Friday, November 27, 2015   

Backpackers live life on the cheap; The Big Mac of travellers

Priscilla Cheung

Friday, July 19, 1996

The Big

Mac of


S 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 country parks.

They commonly hail from Asia, Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand, and they've got one thing in common: a backpack, and a shoe-string budget.

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 says.

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 Ravid enthuses.

"Things here are expensive. We've had too much McDonald's," Mr Neiding confesses.

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.

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