'My mum gave me two dollars so that I could call her on the pay phone after I crossed the border, but I couldn't because the pay phone only accepted HK$1 coins,' says Hong who was born and raised in Sichuan. His mother had come to Hong Kong to work a few years earlier. 'A Hong Kong man saw me and gave me a dollar for the call.'
Hong entered Form Four at a private school but had a difficult time adjusting since he knew very little English and Cantonese. 'Even when the [English] teacher asked us to turn to page 25, I had no idea what to do.'
He was often teased by his classmates because of his language problem, but it only made him more determined to study harder. 'I said to myself: 'I have to be better than my classmates'.'
He practised speaking English with his neighbours, a Canadian couple, whenever he could.
'I would bring them food my mum had made and visit them every day. They were interested in exploring Shenzhen and I offered to be their guide. They were very happy to teach me. I learned so much in a year.'
His efforts paid off when he obtained one A and five Bs in his HKCEE, scoring A in Chinese and B in English. In 1992, he graduated from the University of Hong Kong with a psychology and philosophy degree.
Later, he studied Japanese which earned him a position at Sony Computer Entertainment HK. In 13 years, he worked his way up from marketing officer to general manager of the marketing division.
This year, he appeared at the Hong Kong Book Fair with his e-book: Five Thousand Years of Adventures - a travelogue with history highlights of the places mentioned. The e-book can be downloaded to iPads and iPhones and has topped the Hong Kong e-book chart for weeks since its launch. It covers 18 countries with more than 400 photos, from Egypt to Iran to Spain to Japan, all linked together by history. 'Travelling is not just about eating, lodging and shopping. As a traveller, I want to know what happened in the places I travel to, and how the countries relate to each other,' Hong says.
During his university years, Hong started to travel outside Hong Kong as a backpacker. He has been to more than 60 countries.
'I discovered the world and met a lot of people through travelling. When a man offered me water on the road, I learned about kindness and the importance of mutual respect.'
Hong refers himself as a 'nobody' from China who has become someone with a decent job, who has the privilege to travel and publish his own book. He is grateful for the opportunity Hong Kong has given him.
'I hope students can get out of Causeway Bay or Mongkok, and forget about the celebrities and all the gossip. They should see the world,' says Hong, now 41.
'Perhaps my book can encourage them to travel and become interested in history. When you know history, you see the world with a richer background.'
He has donated all profits from his e-book to Heifer, a charity which helps end hunger and poverty.