of 30 years, I said, and it still hadn’t started. He laughed. ‘We used to be run by England. Now the communists are in charge, it’s much easier.’ 

I went to Java Road in search of the morgues and black bunting

My cheapy British phone contract is allergic to Hong Kong networks and insists on gobbling up around £20 of credit a day. None of my bank cards seem to work either. I tried beeping onto the metro with a debit card. Nothing. So I went to get out some cash. Declined. Card blocked. It turns out the ATMs pin pads are identical in style but the numbers are back to front: 987,654,321. Years of muscle memory left me stranded among the knock-off handbags of Mong Kok. 

On the long walk back to the hotel I found an industrial steel pagoda surrounded by tables and plastic stools. I asked for a Skol, seeing a pile of empty bottles on the floor by a group of merry Cantonese men. The laminated ring-bound menu offered Hot Chilli Frog. Wimpishly, I ordered the sweet and sour pork which, despite the Skol haze, I’m sure contained curry powder. A little hint of Britishness perhaps, the consequence of what once went on around Admiralty tube station?

I’ve been put up in the Regent on Victoria Harbour for a few days. I had searched for pictures before arriving and planned on describing it as ‘looking like the Trump Towers architect built a multi-storey car park’ (a bit of snark to offset the fact I’m on a freebie).

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