Have you ever taken the route from MTR East Rail Station Mongkok East to Sai Yeung Choi Street via the footbridge on a Sunday? If you had, you would have, like me, thought that you had, by mistake, landed in Jakarta, Indonesia!
Indonesian or a language I don’t know but sounds familiar, is the only language heard, Indonesian songs are sung along with guitar played, Indonesian food of all kinds including fried fish, bowls of sticky rice, puddings and many more are displayed on the plastic sheets or cardboards laid out on the ground! The maids are on holiday and somehow for many years, this footbridge has been taken over by the Indonesians as the Central District by the Filipinas! Businesses of every type such as money exchange, hair-cut, reflexology, tailoring, tattooing, manicure and pedicure and many more not just the selling of Indonesian cuisines are conducted here. The air filled with spicy aroma, perfume and body odour smells exotically East Asian.
The maids spread themselves out along both sides of the whole length of the footbridge leaving the middle section for pedestrians. With broad smiles on their faces, most of them indulge themselves in various activities while a few others are just lying there on the cardboard resting. They are so at home!
Hong Kong is home to around 340,000 domestic workers – about half are from Indonesia. Some wear head-scarves but most don’t. Some refrain from eating pork but others don’t. Some speak fluent Cantonese but others are almost utterly incomprehensible speaking neither English nor Cantonese. In other words, they are not really a homogeneous group as no groups really are. But on Sundays, the one day in a week, they gather here enjoying one another’s company as though they had never left home.
This Indonesian occupation of two-thirds of the width of the footbridge if not more has definitely inconvenienced the locals as this passage is one of the direct routes going from the train station to central Mongkok unless one takes the street but that again is always jammed with shoppers. Though some pedestrians would complain about the noise and smell of the Indonesian gathering on the footbridge, they still opt for it. Sometimes, when it is really crowded, they might be rubbing shoulders with the Indonesians who get carried away partying. As yet, no rows have ever happened though eyes might be rolling with disgust or foreheads frowned with annoyance.