CULTURE, HISTORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY, WITH A GENUINE LOCAL PERSPECTIVE...

Walk the Streets of Hong Kong With A PROFESSIONAL Artist, Street Photographer and LICENSED PRIVATE TOUR GUIDE

There be those who say things and places have souls, and there be those who say they have not;
I dare not say, myself, but I will tell of the street.
— –H.P. Lovecraft

  May 22, 2018    Dear  Friends and Clients ,    It has been my great pleasure to host and serve each and every one of you this latest travel season. Thank you very much for another memorable and terrific year!    Warm regards,    William

May 22, 2018

Dear Friends and Clients,

It has been my great pleasure to host and serve each and every one of you this latest travel season. Thank you very much for another memorable and terrific year!

Warm regards,

William


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Meet William

*An American of Eurasian descent raised in New York City and Japan.

*A resident of Hong Kong SAR 15 years.

*Tourist Guide Pass TG12434 issued by Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong.

*Retired International Lawyer, BA, JD, LLM.

*Lived, studied and/or worked for substantial periods in the following global cities: NYC, Washington DC, Chicago, London, Warsaw, Kobe, Singapore, Shanghai and Bangkok.

*Master Digital Artist and Professional Photographer (viewers from around the globe purchase and collect my works).

*First Aid Certification by Hong Kong Red Cross.

*Feature article in Hong Kong's Apple News Daily (William, an American who knows his way around Hong Kong like a true local).

*400+ Premium Hong Kong Private Tours Completed to Date.

*Premium Private Tour Guide since September 2015.

*Joel Meyerowitz's Master's of Photography Self Study Course, 2018.

*Listed on Trip Advisor (since Autumn 2015) and Tours By Locals (since Spring 2017).

*256+ Million Image Views on Flickr.

*Tours By  Locals Guide Onboarding Team (2018).

*Awarded Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence 2017 and 2018.

*Current Reading:

When China Rules The World--Second Edition, Martin Jacques (2012).*

The  Present Position and Prospects of the British Trade With China, James Matheson (1836.

Imperial Twilight, The Opium War and the End of China's Last Golden Age, Stephen Platt (2018).*

History of the Pirates Who Infested the China Sea from 1807 to 1810, Yung-Lun Yuan (Edited by Carl Friedrich Neuman)(1831).

The Defences of Macau--Forts, Ships and Weapons Over 450 Years, Richard J. Garret (2010). 

*Re-Reading:

The Geography of Thought--How Asians and Westerners Think Differently...and Why, Richard E. Nesbett (2003).*

*Highly recommended reading

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A Message from William

 

Greetings Fellow Travelers,

Welcome to Hong Kong SAR, the Pearl of the Orient!

Allow me to share with you the finest ways to experience all facets of this truly magnificent city, culturally, historically and visually, just as a local does; so that when we are finished, you will be able to confidently and knowledgeably relate the modern story of Hong Kong as an inquisitive and well informed cultural traveler!

Bob Marley was once asked: "Are you a rich man, do you have a lot of possessions?" To which he responded: "I don't have that kind of richness, my richness is life."

If you fancy yourself as one with a strong appreciation for the richness of life, then join me and together we will experience the full sensory extravaganza that awaits you on the Streets of Hong Kong!

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 WB7--Eastern Standard Tribe

WB7--Eastern Standard Tribe

An American Who Loves Hong Kong

I am an American of Eurasian descent who grew up in New York City and has spent many years living and working all around the globe, in particular the United States, Europe and Asia. Most recently, I have resided in an old Chinese neighborhood of Kowloon called To Kwa Wan for 15 years. This is my home, the people out on the street know me and I have lived here longer than any of the other neighborhoods I have lived in during the entirety of my adult life.

Hoi Sham Island, To Kwa Wan (circa 1950s). The island pictured is now part of a public park just around the corner.  As is the case with most of the original shoreline of Victoria Harbour, the water separating the island has been reclaimed with landfill. (Source: SCMP)

Myself a Tour Guide

I am also a retired international lawyer who has reinvented himself as a professional artist/photographer and street savvy Hong Kong licensed private tour guide.  When I am not out on tour engaging myself with diverse clientele from all over the world, I am busy reading, exploring, photographing and creating. This is not a routine for me. This is both a passion and a blessing!

