Below is our guide to the first stop on our RTW trip: Hong Kong!
Accommodation: We stayed through AirBnB in a two bedroom apartment in the Flower Market. It was located north of Mong Kok, on Prince Edward Rd. Our bedroom was big enough for one small double bed that was honestly hard as a rock, but surprisingly we slept deep and really well. We called the kitchen a “half butt kitchen” because you could fit half of you inside of it. We didn’t cook much, but we did use the electric kettle to boil our drinking water and make tea and coffee daily. Our living room had one desk and a tiny pull out couch – have I mentioned there was no heat in the apartment? We had come prepared for a hot 6 months in SE Asia so none of our clothes were ready for 40-55 degree weather. Our most used item in the apartment was the small space heater. We brought it with us from room to room as we worked and slept since apartments in Hong Kong aren’t insulated it felt colder inside than it did outside. The location was perfect for us, nearby to everything we needed, but on a side street that was quiet at night and away from the light and sound of the Mong Kok markets.
Cost per day: We originally went into Hong Kong with a budget of $80 USD per day, knowing that being a big city, this stop would cost us more than other countries. We ended up spending $65 USD a day and that included 2 long travel days where we spent less due to being on a plane for 15 hours.
Exchange rate: $1 USD = $7.75 HKD (as of January 2012)
Best Meal: Caroline’s favorite meal could be pieced together by some of the street food to make a full meal. Breakfast would start at Uncle Fong’s bakery where she would grab a Japanese curry bun. Lunch would be the noodles at the street vendor at Big Buddha. These were by far the most memorable, delicious and cheap (only $1.60 USD.) Pair that with some bubble tea containing lots of tapioca balls and an egg cake waffle for dessert and she is a happy camper.
Josh’s favorite meals were the custard cream rolls at Uncle Fong’s and the fried noodles with beef at one of the restaurants without an English name. Josh also loved the egg cake waffles.
Bathroom Situation: Being a bigger city we did not run into any bathroom problems. Honestly, public toilets were easier to find than in downtown Chicago. We used zero squat toilets – came close, but were able to go elsewhere and find a flushing toilet down the street. If you are walking around the city you can find a McDonalds, Burger King or other western restaurant that will have a western style toilet for you to use. You will also find restrooms in any of the malls or MTR stations.
Funniest Memory: Since Hong Kong was our first stop we had yet to try out most of our gear. After a 15 hour flight the first thing we both wanted to do was take a hot shower. We pulled out our “travel towel” for the first time and could not stop laughing at the small size of our large travel towel. I didn’t expect it to be big, but I did expect it to at least cover the most important parts (which it doesn’t.) No photos, sorry :). Hopefully our loin cloths will hold up another 11 months!
Biggest Issue: We arrived around 9 pm and used the courtesy phone at the airport to call our contact who met us at the airport and gave us the keys. We then loaded onto the bus to Kowloon without a phone or even knowing where to get off. We had the keys but no instructions on how to get into the apartment. We found the building easily, and took the stairs to the 8th floor, since we are active travelers and had been sitting down for over 16 hours. We were unable to get the door open to the apartment. We tried for about 20 minutes before Josh realized that it was the back door, and we could only get to the front door by taking the elevator. Once we found the right door, we had two keys and neither of them worked. We both tried it in every hole, mailbox, and alarm box available to us. I won’t go into the frustrations of the next hour but let’s just say staring angrily didn’t open the door. We took the elevator down and walked to the nearest coffee shop that had wi-fi. Tired, we pulled out my netbook and purchased 10 min ($6 HKD, $0.77 cents USD) We emailed our host, and called the contact who gave us the keys. Another long story short, there is a secret button on the cage in front of the door (which we were informed every Hong Kong apartment door has) that you lift to slide the door over.
Over 2.5 hours later, we were able to open the unlocked gate. We were frustrated and tired but inside the apartment. 15 minutes later we heard our doorbell ring. The host’s aunt who lives nearby had come to help us. Two lovely ladies were at our door to help us get in at 11:00 pm in the evening. It was a long night after a long flight, but in the end we were thankful for all the help and laughed about how simple the fix was.
Transportation: The first thing anyone visiting Hong Kong should do is pick up an Octopus card. You put down a $50 HKD deposit and load $100 HKD on your card. Any money not used at the end of your trip will be returned, minus a $9 HKD charge if it is returned in less than 3 months. The trains are clean and fast. They are easily navigated and are clear as to which station you are at and which side of the train to get off. They do tend to be more expensive than the bus, but if you need to get somewhere fast they will be there on time. The buses are all comfortable and a cheaper option than the train. The buses aren’t as clear as to which stop you are at, so pay close attention to the signs and know where you are and how many stops until you get off. There is a ferry, Star Ferry, to cross from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island. The ride takes about 8 minutes and only costs $3 HKD.
Internet: Internet is one of the main amenities that we look for when booking accommodations. The internet at our apartment was a vodafone 3G dongle, which meant that only one of us could use it at a time…unless you have a witty husband who travels with an ethernet cord to connect our computers and share the connection. The photo shows you what we were working on nightly to blog, twitter and catch up on our emails. Since we were sharing internet it was slower than we wanted, and at times the sharing didn’t work at all.
Places to Visit:
- Big Buddha
- Lantau Peak
- Victoria Peak
- Nathan Road
- The Fa Yuen wet market in Mong Kok
- The Ladies Market
- Food stalls in Mong Kok/Kowloon
- One of the many malls and shopping found on every corner