My Travel Pal Meetup: Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong

By Gab

I’ve always been wary of the whole idea of “Couchsurfing;” it just seemed like an idea that’s too good to be true. It relies on people to extend their warmth and foreign courtesy to travelers, and the idea of strangers simply being kind to each other somehow sounded a bit too much to ask these days.

I’ve heard about Couchsurfing horror stories. But that didn’t really stop me from trying it at least once. I mean, there are whole communities dedicated to it online now – it’s not just Couchsurfing, there’s also Travel Pal, Be Welcome, and Trust Roots. Millions of users are now on those platforms, and there has to be something in the idea which has drawn so many to trying it out.

I decided to take the plunge and try out Travel Pal last April.

Just bit of a background about me…

I’m originally from Greece, and I’ve been lucky to have traveled to so many other countries in the past decade or so because of the work that I do.

I’ve been on Hello Pal since the middle of last year. Ever since I moved to Hong Kong in January 2016, I had wanted to learn the language (Cantonese). But working my job requires me to be at work with a full day, sometimes from 9am to 9pm, so I was never able to commit to formally taking classes for it. Instead, I found Hello Pal – it’s an app which let you chat with strangers and learn languages while doing it. I was using Hello Pal mainly to talk to users who can teach me Chinese, and I’ve managed to amass a good number of steady friends in the app who live in Hong Kong, although I’ve never built up the courage to actually meet these people in person.

Then earlier this year, Travel Pal came out. Since I was already in the Hello Pal platform, I figured I won’t have anything to lose if I just download the new app. It promised to be something like Couchsurfing and Backpackr – so I could find both hosts and fellow travelers in the app if I wanted to.

So what I did was just to get the new app and log in to my same account. The chats I still had with the friends I made in Hello Pal were ported over to Travel Pal, so it was super easy for me to find a friend that I had been chatting to for a long time since then.

Who I Met: Ethan

Ethan’s a pretty cool guy – he was one of the first language partners I found on Hello Pal and, seeing as he was a Hong Kong native, I asked him to help me learn Traditional Chinese and Cantonese. I’ve since learned how to properly order a club sandwich, iced lemon tea, and beef noodles in cha chaan dengs with his help.

We had been chatting for a good part of a year come April, so I felt that it would be a good idea to meet up with him through Travel Pal. I wasn’t exactly about to live in someone else’s home just yet, but I was willing to meet up for a drink (think of this as a “dipping a toe into the pool to test the waters” kind of thing.)

Lan Kwai Fong

We set up to meet through Travel Pal. It wasn’t difficult at all to do – I had initially thought I needed to give so much information, but turns out we didn’t really need to go crazy on giving too much away.

We had agreed to meet up with each other in Lan Kwai Fong for a meet up and a hangout over drinks, but since I wasn’t at all too familiar with the area, I thought I would have a rough time trying to find my way to meet him. Lan Kwai Fong is known for being the hub for partygoers and late-night revelers, and in this web of small streets, it’s easy to be overwhelmed from all sides with pubs, bars, and entertainment venues.

Thankfully, there was a geo-location feature in the app which helped him mark exactly where he was and with the help of steady connection and Google Maps (hooray for maps) I was able to find him. We had one drink at the Hong Kong Brew House right along D’Aguilar street. After a pint, we headed over to Hooters up along the end of Hollywood Road (I would highly recommend the chicken wings and fried pickles.)

My Experience

We had a great time hanging out, so much so that we’re already planning the next time we see each other.

So that’s my story about my first ever Travel Pal meet up – I’m actually already planning my next one (I’m going to be meeting Heidi in Shanghai when I go there for work next month) and I can’t wait!