My Hong Kong Story: Girish Jhunjhnuwala

By Girish Jhunjhnuwala, Founder and CEO, Ovolo Hotels, for HongKongEcho #100.


Anyone who has ever boarded a Cathay Pacific flight back home can attest to the feeling of comfort that overcomes you the second you step on the plane. The smiles from stewardesses donning the red and gold uniform, the familiar greetings in Cantonese, as well as the South China Morning Post that I subconsciously reach for as I step on board are all things that say: you’re coming home. This may, in part, be because I long for the day I can experience that again, but if you ask me what reminds me of Hong Kong, this would be it. You can be anywhere in the world, but being on that plane is like being at home.

There is so much to this city. Many rave about their love for their city, and I am no exception. Besides the expected “it’s the perfect mix of East and West” or “it’s a food heaven”, or even the “have you seen the skyline?”, Hong Kong is my home because I owe it everything: my family, my company, and my life as I know it.

My story began on Arbuthnot Road which, interestingly enough, is now the location of my office as well as my flagship hotel. Born on that road, I spent my childhood and early years in Hong Kong before studying abroad, only to return home to take over my father’s watchmaking business. All the business travelling I had done over that time was what inspired me to create Ovolo, but what ultimately influenced the ethos of the Ovolo brand was the city that it, and I, was born in. Without even realising, I had taken inspiration from my environment and surroundings and put it into what would one day become an international hotel group. In a city like this, it just came naturally.


Photography by Peter Parks and Anthony Wallace (Agence France-Presse)


The familiar sounds of Hong Kong will always be part of my fondest memories: the ‘doot’ of the traffic lights as they change colour, the friendly yell of the hawker trying to sell you knockoffs, and the drilling of construction – oh, the construction. But, there is one that is present everywhere, in all corners and times of the day: the beep of the Octopus. It’s the sound of a crowded commute to work, and the sound of a soothing ferry ride across the harbour. And although I admittedly experience the former more often than the latter, the ferry ride is hard to beat. Coined as one of the “journeys of a lifetime” by National Geographic Traveller, every time I take the Star Ferry across the infamous Victoria Harbour, I can’t help but be reminded of the boundless beauty of this city.

But as many sounds as there are that represent the city, there is also the absence of sound that can be revelled in on a nature trail. In Hong Kong, nature quite literally is your backyard. The top of the world isn’t a two-hour drive away, it’s just a two-hour hike away. From a stroll to a climb; from city view to sea view, I find myself discovering new trails every week.

"Hong Kong is my home because I owe it everything: my family, my company, and my life as I know it."

Even on a mundane day, with every turn of the corner and walk down the street, I am exposed to new sights and stories unique to Hong Kong and its way of life. More likely than not, the person you just brushed past on your way to work, the cashier at your neighbourhood 7/11, and even the person sitting next to you as you read this article all have a story to tell; a story unimaginable to anyone but them. Being in hospitality has not only opened my eyes to the plethora of individual experiences out there, but also the importance of each and every one.

The city, an intricate culmination of different stories, histories, and legacies, all come together to create a Hong Kong that’s beautifully distinct to each individual person. So yes, I love this city because it is the perfect mix of East and West, a food heaven, and has the most impressive skyline in the world. But most of all, it is the city I will forever live in because it can be whatever you want it to be.