Amid all the unrest currently happening in Hong Kong, I have had a few chances to escape reality (and schoolwork) and explore Asia. Whether it’s taking a spontaneous trip to South Korea or exploring local food in a night market, Asia has proven to be a great study abroad experience. However, one of the most unique chances I’ve gotten to experience Hong Kong culture is the Happy Valley horse race track, located on Hong Kong Island. Not only is considered a big tourist attraction in Hong Kong, but it is part of the culture here.
The Hong Kong Jockey Club, who sponsors and runs the races at both Happy Valley and Sha Tin, the other prominent race track, is one of the most well-known organizations in the country. They have sponsored buildings all across the city, including buildings on my school’s campus and the dorm I currently live in, appropriately named Jockey Club Hall. With such a large presence, hordes and hordes of people come to see what all the hype is about. When you walk in, it’s almost like walking into an NFL stadium. There are seats as far as the eye can see and the lights shine bright over the track. I wanted to see how this “stadium” food compared to the U.S. To my surprise, there was some high-quality food for a decent price. A burger and fries might set you back around $10, but that’s nothing to enjoying the same meal in Lincoln Financial Field. Now, when everyone was happy with their food and drink choice, we went to the betting counter. The minimum bet is 20 HKD, which is a little over two dollars, so unless you have an addiction, it’s hard to lose a lot of money. However, I chose to go to the 50 HKD minimum bet counter, just for the fun of it. I put my bet on horse nine, which corresponds to my birthday, and moved to the viewing area.
There are multiple bets that can be placed, but I chose to bet that my horse would place in the top three. I made my way to the edge of the track, with a great view of the race. It had started on the other side, but quickly made its way to the seating area. I watched intently as the horses rushed past, all wanting that first place finish. As I stared at the scoreboard, horse nine was in first a couple of times, but ended up placing fifth. I walked away from the track, slightly upset I lost around six dollars, but that was fine, as the experience itself was magical. My friend, however, was much luckier than me. His horse placed third in two races, which meant he made back almost all his money.
We reached the stadium late so we only saw the last four races. As the last race came to a close at 11pm, everyone filed out of the stadium and made their way to the next drinking escapade. The clubbing district is only a couple of subway stops away, so most people headed there. Out of all the things that I expected myself to do in Hong Kong, horse racing was not on that list. My vision of sight-seeing was seeing old historic monuments showing the depth of Hong Kong culture. However, after visiting Happy Valley, I was grateful to be a part of such an interesting and lively atmosphere.