If you stroll around any park, underpass or public area in Hong Kong on a Sunday you are likely to stumble across a strange phenomenon.
To the untrained eye it will look like there are either thousands of people camping out for an upcoming rock concert, or that Hong Kong has a huge number of well dressed homeless people.
In fact, what you are witnessing is the weekly day off for domestic helpers.
People who think Hong Kong and China are one and the same are… how to put this? Quite wrong.
In China there is still a lot of poverty, but self-governing Hong Kong has one of the highest standards of living in the world. With surplus cash you have options for paying other people to do the things you don't enjoy. In Hong Kong this means hiring a domestic helper, or maid.
What does a maid do? You name it! Look after kids, cook food, clean grandpa's bum. Think of a household chore you'd rather not do, and you can guarantee that your average Hongkonger has sub-contracted the job to a Filipina, or Indonesian, maid.
These workers are paid about $500 per month. They get half a day off per week, usually from Sunday morning to about 8pm on Sunday night. No staying out overnight you will notice!
Once a year they're allowed to go back to their home countries. Sounds a bit tough right? It is, but the domestic helpers in Hong Kong still enjoy much more freedom and rights than workers in the Gulf – who are, in essence, treated very much as slaves.
So, what do you do if there's tons of your people all in the same place, all with the same day off, but none of you have that much money? You go and party.
Walking around Hong Kong on a Sunday you will see whole areas that look like tent cities with music blaring, impromptu beauty pageants, dancing, drinking, and a lot of eating.
Darker side of Sunday
Now while this all seems like family fun, there is a darker side, and this is where Wan Chai comes into play.
Wan Chai “used to be” the red light district of Hong Kong. If you look online in magazines such as Time Out, you will be told it's no longer that. Actually, it still is.
Wan Chai has lots of bars, clubs, girly bars and ladies who walk the streets looking to make friends with gentlemen. From Monday to Saturday it is fairly busy, but on Sunday! On Sunday it becomes “Wan Chai Sunday”.
On Wan Chai Sunday the clubs open at 8am, and many of the domestic helpers leave their jobs wearing their normal clothes, before doing a Clark Kent and transforming into super-sexy!
Then, from about 9am to 6pm, the clubs are absolutely ram packed with domestic helpers looking for short-term fun (or side cash), and western gentlemen eager to help in either scenario. Needless to say the many short-term hotels that are all over Wan Chai do a brisk business.
It might be more fun in the Philippines, but the Filipinos partying in Hong Kong on a Sunday certainly make the most of their half day of freedom.
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