When you engage me on your forthcoming visit to Hong Kong, you will be engaging someone who has spent the better part of his professional career around the globe learning and assisting others in assimilating diverse cultures both East and West. Someone who successfully made his living pioneering new geographic markets for a diverse range of organizations by mastering the art of cultural intelligence...”

Now I am doing essentially the same thing with essentially the same kinds of folks who were previously my clients as an international lawyer (highly successful, driven, well traveled, well informed and demanding), only now, instead of closing a deal, the primary goal is fun!

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.
— Confucious

The inception of Hong Kong and the liberalization of the 'China Trade' coincided with the golden age of Yankee clipper ships. A point of keen interest inasmuch as I grew up sailing.

Some would find the story of my transformation alone to be one worth hearing about. But as you will see, there is much much more that goes with it.

As an American offering premium cultural-historic-photographic tours of Hong Kong, one of the things I do is to dig up and integrate into my narrative historical nuggets of particular interest to American travelers. For example, what was the role of Yankee clippers and the California gold rush in the emergence of Hong Kong as the gateway to China; or

 

  Commissioner Lin standing guard in Chatham Square NYC

Commissioner Lin standing guard in Chatham Square NYC

who was Commissioner Lin and why is his statue sitting in the heart of New York City's China Town; or why and where did Edward Snowden hole up when he passed through Hong Kong; or why is it that so many Americans are buried in the old Protestant Cemetery located next to the former British East India Company headquarters building in Old Macau; or which Taoist temple in Macau was the signing venue of the first treaty between the United States and China and what brought Warren Delano to Macau and later Hong Kong? How did American merchants behave during the opium wars? What was the early  approach of the United States vis-a-vis China and how did that affect global events in the 20th Century?

My time spent living and working in the London further enhances my observational grasp of the history of this former British colony as well. Fancying myself as a cultural geographer of sorts, I spent many Sundays scouting antiquarian book fairs and book shops searching for old books and maps relating to British adventurism in Central Asia, India and the Far East. 

I have plenty of other intriguing facts and anecdotes I like to share: the old coastal China trade, triads and secret societies; South China pirates; Chinese folk religion; how to haggle in street markets; Hong Kong style messy urbanism (the squatter villages, the Kowloon Walled City, street markets and informal use of public space); the trading patterns of colonial Asia, the essential role played by the indigenous Tanka boat people in the development of Hong Kong and Macau as port cities; and my favorite regional Asian and Chinese cuisines, to name but a few.

All of the information I have accumulated over the years has now become my stock in trade.

It is one thing to blather on about showing you the much touted "hidden gems" of the universe, it is quite another to put in the requisite elbow grease necessary to build and share a comprehensive framework connecting a multitude of cultural and historic dots in an engaging and user friendly narrative.  That is what I constantly aim to do!

I have literally spent thousands of hours walking the streets of Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, the New Territories and Old Macau, camera in hand, searching for all manner of intriguing characters, urban legends and local points of interest, world class street art, scrumptious eateries and the wonders of raw Cantonese street culture (don't worry, I will explain what that is) in all of its curious manifestations.

In my preparations to serve as your premium Hong Kong private tour guide, I have also logged in hundreds of hours engaging in relevant historic research of precolonial, colonial and modern day Hong Kong, Macau and China as well as greater Asia. During my tour engagements, in addition to what it is like to live and work in Hong Kong, I am routinely called upon to comment on business, politics and current affairs as well as diverse historical matters including the origins of the European spice trade, the golden age of Macau (sometimes referred to as the Japanese namban or Southern barbarian trade), the Canton trading system, early Sino-American relations, the opium wars and the age of the treaty ports, China's struggle with modernity, the battle of Hong Kong, the WWII Japanese occupation, the Hong Kong tiger economy of the 50s, 60s and 70s and Hong Kong's adjustment during the pre- and post-handover period.

Most importantly, I always endeavor to relate these subjects in an engaging, entertaining and fully accessible style. And I try to do so with requisite wit, George Carlin being one of my influences.

There is something else you should know. I studied politics and philosophy as an undergraduate and it has always been my approach to search for a deeper meaning hidden below the surface of daily life.  In other words, you can expect to be interacting with someone who is much more than a repository of trivial facts, figures and dates, spewing them forth like a walking tape recorder wearing a tour guide pass.

