I was walking with my wife in Tsim Sha Tsui the other day and while we were waiting for the pedestrian light to change, a mainland lady dragging a mid-sized luggage asks me in Mandarin how to get to Mong Kok. I can tell she was not familiar with Hong Kong as any local or frequent visitors of HK would be able to tell you the various methods of moving between these two local shopping landmarks. Similar to 99% of people who offer directions, I began to offer her directions to the nearest MTR station. As I began to mutter the first few words of “di tie” (MTR in mandarin), a middle-aged local woman standing behind us, or what we like to call “see lai” in Cantonese to refer to married middle aged housewives interrupts me and shouts out in Cantonese “Take the Minibus!” My initial reaction was how rude of this lady to interrupt me. But seeing how this lady was so eager to provide instructions, I decided to let her give the directions while giving my wife a look of annoyance to her rudeness.For those of you who are not familiar with the mini bus system in Hong Kong, I can tell you it is definitely not a form of transportation for people unfamiliar with Hong Kong. The mini bus is basically exactly what it is, a mini bus that carries around 20 passengers and goes circling around various routes picking up and dropping off passengers along the way. The tricky part of taking the mini bus is that it does not stop at every bus stop along the route. To get picked up, you must stand at a correct stop and wave to the driver signalling you want to get picked up. To get dropped off, you must shout out where you want to get dropped off just prior to arriving to that stop. What’s more, many of the allowed stops are not even your typical bus stop with a sign stating the bus number. The next stop can be the MacDonald’s up front or simply the next corner, but keep in mind, these stops need to be part of the regular stops of the route. You cannot just request to be dropped off anywhere. If it is not part of the regular route, the driver will notify you in an annoyed voice that you cannot stop there or blatantly just ignore you. Also, I have to point out that the mini bus drivers are probably the most impatient people you will ever meet in the world. If you don’t believe me, try to step foot into a Hong Kong mini bus. The second the last passenger steps foot on the bus, the door behind violently swings closed whilst, the driver’s foot is hammered onto the gas pedal.
So getting back to the instructions the see lai was giving the mainland lady. As she began to try to give instructions in her horrid mandarin, I thought to myself how impractical these instructions were. Firstly, because of the difficulties I have just mentioned and secondly, even if she was able to find the bus stop and get on to the correct bus, she would no doubt receive some annoyed looks or even comments from the driver or some of the fellow passengers about the baggage she would be dragging on the already rushed and crowded bus. As I continued to overhear the see lai struggle with her half Cantonese, half Mandarin instructions, I could tell she was beginning to realize it was not such an easy task to give directions to someone who has never taken a mini bus. As she continued to speak, I sensed her growing disinterest as the pedestrian light began to change and her focus shifts to continuing on her destination. Once we all reached the other end of the street and began to go our own ways, I noted the conversation between the two ladies had ended. I am not sure if the mainland lady was going to follow up on the instructions of the local, but I looked back to the mainland lady with a smile, pointed to the right, and said “the nearest MTR station is that way. “Your typical mini bus stop... in the middle of nowhere