Living it up, ghetto style

As an ex-colony, places like the Hong Kong Cricket Club, the Yacht Club, the Jockey Club and the Golf Clubs tend to be bastions of the ultra wealthy of Hong Kong, with the usual levels of restrictive access and members-only privileges. However, I recently discovered a very fun way to live the high life for a mere HK$10!

Look how classy we are

Some friends invited us to go to the Hong Kong Jockey Club Happy Valley Race Track on Wednesday for a night at the races. I’d been to the races in Trinidad before, but had not been to any in Hong Kong before, so of course jumped at the chance.

But it was quite different to what I was expecting. We entered the stands for a whopping HKD 10 entrance fee (paid by Octopus card), and found ourselves a spot right at the side of the racetrack, and didn’t even have any chairs. I thought this was funny, beacuse in Trinidad, the ‘grounds’ are usually considered as the ‘ghetto’ section, while the stands were far more posh. It is quite the opposite in Hong Kong — the stands are where all of the expats go to lime, while the stands are full of Chinese hardcore race enthusiasts.

This is for two reasons. One, racing is immensely popular in Hong Kong, being the only legal form of gambling, so the real Chinese gamblers always find themselves at the races, and are extremely focused on the results. Two, the grounds are where the Beer Garden is located, and because practically all foreigners in Hong Kong are raging alcoholics — at least in comparison to their Chinese colleagues who rarely or never drink — that’s where the foreigners go for a cheap night at the races, drinking pitchers of draft beer, and screaming as the horses raced by.

We didn’t do any real betting, but I did manage to win $13 (bets started at $1 per race), so I suppose a made a small profit and at least covered my entrance fee. It’s a fantastic experience to stand next to the tracks and be so close when the horses run past and hear the thundering of the hooves as they race towards the finish line. Far better than sitting in the stands, I think.

If you are ever in Hong Kong during a race at Happy Valley, be sure to go. And for $10, it sure is a cheap and fun way to experience one of the great traditions of the city.

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