I spend a great deal of time pondering why the simplest things are as they are and whether there are any less obvious connections that can be uncovered looking through a different intellectual lense. You will be visiting Hong Kong, but I consider it my calling to offer a well considered perspective on broader macro and micro issues that will illuminate your stay. What can be learned from the culture, history and people of the Pearl River Delta region (including Macau, Old Canton (Guangzhou) and Hong Kong), the earliest interactions between China and the West, all of which literally began right here, and how this knowledge be applied to broader use? As a simple example I will mention the nascent trade war you have no doubt been reading about. Would it surprise you if I said there is much more to it than meets the eye? What about market capitalism, globalism and the misplaced notion of nation building? Is there something to be learned from the hisotry of this place?

In other words, at the end of my tours I want you to feel like you have learned something useful. Something that will give you a better grasp of current global events as they unfold. Something interesting you can confidently share with your colleagues, family and friends following your return home. Something in addition to the differences between Cantonese and northern Chinese cuisines, a topic I consider of equal importance!

I always assume my clients fancy themselves as sophisticated well informed travelers and not mere tourists.

The traveler was active; he went strenuously in search of people, of adventure, of experience. The tourist is passive; he expects interesting things to happen to him. He goes ‘sight-seeing.’
— Daniel J Boorstin

Are you intrigued? Then do read on...

Now  I recognize that not everyone will want to delve into all the subtleties of such weighty and profound topics. That's fine because you are on holiday, there is only so much one can manage out on a walking tour and we all want to lose weight. Indeed, there are more than a few occasions where silence is indeed golden.

So if you just want to go out, lighten up, have fun and enjoy the fabulous sights on the wonderful streets of Hong Kong, I'm with you. Let's go do it!

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When you engage me to be your private guide, I will share with you my Hong Kong. My Hong Kong is a place most visitors will never see. It is a place that I have spent a great deal of thoughtful time and effort creating with a palate consisting of my own lifelong interests, experiences and appetites. It is an urban canvas. And on that canvas I have carefully collected and composed a well balanced composition consisting of theoretical and street wise cultural observation, intriguing historical background, compelling photographic moments, delicious food, plenty of humor, imagination and good old fashioned fun. Let me assure you, I will share as much of my Hong Kong as I can in the time we will share together. And when you leave this magnificent city that I now call my home, you will leave with two things: wonderful memories and a hunger to return for more. Come and experience my Hong Kong...”
— William
  I am a rapacious reader of colonial history throughout Asia. I also collect antiquarian maps and books covering the 'Great Game' in Western China and Central Asia. Read Peter Hopkirk's works for a teaser.

I am a rapacious reader of colonial history throughout Asia. I also collect antiquarian maps and books covering the 'Great Game' in Western China and Central Asia. Read Peter Hopkirk's works for a teaser.

  Just a few of the notable personalities I regularly introduce on tour: (1st Row) Song Emperor Zhao Bing (the boy emperor), Vasco Da Gama (the explorer), Commissioner Lin Zexu (the Emperor's mandarin), Madam Zheng Shih (the Pirate Queen) (2d Row) Martha Cuijk van Mierop (from orphan to benefactress), Zheng Guanying (the compradore scholar of Macau), Sun Yat Sen (the founding father of modern China), Sir John James Cowperthwaite (the architect of prosperity); (3d Row) Henry Pottinger (the Governor), Sir Robert Ho Tung (the Grand Old Man of Hong Kong), Warren Delano (an American trader), Charles Elliot (a much misunderstood figure), William Jardine (the Taipan), Harriet Low (an American in old Macau). There are of course many others...

Just a few of the notable personalities I regularly introduce on tour: (1st Row) Song Emperor Zhao Bing (the boy emperor), Vasco Da Gama (the explorer), Commissioner Lin Zexu (the Emperor's mandarin), Madam Zheng Shih (the Pirate Queen) (2d Row) Martha Cuijk van Mierop (from orphan to benefactress), Zheng Guanying (the compradore scholar of Macau), Sun Yat Sen (the founding father of modern China), Sir John James Cowperthwaite (the architect of prosperity); (3d Row) Henry Pottinger (the Governor), Sir Robert Ho Tung (the Grand Old Man of Hong Kong), Warren Delano (an American trader), Charles Elliot (a much misunderstood figure), William Jardine (the Taipan), Harriet Low (an American in old Macau). There are of course many others...

