Hong Kong Beggars: Tin Hau Harmonica Elbow Beggar

I haven’t been seeing many beggars around lately, except for the LKF Plastic Bag Lady and possibly the Wanchai Homeless Beggar whom I think I spotted in Lan Kwai Fong the other night.

However, I did see a rather upbeat and jolly beggar a few weeks ago in Tin Hau just outside the MTR station on King’s Road. He had picked a good location, since sizable crowds would gather while waiting to cross the busy intersection. 

At first glance, the Tin Hau Harmonica Elbow Beggar (you’ll understand the name soon) looked like a normal person who was just playing the harmonica out of his elbows (a way to get attention perhaps) but upon closer inspection, I realised that he didn’t have any forearms — just little stumps after the elbow joint.

While playing his tunes, he was also side-stepping to the music and grooving along, not to mention making eye contact with everyone who passed. It was pretty cool to see a beggar getting so into it, unlike the more dormant types like the Mong Kok Tree Trunk Stumps Beggar or the Wanchai Parma Ham Leg BeggarKeep it up, dude!

Hong Kong Beggars: Beggar on a buggy

The other day, I was walking along the bridge to Central Pier when I came across a Hong Kong beggar lying face down near the entrance to IFC on the Apple Store side. He seemed “normal” enough: missing both legs, dressed in dark clothing, with disheveled short black hair. As usual, no one took notice, and since I was in a rush to get to The Watermark, I sped walked my way past too.

On my way back though about an hour later, I found myself walking behind a guy in a mini-buggy, which was essentially a motorized red tin box on three wheels, and guess who was driving? The same legless beggar as before!!

Usually, I try not to stare long or do double takes with beggars since it might make them self conscious, but I couldn’t help it when I walked past this beggar on a buggy. Not only was he in possession of a pretty awesome ride, he was also checking text messages on his phone, which despite being a Nokia had a pretty pimpin’ gold keypad.

I walked next to his buggy for a while to see if I could read his text messages (I couldn’t), and to verify if it was in fact the same guy, which I’m pretty sure of since he was missing legs at the same spot as the other guy.

Suddenly, I didn’t feel so bad for him anymore. Could it be, that he is perfectly okay with the way he is? Texting his wife to tell her he’ll be home tonight earlier than usual? Or is he plotting with his pimp where he’ll lie face down to pull at our heart strings next? And … where does he usually hide his buggy? Oh mysteries…

Canadian vs. Hong Kong beggars

During my trip home recently, I was heckled by a few Canadian beggars and I couldn’t help but notice the differences between them and the ones here in Hong Kong.
While Hong Kong beggars get loads of pity points for missing limbs, charred skin or self-mutilation tactics, I hardly ever see anyone stopping to give them money, let alone a second glance. 
On the other hand, Canadian beggars seem to be quite good at getting us to notice them and emptying our pockets. Wondering why this was the case, I came up with three things that Hong Kong beggars could learn from the Canadians to up their daily income: 
1) Be friendly
So I was walking by a liquor store in downtown one night, and a beggar standing outside saw me shivering and asked, “Aww, are you cold?!” I didn’t dare answer him nor make eye contact since a) he was a stranger and b) it was late at night, but as I quickened my pace to get away from him, he shouted after me, “Oh well, Happy Monday!!” 
Of course, I felt horrible for running away from such a “nice guy” and it’s not only him — it’s exactly the same when you come across squeegee boys at a stoplight and tell them that you don’t want your freakin’ windshields washed (by a dirty bum like you), only to be told, “Alright, no worries, have a nice day!” So even if you don’t end up giving them any money right then, you’re more likely to do so the next time you encounter a bum thanks to the cumulative guilt trip you’ve built up. 
2) Be apologetic
While typical beggars hold up selfish signs like “Please Give” or “Help Me I’m Broke,” the ones I saw in Canada amused me with their honest and apologetic messages. Case in point — one beggar held up the following sign:

Genius, isn’t it?! By adding the “I am sorry,” the person passing by goes from thinking, ‘Go get a job, you selfish bum’ to ‘Oh well, since you’re sorry, I guess it’s not your fault, here’s some change, ya poor thing’.

3) Be honest, kind of, not really
Lastly, I came across another beggar in downtown who was just sitting on his a wad of newspaper outside of a 7-11. Next to him was a suitcase with a cane sticking out of it, and he was busy doing Soduku or crosswords (or whatever it was, he was completely enthralled with it.)

In front of him, a little tent card read, “Facing eviction. If you CHOOSE to give … thank you. NOT for drugs or alcohol.” That was enough to get me to give him a toonie ($2), since it’s the least I could do to help keep a fellow Canadian off the streets.

OK, so whether he was telling the truth or not isn’t really the point. The point is that his sign worked, so maybe the real lesson here is — Hong Kong beggars should use signs…and instead of begging for money using the shock factor, they should just write down what they want from us, like:

  • “1 Big Mac, Not for pimp”
  • “Need bowl of ramen, I am sorry”
  • “I want BBQ pork, Have a nice day”

With signs like these, how could anyone (with a heart) say no?

Hong Kong Beggars: Central Bulging Eye Flute Playing Beggar

Our latest beggar is talented in more ways than one. Located in Central on Queen’s Road near exit D1 or D2, you can usually hear him from a block away since he plays traditional Chinese tunes on an old wooden flute.

