Hong Kong is a jewel of the Far East. The city was started by the British over 100 years ago as a trading colony on the island of Hong Kong. In 1983 Hong Kong was changed from a Briish colony to a dependent territory. In 1997 the Sino British Joint Declaration signed Hong Kong back over to China as the 99 year lease was over. The agreement was a good deal for the Hong Kong people as Hong Kong would be ruled as special area retaining its laws and a certain amount of autonomy. The Chinese did not want to change much in Hong Kong as it was a gold mine so to speak for China and they did not want to upset the Hong Kong economy.
Hong Kong people are entrepreneurs by heart. This is a very busy city where everyone wants to make money. Word of jobs and potential riches drew many immigrants for various parts of China. Ninety percent of the Hong Kong’s population is Chinese. There are groups of Chinese like the Hakka from southern China who came here hundreds of years ago. The Hoklo and Tanka are boat people who live in the junks floating on the waters of Victoria Harbor.
The Royal Garden Hotel is located in Kowloon near the water front of Victoria Harbor. It has great views of the city and is a true four star hotel. It is a short walk from the famous Star Ferry which use to cost a Hong Kong dime or 1.5 US cents. The hotel is located in the heart of Kowloon in the Tsim Sha Tsui East area and there is great shopping all around and night life. The Hotel has three great restaurants, a pool, and a gym. I have stayed at many hotels around the world and this one is the very best one.
To go from Kowloon to Hong Kong the best way is to take the Star Ferry across Victoria Harbor. The Star Ferry is a ride that everyone needs to take while in Hong Kong. This ferry has been shown in many movies, like James Bond. On the Kowloon side, right near the ferry is a shopping area. Next to the Ferry there use to be a old Chinese man who oil painted the Hong Kong sky line of Mount Victoria and the harbor. I use to sit and watch him paint with his wrinkled old fingers moving quickly around the canvas. He painted a picture in about 30 minutes. No two of his paintings were the same as he painted in the pictures boats were going by at the time. I purchased several each trip and one of his paintings about 2 by 3 feet in size and hangs in my house today. Everyone who sees it knows that’s Hong Kong, and then I tell them a story about Hong Kong and the old man painting. This painting cost me fifteen Hong Kong dollars or about 2 bucks. What a great item to remember a trip to Hong Kong.
It was 1987 and I had started my own business one year ago in 1986. I had a customer in Foshan China. I knew the President of this company and trusted him after doing business together for about nine months. All of a sudden they stopped paying their bills. Six months went by and they would not answer my letters, faxes, or phone calls requesting payment. I knew however they were still in business because the phones were being answered. I sent the President, whom I will call Mr. X, a fax and advised I was coming to collect my money in cash and would be in his factory on such and such date. I told him I wanted full payment on my arrival. I could not afford to lose sixty grand or my new company could go bankrupt.
I took a flight to Hong Kong and stayed at the Royal Garden Hotel. This was where I always stayedwhile in Hong Kong. It is a business hotel and it is located in Kowloon. The Royal Garden was owned by British and Hong Kong investors. It was a true first class hotel. After staying there many times they knew me very well and I always stayed in the same room, number 1003. I liked this room because it had two floors and a great view of the harbor. I would invite customers to my room for contract discussions in a private setting. This was very important for customers coming from China. I was sure these customers were being watched by the Chinese government when they went to visit Hong Kong. Only the elite where permitted to go to Hong Kong on a Chinese passport and Hong Kong British Visa. Sometimes I would buy my customers a room at the hotel for the night if it was too late to return to their home too China.
The Royal Garden had a limo service to pick you up at the Hong Kong airport. In the limo would be moist towels to wipe your hands and face along with a split bottle of champagne to relax after your long flight. As the limo pulls up to the hotel there are three people there to greet you, the guest manager, doorman and the bellman. They all know you by name. Mr. Smith nice to see you again, welcome home. What great service!
Arriving in the evening, I had a good night’s sleep and went to the front desk the next day to obtain a China visa. All you needed to do was ask the front desk to go the Chinese Embassy with your passport to obtain a China visa. In those days you could get a 3 day or 10 day visa. You could get your visa in the same day. While at the front desk I ask the bell captain Mr. Ricky Lam where I can obtain some translator and help while in China as I was going to collect some money from a Factory in Foshan. He told me to meet him after work. I had known Ricky for several years from my visits. Since he worked for the hotel I trusted him. I told Ricky the situation I was in and that I may have some trouble collecting my money. Ricky advised me he knew who could be of help but it would cost me money for the service. I advised him money is not a problem. We went to Hong Kong Island when he got off work and weaved down some dark narrow streets to what he called the black market money changer. I had no idea where we where and it was a little scary.
We came to what seemed like a dead end alley and there was a red door which Ricky knocked on. The color red stands for money in most Asian countries. The door creaked open and we were greeted by a little Chinese man who waved us inside. Upon entering the room we were facing a group of surly looking men. Lam told them in Chinese why we were there and they took us to a back room were three skinny Chinese men were sitting at a table. They seemed to know Ricky and greeted us in a polite manner. They ask us to sit down and they had a woman bring us some tea. All three were smoking and the room was so smoky my eyes watered. They ask me how they could be of service. I told them I am going to Foshan China to collect some money from a potentially hostile customer who owed me sixty thousand US dollars. I did not know if the customer would pay me or not. So I had two problems, one problem collecting the money, and the other problem would be to get the money safely back to Hong Kong and change it to US Dollars. I told them this was an honest business deal and showed them the actual Invoices and the amount money owed to me. They asked me, how long I had been doing business with this company, had I ever been there, and did I know the President of the company? I replied yes, I know the President and we had been doing business for almost a year. I explained I had been there many times before and knew how to get there. I also told them that I was surprised they have not paid me because it is a big company and they seemed very trustworthy. They knew this company but had never done any collections there or had any negative news about them.
The three men spoke to each other in Chinese and after a few minutes they agree to help me collect my money. They told me the fee would be 15% for their collection, protection, and currency exchange service. They asked, if I agreed? I said yes and they ask me to provide proof of who I was. I gave them my business card as proof of who I was and showed them my passport. They just looked at it and gave it back to me. We shook hands and that made the deal final. There was no turning back now.
Read American Gaijin, Part 12 Hong Kong and Gold Tooth Continued…see what happens!
References: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hong_Kong, www.discoverhongkong.com/