In addition to Europe, more than half of my time abroad was spent in and around Japan, Hong Kong, China and South East Asia. Both my Dad and my Grandfather managed trading businesses in China (Hong Kong and Shanghai) and Asia during the first and latter part of the 20th century. Half of my immediate and extended family is Asian, so Asian history and culture is in my blood. Experience, brings context and if you are coming from any of those places, you can count on me to help you connect all of the cultural and historic way points you may have passed during your journey. Conversely, if you are headed to those places, you can ask  me for whatever insights I may have to share. 

My Mom, who was Japanese, was a spiritually gifted human being and raised me to relish and respect all cultures and religions. While I grew up going to church on Sundays, I discovered my affinity with Zen Buddhism living in Japan as a teenager.  My wife is a Thai Buddhist who has lived in Hong Kong 26+ years.  Some guides will show you an authentic local temple. I will show you the temples where my family goes to pray and what awe inspiring temples they are!

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William Banzai7, Esq.

You won't be seeing me dressed like this on tour!

One thing I noticed, however, there were plenty of characters with the Esq. title after their names, involved in the early history of Hong Kong. They say lawyers are social engineers and there certainly was plenty of social engineering involved in the creation of Colonial Hong Kong.

I strongly recommend a book titled The History of the Laws and Courts of Hong Kong by James William Norton-Kyshe. A fascinating explication of the challenges encountered by the colonial administrators of rough and tumble Hong Kong during the swashbuckling era of opium Taipans, pirates and Yankee clippers on the high seas. You can find this book on the internet for free since it is public domain. 

Having spent a lifetime perfecting my skills at persuasive oratory and written communication (gift of the gab) I have now redirected those skills to sharing my unique portfolio of local knowledge and experience with maximum efficacy. Optimal communication translates into maximum information sent and received.

Which direction we turn in our discussions is entirely up to you. Suffice it to say that having lived abroad more than half of my life, I have resided, worked in and visited some extraordinary places (60+ countries and counting) and I have plenty of interesting memories and experiences to share as I am sure you do as well.

I take pride in being a keen social observer, an artist/entertainer, a lover of good food and a culturally intelligent human being.

And speaking of entertainers...

  Here I am with with Jean Claude Van Dam, another Hong Konger (circa 2004)at Spring Moon in the magnificent Peninsula Hotel. My first time staying in the Peninsula was Summer 1974! You never know who you might run into on the Streets of Hong Kong!

Here I am with with Jean Claude Van Dam, another Hong Konger (circa 2004)at Spring Moon in the magnificent Peninsula Hotel. My first time staying in the Peninsula was Summer 1974! You never know who you might run into on the Streets of Hong Kong!

With famous Hong Kong TV/movie actor Lau Siu Ming in Nan Lian Garden.

My Photography

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The Yashica Electro 35 GSN

My first adult film camera...made in Old Kowloon in the early 1970s. I shot lots of Kodak Ektachrome slide film which Kodak has announced will be reintroduced in 2018!

And yes, I still shoot film along with digital and use many kinds of cameras vintage and modern.

I have been a photographer all of my life. In fact I got my first job with a camera.

My Dad taught me how to take photographs on his Leica film camera when I was 8 years old. I grew up with film, darkrooms and plenty of photographic exploring during my travels. My first summer job opportunity as a 14 year old, literally fell onto my lap as a result of my documentary photography with the camera pictured to the left.

Following my retirement from the law, which coincided with the advent of digital cameras, I was finally able to channel my lifelong passion for photography. More specifically, I was able to stylistically refine my "photographic eye" and develop a visual style that connects with my viewers.

I am happy to share all I have learned over the years with all of my clients and very happy to shoot lots of memorable photographs of you during your premium Hong Kong private tour!

My street photography and artwork has racked up more than 260 million views on the internet. Check out some of my Hong Kong Street photography here. My digital artwork and Hong Kong photography has been acquired by collectors and followers from all over the world.

I have scouted and know exactly where to capture the best images along all my tour routes and I am eager to share all of my hard won secrets with you! Here are some of my Hong Kong fine art images for your perusal (print inquiries are also welcome).

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Lion Rock, February 2017 (whatever it takes to get to the top!).

