The walk from Quarry Bay, in the heart of urban Hong Kong on the north side of the island, to the sandy beach at Repulse Bay in the south has an uphill stretch but is entirely manageable, and the dense tree-studded views to the sea are magnificent. The group I was with suggested a swim from Repulse Bay to Middle Island — about 20 minutes through calm, warm water. My only apprehension came when our experienced and sporty leader told us, as we came to a solid yellow barrier in the sea, that we now had to clamber over the shark net.
Anyway, I survived to write this column, and to chat to two business people while eating at the Temple Street Night Market in Kowloon that evening. One was working for a company that makes children’s building toys that are assembled from basic architectural drawings. The other was making finger rings that connect remotely to your phone, so that you can use your hand as a receiver without taking your mobile out of your pocket. I passed on the tip that London, currently suffering an epidemic of phone-snatching by thieves on mopeds, might be a promising market.
As well as a cable car ride up to the Big Buddha and Po Lin monastery on Lantau Island the next day, the weekend also provided time to read. I downloaded Dear Hong Kong, an anguished memoir by Xu Xi, a novelist with a pessimistic view of Hong Kong’s political and cultural future.
The advantage of adding a mini-break to a work trip is that it makes you a better business traveller. Every glimpse of the world outside offices provides context and a broader view.
Not that offices and meeting rooms are to be sneered at. A business trip enables you to meet and talk to local people about their work, their lives, their hopes and fears. Add some free-time adventures and you have the perfect combination.
In accordance with my public-transport-first philosophy, I took Hong Kong’s superb MTR trains whenever I could, both while working and exploring. People moan about the stress and fatigue of business travel. But as I looked at the Hong Kong families around me on the subway, enjoying their weekend out after several days of typhoon weather, I made a mental note not to forget how lucky I have been to travel this way.