Hong Kong Fanatic Virginia Chan Hosts City's Most Unique Food Tours
May 16, 2023
Do you know where to sip herbal tea with a Chinese doctor? Eat spicy shellfish on a boat in Victoria Harbour? Explore once the densest place in the world? Virginia Chan knows.
The Vancouverite-Hong Kong, born and raised in the rainy Canadian city, hosts Humid with a Chance of Fish Balls, one of Hong Kong’s leading food-centric walking tour companies, designed to expose visitors and locals to a new face of our great city.
Virginia takes new friends on whirlwind walking tours in neighbourhoods off the beaten tourist track, Whampoa, Kowloon City and Yau Ma Tei in Kowloon, Causeway Bay, Wong Chuk Hang, and Kennedy Town in Hong Kong Island, to explore Cantonese history and culture often inaccessible to the non-local.
The now-permanent resident of Hong Kong has a unique perspective of her home city, one of intrigue and nostalgia. Virginia grew up with her grandmother and parents in a Cantonese-speaking household, retaining her language skills and connection to Hong Kong through TVB drama series.
The first-generation Canadian came to Hong Kong in 2011 in what she calls a move “purely for corporate career advancements,” but soon grew tired of the static corporate culture enveloping the world of HR in Hong Kong and Asia.
Her “mid-life crisis” in her late 20s came as she sought greater creative control in her life, conditioned to work long hours in corporate HR amidst burning out. On a trip to Eastern Europe after quitting her job in 2016, Virginia became infatuated with free walking tours hosted in every city in the region, soon pondering why Hong Kong didn’t have them.
“During my corporate years in Hong Kong, I hosted a blog called Smoo Diaries, learning and discovering more about the culture of Hong Kong. To sustain my creative outlet and learn and teach Hong Kong to others, I have to make my aspiration profitable,” Virginia told The Beat Asia.
Alike traditional tours hosted for decades in the city, whisking jet-lagged and tired tourists to Tsim Sha Tsui, Central, The Peak, Lantau Island – the real tourist hot spots – Virginia began her tours on a volume-based model. Vying for competition against three other tour companies who opened simultaneously, Virginia switched to food tours to regain interest for tourists who come to Hong Kong to eat, as many do.
“Working corporate, every worker cares about their local joints, people here care about food, always trying different things. I enjoy that culture.” Why not host more intimate, reasonably priced tours to provide visitors a different side of Hong Kong, she thought.
“I use food as a vessel to talk about all the things I talk about, like the history, and then the culture and the heritage.”
“We started with what I call neighbourhood walking tours, hitting at least four to five places. We go to one place to eat, we hit up an attraction within that area. We go to another place and then we go to hit up another attraction.”
Virginia brings her budding foodies to Whampoa to explore the ‘off-the-eaten-path' of food, Causeway Bay’s typhoon shelter to eat authentic spicy seafood, Kowloon City to explore the former Walled City commune and Little Thailand, and West Hong Kong Island to flavour the city’s burgeoning craft beer scene.
“I didn't want it to be in generic places like Central or Mong Kok, and I don’t want to do what other people are doing.”
To diversify her offerings during Hong Kong’s shut-off period in the past three years, Virginia has hosted online AirBNB Experience cooking classes for Americans to bake and cook egg tarts, master classes educating groups on classic Mahjong techniques, and co-founded Hong Kong Puzzle Mystery with fellow creative Kitty N. Wong.
Virginia has found grand success as she spread the Humid brand to new spaces. “I have taught over 200 Mahjong classes in the past three years, and we have just won the Silver Award for the Hong Kong Smart Design Awards 2023 for the puzzle-board game.”
She will launch level two of her Mahjong classes, dedicated to teaching strategies and how to attack, alongside launching the second edition of Hong Kong Puzzle Mystery in early summer 2023.
“I now make a lot more content for YouTube and Instagram to reach more people to promote Hong Kong.”
To book a tour with Virginia Chan and Humid with a Chance of Fishballs, schedule classes to learn Mahjong, or purchase a set of Hong Kong Puzzle Mystery, head to her website here.
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