Yesterday I read with horror about the hostage stand-off in Manila, where a disgruntled ex-cop hijacked a Hong Kong tour bus. It sounded like something you’d see on a Hong Kong movie set.
And then something went terribly wrong and 8 tourists were murdered.
Like everyone else, I shudder; these lives could have been spared had negotiations fared better.
When I first arrived in Hong Kong and started wandering the streets of Central and Tsim Sha Tsui, I saw travel agency ads for trips to places like Vietnam, Koh Samui, and Bali, all within close proximity to Hong Kong. But other ads listed destinations like Johannesburg, Sydney, Cairo, and New York.
As I met friends and got to know people better, I saw something in Hong Kong that I didn’t see back home in the US: a universal love of travel.
Sure, many Americans have passports full of exotic stamps. But in the US, you need money to travel. That’s not the case in Hong Kong.
It wasn’t unusual for office clerks or people residing in public housing estates to jet off to Kenya or Istanbul for a couple weeks. Package tours are pretty economical in Hong Kong, but they still cost a couple months’ worth of salary. I used to think people in Hong Kong were so open-minded because of their colonial history. But after I got to know the place and people better better, I learned it also had to do with their love of travel.
This tragedy in Manila shouldn’t have happened. It certainly shouldn’t have ended the way it did. The tourists just wanted to see another country, to enjoy the food and the culture, and to build bridges between the two countries, which have a special relationship (Hong Kong is home to more than 100,000 Filipino domestic workers).
Of course, this tragedy could have happened anywhere. Things like this occur so often in the US that they fail to make headlines anymore.