Backpackers live life on the cheap; The Big Mac of travellers
Friday, July 19, 1996
OME come in sandals, shorts and white T-shirts turned-grey, others in
sundresses and straw hats.
Most can be found, confused and dazed, in and around Chungking
Mansions in Tsim Sha Tsui. Others bed down in hostels inside tranquil
They commonly hail from Asia, Europe, North America, Australia and New
Zealand, and they've got one thing in common: a backpack, and a
Each summer young backpackers, mostly students, fill the youth hostels
in Hong Kong. Many stop here before or after going to China and other
Asian countries, or as a stopover between Europe and Australia.
They typically stay for a week to 10 days in cheap hostels run by the
Hong Kong Youth Hostels Association, or in one of the hundreds of
private hostels in Chungking Mansions.
"Backpackers usually stay longer than usual tourists. They're
probably more adventurous than tourists who only have the time to see
the principal sites," Hong Kong Tourist Association (HKTA) spokesman
Peter Randall says.
The HKTA does not keep tabs on the number of backpackers coming to
Hong Kong. But Mr Randall says it is probably quite substantial.
Tourists stay an average of 3.87 days, spending $1,841 each day, or
$7,151 for their whole trip. Backpackers, lacking the cash for ritzy
high teas at the Peninsula or sunset dinner cruises, resort to an
array of cheap thrills.
A hike to the Peak and a Star Ferry ride are among the must-dos, while
the countryside, usually passed over by older tourists, provides an
enjoyable day out for backpackers without breaking the bank.
Adventurous ones go to local food stalls or dai pai dongs. Others
stick with the $16.50 McDonald's Value Meal.
Alice Lai, owner of New World Hostels in Chungking Mansions, says her
hostel is fully booked every night by young and poor travellers.
"Most people just want to find a clean and cheap place to stay," she
Eran Ravid and Niv Neiding, both university students from Israel,
spent $220 for a double room at a Chungking hostel. Hong Kong is the
last leg of their Asian tour.
"I'm most impressed with the enormous buildings in the city. We have
big buildings in Israel, but not as enormous as the ones here," Mr
"Things here are expensive. We've had too much McDonald's," Mr
Norwegian couple Odd Stemsrud, 22, and Marianne Dahl Jensen, 25, say
Hong Kong is more Westernised than they expected. They wanted to visit
before the handover and say they have not been disappointed.