GBA Lifestyle News
City Living Section
By Leanne Mirandilla | February 24th, 2020

Virginia Chan moved from Canada to her family’s native Hong Kong in 2012 to take a human resources job. Three years later, she founded food-focused walking tour company Humid with a Chance of Fishballs Tours.

What do you do?

Humid with a Chance of Fishballs Tours is a bespoke, local and independent tour company specializing in food tours in Hong Kong. Our objective is to allow people to learn more about old Hong Kong through food. 

How does your business work?

We run food tours and events for those interested in learning more about the culture, issues, heritage, and traditions that have shaped Hong Kong.

My parents are from Hong Kong, but I was born and raised in Canada, so growing up I would bug my parents and grandparents to tell me stories about their childhood and memories of Hong Kong. (My grandma is 93 so she’s seen and lived through basically everything!) I use their stories as the basis for our tours and bring my guests along to rediscover old Hong Kong and my roots with me. This is why our public tours are in areas that have specific meaning to me.

Our tours are further broken down into small-group food tours, private tours, special tours and corporate team building events. Our small public food tours, which you join with other guests, are food-focused walking tours with a central theme. Usually they let you really immerse yourself into the neighborhood for true local explorations and experiences.

For example, our signature Whampoa tour is a deconstruction of Cantonese cuisine’s most basic flavors — sweet, sour, bitter, spicy and salty — and each stop focuses on a particular flavor. In between the food stops, we explore different facets of local living, such as public housing, significant temples, and even important people such as the last female mahjong carver in Hong Kong. Private tours are for those that love the VIP experience. We completely tailor and customize these tours. 

How did your business get started?

I started feeling a little burnt out from my corporate job. I wanted a break to eat, travel and see the world. With that, I quit and took a hiatus to find out what I really wanted to do. My parents were concerned, so as a way to appease them I told them that I was going to run walking tours on a tip basis for a short while. I had just come back from eastern Europe, and walking tours were very popular and seemed like a lucrative business model.

I realized that I quite enjoyed tour guiding — in particular the tour creation and curation aspects of it. A year in, I pivoted the company to become what it is now — a food tour company. Two years later, it still feels like a perfect fit. 

Who are your clients?

They’re from all over the world, but as we conduct our tours in English and have a Canadian-born founder, we tend to attract North Americans the most, with Australia and the UK close behind. I have noticed, in more recent months, that we have had more Hong Kong expats join our tours, too.

What’s a day in your working life like?

I split my time between tour guiding and desk work. My day varies greatly depending on the day and the season. Summer is our lowest season as Hong Kong is too hot, humid and prone to typhoons then. 

If I’m behind the desk, my work day entails catching up on emails and inquiries, planning out our editorial calendar, managing the team, curating and planning tour itineraries for confirmed tours, and trying to fit in as many meetings as I can. If I’m out guiding, then I could be anywhere and everywhere in Hong Kong.

Where do you see your business in future?

The protest situation has really affected our business and made me realize how much our business fluctuates depending on Hong Kong’s tourism industry. For 2020, I would like the company to expand into other streams that align with our core values, including releasing company merchandise and putting more focus on our new YouTube channel. In a couple of years’ time, I would like to have a bigger role behind the desk to scale up the business so it can be run a bit more self-sufficiently and efficiently. 

An elevator convo with Virginia Chan. See here for more from our Next Up series.