My Mission

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My mission can be simply stated as follows: To provide all of my clients with an entertaining, deeply informative and street savvy premium travel experience ultimately leading to cherished memories, a portfolio of stunning on-tour photographs, an urge for further investigation and a strong desire to navigate your way back to this wonderfully engaging city.

 The gold standard of premium tour guiding is to be found in one's mastery of every detail.

The gold standard of premium tour guiding is to be found in one's mastery of every detail.

 

All of my premium Hong Kong private tour engagements are performed soulfully by me. There can be no substitutions.  Business professionals will recognize immediately what I mean when I say I am a "high touch" service provider. By engaging me to be your guide, you can expect the utmost attention to detail in personalized service, proactive communication, positive attitude, transparency, the highest standards of best practice and client service professionalism. There is no such thing as overkill.

                         Six brilliant days with Steve and Jo in early December 2017

                       Six brilliant days with Steve and Jo in early December 2017

So you may ask, why have I written this somewhat lengthy description of my background and personality? Well the answer is plain and simple, you are about to make a very important decision: Is this someone I want to spend a full day or several days with on my visit to Hong Kong and/or Old Macau? I want you to make that decision as a well informed consumer. Because who you see above is who you are going to get!

Now hopefully, I will have provided you with a fair idea of who I am, where I am coming from, the nature of my expertise, the style of my patter and the overall multi-dimensional spirit of my endeavors.

Enough so that you will find yourself sufficiently intrigued to take the next big step and click the Book A Tour button below!  

The bottom line, spend a day or two with me and I guarantee that you will leave Hong Kong with a memorable and entertaining experience exploring the richness of life on the Streets of Hong Kong.

And on the way you will have also gained a friend for life!

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The noblest art is that of making others happy.
— P.T. Barnum

  How to Navigate This Website

How to Navigate This Website

For more information regarding my premium private tours on the Streets of Hong Kong, please jump to my Tour Style and Frequently Asked Question pages.

For details concerning my private Hong Kong tour offerings, please jump to my Tour Offerings page. Please note that all of my tours are personalized and are meant to be configured to meet your specific preferences and requests. Alternatively,  as many do, you can just leave it with me.

For my pricing, general terms and availability, please jump to my Pricing & Terms and Calendar pages.

Finally, to book your premium tour, or send me a message, please jump to my Contact/Booking Page or click the red navigation button you see below and through out the rest of this website.

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  Enjoying a real local style meal in one of my favorite Hong Kong local joints

Enjoying a real local style meal in one of my favorite Hong Kong local joints

  I am very proud to be included as a guide in Tours By Locals global guide community where I  am listed as  William in Hong Kong (Guide No 15942).

I am very proud to be included as a guide in Tours By Locals global guide community where I  am listed as William in Hong Kong (Guide No 15942).


  IMPORTANT NOTICE--In the summer months, sub-tropical Hong Kong can be very hot and humid indeed. That is why it pays to have a private guide who knows where all the best cool down venues and watering holes can be found on tour...And remember to listen to your humble guide when he reminds you to dress cool and drink plenty of water!

IMPORTANT NOTICE--In the summer months, sub-tropical Hong Kong can be very hot and humid indeed. That is why it pays to have a private guide who knows where all the best cool down venues and watering holes can be found on tour...And remember to listen to your humble guide when he reminds you to dress cool and drink plenty of water!

Hong Kong and the surrounding islands were once called the Ladrones (thieves islands) by the Portuguese on account of rampant piracy. A real rough and tumble frontier town in the early days, old Hong Kong made gangs of New York seem like a Boy Scout jamboree.


LIVE FEED FROM THE STREETS OF HONG KONG...


“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”
— Elliot Erwitt

Entrance Gate to Po Lin Monastery at Nong Ping.


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Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong Tourist Guide Pass: TG12434

 


Travel Agency Services Provided by:

This is Asia (Hong Kong Macau) Limited     

Travel Agency License Number: 354091

Travel Industry Council Registration Number: 23091 - 0

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A Word About This Website: There are many others who hire Mumbai based IT consultants to do their spiffy websites, all of which begin to look surprisingly the same. I know because I am constantly approached by those consultants. Call me old fashioned, I prefer to start with a blank white page and black typeface. All of the artwork on this website (save for a few stock images) has been created by me and I reserve all copyright.