As if that wasn’t difficult enough, he tends to be squatting the whole time, so I have no idea how his blood flows back up to his brain at all. Or maybe it doesn’t flow all that well, since one of his eyes is significantly bigger than the other and bulges out to the side.
I’ve never stopped for long enough to listen to an entire song of his, as I’m usually shuffling by with the lunch-hour or after-work stampede of office workers, but I’m thinking of giving him a little more attention the next time I’m nearby. 

Hong Kong Beggars: Central Handless Burnt Eyes Beggar

After another long day at work, I came across another beggar on my to the Central MTR. Seated on the right side of Theatre Lane near exit D2 of Central, the Central Handless Burnt Eyes Beggar has severe burn marks on his head, especially around his eye sockets.

He looks up at passerbys with a forlorn expression on his face, and shows off his (missing) hands which have apparently been cut off. His head is also quite bare from having been burnt, and as I recall, he’s only got a tuft of hair on the top of his head.

Although he is in a high-traffic location where many OL (office ladies) and OM (office men?) pass by, I’ve never seen anyone stop to give him anything. So if you’re reading this, please stop by Maxim’s, McDonalds’ or Marks & Spencer nearby to get him something nice!

Hong Kong Beggars: Mong Kok Tree Trunk Stumps Beggar

Today I came across a beggar at one of the busiest pedestrian crossings in Hong Kong: Argyle Street X Sai Yeung Choi Street. At first, I wasn’t sure how I noticed him given the crazy amount of people everywhere, but on second thought, I must have been watching my footing while crossing the road, which is how I came to notice a gingerbread skin-toned person lying face down on the ground.
This beggar, whom I refer to as the Mong Kok Tree Trunk Stumps Beggar, lay perfectly still amidst all the human traffic around him, and never once looked up to cast a pitiful stare. Instead, he let his legs stumps do the talking, which were surprisingly thick and meaty. If I were to guess, I’d think he was some sort of runner or athlete before he was kidnapped and/or forced into begging. He must be extra upset for losing his (probably) muscular legs, which might be why he keeps his head down at all times.  😦

Hong Kong Beggars: Wanchai Parma Ham Leg Beggar

This beggar has got to be one of the most graphic, gruesome and gag-inducing guys in Hong Kong. Usually seen on the bridge going towards the Immigration Tower from the Wanchai MTR Exit A5, I had almost forgot about him since I hadn’t seen him in a long time. However, one look was all it took to get his image emblazened into my head again.

You see, the Wanchai Parma Ham Leg Beggar is aptly named because he has a huge, rectangular raw flesh wound on one of his legs, which he displays proudly by extending it into rush hour human traffic. One just can’t help but stare at how deep, red, wet and fleshy it looks (not to mention painful)! Apparently, he (or his pimp) makes a new cut every morning so that the wound is fresh and bloody. Today, the wound is around 1-1.5 inches deep and sometimes, it even looks like he’s been cut to the bone.

At times, the Wanchai Parma Ham Leg Beggar can be seen with a piece of old cloth hanging near him on a makeshift clothesline, which has been stained multiple times by his bleeding wound.

To be honest, with the wide range of beggars in Hong Kong, it’s really a shame that this guy has to endure so much physical pain just for a few bucks. I mean, I don’t think he makes any more money  than the old lady down the street who’s only kneeling down and pretending to be homeless. If I were him, I’d stop the painful cutting, but of course, it’s probably not his decision to make.

Anyway, do pay our latest beggar a visit and see whether you still have your HK-sized appetite afterwards. I, for one, have lost all my cravings for parma ham

Hong Kong Beggars: LKF Stump Fisted Beggar

Our latest beggar is the LKF Stump Fisted Beggar, commonly seen on stairways in and around Lan Kwai Fong. This includes the stairs leading up to the LKF Tower, the stairs going down from Yumla to Baby Buddha, and of course the stairs around the LKF public toilets.

As his name suggests, this beggar has no thumbs or fingers and usually looks gloomy and sad. He has a plastic cup pressed between his stumps for collecting spare change, and he’s also known for shaking his stump fist at you while you walk by. Once, he even used it to prod @mystifize, immediately putting her into turbo mode as she raced down the steps.

It’s unknown how much the LKF Stump Fisted Beggar manages to make each night, as I’ve never seen his cup even half full. Perhaps he would make more money by putting his stump fists into good use, such as becoming a masseuse, bread kneader or African drummer…

Hong Kong Beggars: Mongkok Foot Scrunching Beggar

This beggar needs no introduction. Seated at the top of one of the busiest MTR exits in Hong Kong (Mongkok E2), it’s a miracle that he doesn’t get trampled by the millions of emo teens, sneaker freaks or gadget addicts that frequent the famed Sai Yeung Choi St. area each day.

The Mongkok Foot Scrunching Beggar sits on a square of newspaper with his head hung low and his crutch laid out in front of him. While one of his legs is folded under him (probably crippled), his other leg is kept active by a constant scrunching and unscrunching motion in his toes.

Whenever I see him, I swear I can feel the pins and needles and that slow, painful ache that you get from sitting too long. I mean, can you imagine sitting there all day long, scrunching your toes over and over again, just to keep the blood flowing in you, while tens of thousands of oblivious people pass you by?

He definitely picked a prime location to beg in terms of the sheer number of human traffic, but I’m not sure how many of those people even notice him, given that their minds are probably cluttered with other life-threatening dilemmas (e.g. HTC Hero vs. iPhone?? Nike vs. Adidas?? Straight or wavy perm??)… 😛