Semester at Sea Fall 2006 Voyagebanner


Yuen Long, Hong Kong

By Wren Chan

           Yuen Long is around one hour away from the Hong Kong Island in the New Territories. I remembered coming here with my parents in our last visit to Hong Kong about twelve to thirteen years ago. The most vivid image from that visit was that of the tram that we had used and had to navigate around to reach our destination on the other side of the wide avenue. Yuen Long is where both of my parents grew up and spent most of their time due to the fact that Kowloon and Hong Kong Island, other major city centers, were further away.

           Though I didn’t remember the name of that particular avenue, it was without a doubt the main thoroughfare into Yuen Long since it was considerably wider than the other streets of the area. That particular avenue is a wide avenue that is bisected by the tramway with buses moving on both sides every so often picking up passengers heading out towards Kowloon. The passengers awaited their respective buses in the designated lines and since it was around 1:00 pm, many of the passengers were mostly elderly. Aside from the passengers there were also pedestrians that were shopping in the stores behind us. There were some gold jewelry stores along our side of the avenue and they were something that I clearly remembered from my last visit however many years ago. In some ways it felt somewhat at home to me since Chinatown in New York is more or less an attempt by expatriates to bring things familiar from their old homes to their new homes. What was different was the architectural style of the buildings that made up the avenue and the fact that it provided other customer goods that aren’t present in the Chinatown in New York, such as clothes and office accessories.

           I would imagine that if I had the ability to fly upwards I would see the tramway go on at least for a mile down the avenue, with buses at regular intervals like trains making their way towards the station except in this case it would be a bus stop. In the other direction where the tramway ends there is the entrance to a highway or to a road that leads to one of the “villages” in the New Territories. Some distance further there is the bridge that runs into the airport.

           In the area lying outside my field of vision due to the constraints of the buildings around me there are some churches and places that sell Christian literatures. In one area there is the bus depot where buses to different areas of Hong Kong start and end. Along sidewalks next to the bus depot, there are vendors or outdoor eateries which are distinctive feature of Hong Kong that isn’t readily seen in New York. It is rather awkward to classify such eateries since in terms of technicality they have the equipment and seating thus they could be considered outdoor restaurants but the small scale of their business makes them more like vendors. Perhaps it is not my place to judge what these peculiar features are technically called. Nonetheless these eateries provide a fast food alternative for people on the run and have seating for people that are awaiting their buses.

           Nicole Constable’s "Maid to Order in Hong Kong" talked about the problems faced by Filipina domestic workers whom I had for some time tried to locate in my stay in Hong Kong. But it seems that either they’re hidden at these employers’ homes working or they blend in with the locals. At a nearby market there were probably some Filipina domestic workers going about their task of buying fresh food to cook for their employers.

           Although Yuen Long is quite a center of activity it is astonishing that there are few foreign international firms operating in the area. Most of the stores are small businesses that seem to be adequate in catering to the general needs and wants of the local populace. From my recollection of Yuen Long twelve to thirteen years ago it seems that it changed little, although it felt smaller and simpler to navigate perhaps as a result of my physical growth and experience since that time.

Return to course home