This will be a series of posts that will highlight the different places I have been to that I have worked from. As opposed to other travel blogs that only discuss traditional sites and tourist spots, I thought it might be helpful for like-minded individuals to see what cities have to offer, in terms of which spots are the most freelancer-friendly, what kind of overall atmosphere a place has (so that we, as marketers/freelancers/whatever really, can fully appreciate the people behind a certain city and gain valuable insights from that) and what kind of networking opportunities there are in those cities.
It’s no secret that I love moving about. There are days in Manila that I have all the freedom I could ever ask for and yet, I still feel like I’m in a straightjacket, all expertly woven by the inner workings of my mind. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a support system (ahem, my ever-loving family) who even gave me my own desk in our home office. But even when I am “chained” to my home desk, which is really just less than 15 steps away from my actual bedroom door (and I’m not actually even obliged to use it), I feel trapped in the space that was designated for me. Perhaps it’s the sense of familiarity that I associate with this space. It could also be the fact that it is a desk in the middle of a hallway. And while that isn’t really a problem, in and of itself, the fact that everyone can essentially look over my shoulder as I sort through receipts or create pitch decks is a subconscious...thing that I do not particularly enjoy.
Whatever the case may be, this weekend, I have found myself in Hong Kong. Notwithstanding other commitments that have brought me here, I seem to find myself in the throes of doing all of my work from a tiny hostel common room (right now, at least) in Tsim Sha Tsui. There is something about this city that I love. I’ve been coming back to this city multiple times a year for practically my entire life and for each visit, I am always in a different place in my life, which, ultimately, makes each trip slightly different and special. And this brings me to my first point (I know, finally)...
The Overall Atmosphere of Hong Kong
There is something oddly liberating about being able to walk through the cramped and densely populated city streets of Hong Kong. Now, my friends who are dear to me would probably interject and say, “Um excuse me, Mia. You hate people. And Hong Kong has soooooo much people.” And yes, this is true. I am not exactly the biggest fan of walking around a mall (even in Manila), let alone a street in such close proximity to other human beings. Call me an alien, call me claustrophobic, call me whatever you want but in Hong Kong, there is something strange and comforting about this brand of claustrophobia/capitalism/consumerism. There is something to be said about more than a dozen people walking in the same direction to just buy things, in close bodily quarters to one another, that lends some insight into human beings. And it is this that is just so fascinating to me.
What I love about the cramped tiny-ness of Hong Kong is that you can just stand around on the street, tune out of the world and get out of your head with earphones and observe people walking on by. No one would even blink twice. You can just as easily blend without having to call much attention to yourself AND you get to people watch without seeming like a total creeper (because...important!). And if you're anything like me, I can do this for hours.
The Freelancer Friendly Spots of Hong Kong
In true Mia fashion, my handy-dandy (and very pretty) mermaid tail laptop case broke as soon as I arrived (in loving memory...). Because of course. So walking around, as much as I had to, I needed to be careful lugging my laptop around without a case. I was pleasantly surprised though. Hong Kong has an abundance of places with crazy fast wifi, outlets and good food and coffee/booze. One example of this would be N1 Coffee along Mody Road, which just so happened to be in the same building as my hostel. But they did serve a mean iced Americano. Another spot I liked to stay in was Butchers and Co in K11. Not only was their burger pretty good but they have some good booze that is easily enjoyable, while seated facing out the window. Not only was it the perfect people-watching spot, but they also had amazingly fast wifi and wall sockets!
Over at Central, near the Sheung Wan district, I was able to meet up with a dear old friend, Emile Guertin, a then- Freelance Director and now-Executive Producer for Discovery Channel (back when I was still in media and documentary film production), who agreed to meet with me at PMQ, which was a beautifully repurposed building with tiny coffee shops, brick and mortar Instagram shops and artsy cafes. The entire structure used to be a dormitory for the Hong Kong Police rank and file. While Emile and I were having coffee, I said that I would come back, just to hang around and I did. It was such a great, quiet spot (save for a couple of mouthy children who would pass by, but still) to just get some work done. The atmosphere was light and breezy and airy and it was just, overall, a nice place to sit back and enjoy meandering thoughts--the kind of thoughts you need to finish a deck or create social media posts or copy or some shit like that.
Networking Opportunities in Hong Kong
While, essentially, Hong Kong is a fairly straightforward place for meeting all kinds of people (hello, melting pot!), it has always proven to be a difficult place to casually just go up to someone and like...meet them for real, with the purpose of networking and for career growth or for any kind of purpose, really. Or maybe I'm just shy and introverted. But this is why I appreciated staying where I stayed, which is a little known hostel called Hop Inn on Mody, located on the 5/f of the Lyton Building, an old non-descript building with a hole in the wall coffee shop downstairs. I stayed in an all female dorm room. And even this alone was a perfect place for me to meet all new kinds of people whom I wouldn't have met otherwise. I met Anke, a Belgian traveler who was telling me about her travels all over the world, Joyce or Li Dong, a Chinese student studying in Australia and Warsaw and Brussels, Lianne, who just arrived from Russia (Maybe I'll do another post about my last night in HK, see photo below). It was great to hear all their stories and their unique points of view about being a woman and solo-traveling the world. They asked me about the stuff around HK and where else in Asia they should go (Um, hello, Manila and all the beaches in the Philippines, of course) and all about their lives. It was definitely a great place to just meet people.
Another thing I loved about it was the common area where you could buy a beer for only 10 HKD, lounge around on the couch and talk to a diverse set of people or play an old-timey (what) game on a revived NES Family Computer. The coffee was free flowing, the staff was friendly and helpful and the ambience was disarmingly charming. So if you find yourself looking for a place in Hong Kong and want to get some work done and meet new people, this is definitely a good choice.
So there you have it. Coming from someone who regularly goes to Hong Kong, for family trips and leisure trips with my girl friends and whatnot, I would have to say that coming here for work purposes can be just as much fun. It's a great place to gain some clarity, especially if you feel like you need to change your environment momentarily. The hustle and bustle of Hong Kong is quite different from the one in Manila, wherein you're just stuck in an Uber or a car or in one coffee shop the whole day. In HK, you walk everywhere so the chance of you seeing humanity, up close and personal, is so much more up front, which is great, if you need to enrich your work with that (which I did, soooo... yay, me!). Do you have any recommendations in this place? I'd love to hear from you! Sound off in the comments section below! Maybe I'll check them out the next time I come around. :)