Luxurious Layovers & A Taste of HK

Our excited group of 30 students, 2 professors, and 6 alumni departed on Thursday evening for the first stop on the Hot Cities Tour 2015–Hong Kong. Our route with Qatar Airways had us spending 8 hours in Doha before reaching our final destination. Normally, the words “eight-hour layover” do not exactly make me jump for joy, but this layover was a little different. We were picked up at the airport and driven to “the Pearl”–an artificial island similar to “the Palm” in Dubai that is the first land in Qatar to be available for freehold ownership by foreign nationals. Here we met Qatari native, recent McGill grad, and former Hot Cities Tour participant Majd Steitieh and her father for a short walk around the harbour. Afterwards we set out for the Steitieh family home where they graciously hosted all 40 of us as well as a number of other guests of honour. IMG_0963 We enjoyed an amazing dinner at their palatial home with a number of McGill alumni and Qatari locals. After dinner we heard from Morgan Waters–Executive Producer at Al Jazeera’s English channel, Andre Dubois–the Canadian Ambassador to Qatar, Issa Abu Issa–CEO of Salam International Investment, his son Mohamed–Dakar Quad Athlete and budding entrepreneur, and Stephen Anderson–Partner at PwC Qatar. It was absolutely incredible to hear from these individuals about life and work in Qatar and particularly about Qatar’s growth over the past 10 years. IMG_0962 Stephen left us with some striking statistics that make his consulting-driven branch of PwC an exciting place to work: 250,000 Native Qataris 2,000,000 people living in Qatar $210,000,000,000 GDP $50,000,000 available oil reserves per capita (native Qataris) $100,000 GDP per capita (highest in the world) To put this in perspective even further, Mohamed is planning to open a very unique and high-end gym concept in the coming year. Being a member at his gym would mean being matched with a personal trainer that monitors your progress and nutrition at the swanky facility–for $600 USD/month! 11025179_10153171586056388_6639082457885424660_n All this to say that this was a layover I certainly won’t be forgetting anytime soon! We flew Cathay Pacific for the last leg of our journey to Hong Kong and touched down late afternoon. By the time we were all checked in to our hotel it was around 4:30PM and I decided I needed to get out for a jog after 30+ hours of sitting. I find running to be a great way to explore a city–Hong Kong’s density presented unique challenges to city jogging but I still managed to dodge pedestrians, take in lots of interesting smells and wander the neighbourhood of Soho around our hotel for 30 minutes. IMG_0971 That evening, we attended an alumni dinner/cocktail in the financial district of Hong Kong. The event was facilitated by Alvin Chung–McGill’s Director of Asian Advancement–and we learned that there are roughly 3,000 McGill alumni in HK and they regularly have 200+ people turning up to events! The cocktail was a great chance to talk to a diverse group of alumni about living and working in Hong Kong. IMG_0985 Of course, it was only a matter of time before I ran into someone I knew… As I got chatting with one of the alumni at the event, it didn’t take long for us to realize that I played rugby with his daughter in first year at McGill! Of course we promptly took a selfie and sent it off to her. Despite being tired from a long day of travel, a group of us rallied to go for a walk which turned into a couple of drinks at a nearby watering hole. Hong Kong is full of expats and they definitely dominate the nightlife scene. A couple of the Brits we met at the bar described Hong Kong as a small town in a big city if you’re living in the expat community. Overall, a whirlwind 36 hours and I can’t wait to continue exploring HK tomorrow