Native attractions

Native attractions
First Nations art at the Canadian Museum of History in Ottawa

May 25, 2016 — Yesterday’s South China Morning Post featured a front-page story about passengers on the Queen Mary 2 being shown a video by British archaeologist John Reich. In the video, Reich reportedly described Hong Kong as an “extremely polluted city,” with “inferior museums” where there was no point in dining-out because passengers, “would always be served the wrong dish.”

If you examine Reich’s assertions—assuming they were reported accurately—there is a grain of truth in each of them. Hong Kong is a polluted city, and if you pick the wrong day, air pollution makes a trip to the Peak a waste of time. And those “wrong days” are increasing in frequency.

I recently visited the Hong Kong Museum of Art and the Hong Kong Museum of History, both of which are good. But neither compare to the Louvre or the Canadian Museum of History (to name just two examples) in size or scope.

And the idea that a typical QM2 passenger is going to be welcomed with open arms in a local dai pai dong is laughable. They will get outstanding service (and a bill to match) in our five-star hotels, and competent service in Lan Kwai Fong, SoHo or Wanchai. But the likelihood of them having a positive experience elsewhere rapidly approaches zero, particularly if they are from the, “if the locals don’t understand English, speak louder” set.

The story oozes outrage that anyone could say anything bad about Hong Kong’s native attractions. Elsewhere, people would shrug these comments off as the opinions of an idiot or an ignoramus; here they provoke soul-searching and hand-wringing. It’s a safe bet that a full-scale government inquiry, staffed by the usual bag-men, sycophants and hangers on, will soon be launched.

The only thing more pathetic than our collective insecurity is that this story—which originated from an equally indignant letter to the editor and not from any investigative journalism—warrants front-page coverage in what many consider our newspaper of record.

Note: Native attractions was originally published as on March 5th, 2007, and update on May 25, 2016.