Mission: HK Research Trip. Status: Complete

I hope you all had a lovely weekend wherever in the world you were. Personally I made the questionable decision to take a red eye flight each way and spend two days in Hong Kong. Let’s just say there *may* have been tears at the airport coming home due to overwhelming fatigue.

But was it worth it? Well, yes – I would definitely recommend a short trip of this sort to anyone moving to a new country. We found an apartment (yay!) and a preschool for our daughter, and it was all just the opposite of what we expected would happen.

Airport

I arrived Friday morning at 5am, breezed through immigration and customs and proceeded to lay down in the International Arrivals Hall and wait for my husband, who was landing an hour later. I joined about 500 Chinese men who were sleeping there – apparently pretty standard as the MTR doesn’t run until 6am.

Hong Kong airport was just as I remembered, all about efficiency, and once I greeted my husband in arrival hall B (which was very exciting and romantic, especially not having two toddlers in tow) we jumped straight on a train to Central. Once there, we got a cab to our hotel.

Accommodation

Harbour View Room at the Grand Hyatt Wan Chai
Harbour View Room at the Grand Hyatt Wan Chai

We stayed in the Grand Hyatt Wan Chai, which incidentally is our new suburb (kind of – more on that later)! This hotel was AH-MAZING with a price tag to match, so we’re really hoping to be able to expense this trip. We were checked in right away despite arriving at 7.30am, and after necessary showers and connecting to hotel Wi-Fi we headed downstairs for the most amazing buffet breakfast ever.

Not surprisingly after two such breakfasts I now weigh about 2kg more than I did when we left…

Agent

At about 10.15 I received a Whatsapp (Hong Kong is all about Whatsapp – catch up Australia) from our agent, Sarah, letting us know she was pulling up outside. Sarah had hired a driver, the all-accomodating Mr Lau, to show us around 10 apartments in one day, at varying different locations around the island. FUN! No really, fun. Remember we had no kids with us.

Sarah works at Engel & Voelkers, which is a big fancy agency in Hong Kong. She comes highly recommended and was always super professional and thorough.

Our first stop was the Hong Kong Parkview in Tai Tam. It taught me the lesson right away that you really can’t know where you want to live in Hong Kong without going there first. One person’s amazing luxury is another person’s scary Stepford nightmare. I actually didn’t HATE the Parkview but could never, never live there. For reference I live in Sydney’s Inner City suburb of Balmain. It’s quite busy and happening. The Parkview is tucked away (not really tucked, it’s ginormous…) on a hill, surrounded by mist. Its gyms are full and so are its babysitting areas. It’s so removed from reality, and Hong Kong just isn’t that place – it’s not Singapore. It’s New York. I sort of knew this right away after seeing Parkview and realised I wanted to be more in the thick of things.

We then saw about four more places very similar to Parkview, admittedly at our request. This was the type of place we thought we wanted to live in, before we actually got there. By property number five we were feeling verrrrry nervous; what were we getting ourselves into?

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Thankfully, property number five was breathtaking and perfect and oh, we signed the lease on Saturday so I’ll get back to that!

We did see a couple of other great properties, but a few things let them down. One was light – most of the apartments we saw in Hong Kong were quite dark, so if you can find a light apartment my advice would be SIGN NOW! Another was location – the apartment we found was the perfect location for us, in the centre of things but slightly set back, which means it’s very quiet and green outside. We saw for example one HUGE apartment on Caine Road, with its own built in soundtrack of insanely loud construction, and thousands of people fighting for walking room on the street outside.

The last thing was actually the maids rooms. They depressed me SO much and I am not by any means casting judgement on anyone else, but I personally can not live with someone who is sleeping each night, by my design, on a five foot mattress above the washer dryer. The apartment we decided on doesn’t actually have a maids room, and I will have to deal with that.

Apartment

Oh, our apartment, I love you, I do. We walked into our apartment at 9L Kennedy Road, Wan Chai (which is only very technically Wan Chai and according to most is actually Mid Levels East – lines are very blurred, we’ve discovered) we turned to each other with wide eyes.

Personally I knew right away this was our new home, though admittedly I did do that thing I do when I fall in love with a place and walk through completely blinded. (“It’s amazing. No maids room but amazing. Funny kitchen but amazing. Pretty tiny but amazing.”)

Our Building
Our Building

The main thing that sold us on the apartment was the light, as I’ve said. It is SO light and bright and overlooks the city on one side and Hong Kong Park on the other. The views are beautiful and I could just picture myself curled up on the windowsill reading a good book – you know, in all my quiet time.

We got three bedrooms, but they’re tiny, and the storage isn’t great. There is however a sizeable dining area and all up the apartment is still over 1,000 square feet (saleable) which was one of our “musts”. That’s another thing to keep in mind when looking at places in Hong Kong – you might see a property listed as 1,500 square feet, but you need to be mindful of whether that’s gross or saleable. Knowing Hong Kong 1,500 would probably be gross – saleable is the actual usable area of the apartment.

Mid Levels East is a perfect location if you want to be in the thick of things but not RIGHT in the centre of it. Our apartment is a short walk to the Starstreet Precinct, which is a trendy expat area full of cute bars, restaurants and designer boutiques. But our street itself is very quiet.

It’s expensive, sure, but if the company is paying why not!?

Apertifs

We had some apartment deliberation drinks at Metropolitain in Sai Yin Pung, where our agent and I made the most of 2-for-1 house wine and Justus had some tap beers. We also enjoyed some delicious complimentary olives.

When the deal was done we celebrated with more Happy Hour drinks at one of the many hip bars in our local Starstreet Precinct.

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Deal’s Done!

We then dined in our hotel at Grissini –  delicious, five star Italian food at five star prices.

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Happy HK Wildes

Z

So You’re Moving Overseas: What Next?

Being told you’re moving overseas is exciting – what comes next is trickier. I’m paralysed by indecision and disorganisation at the best of times, so for me this has been particularly hard. What are we going to do with our house? What about our daughter’s school? Where will we buy our coffee? And so forth. Here’s a breakdown of what we’ve been struggling with this past month.

Where will we live?

If you’re lucky enough to have the luxury of visiting your destination prior to moving, I would highly recommend it. We have a small (two days and two red eye flights) trip to Hong Kong planned for two weeks time without our kids, during which we’re aiming to find somewhere to live, find a school for our daughter and pin down our local Starbucks. Easy right?

This is kind of a mammoth task on your own, particularly if you don’t know your destination well. It helps to reach out to anyone you know who lives in or has lived in your detonation. If this fails, our current equation is Close to Work + Close to School = Our Perfect Area. We know where my husband will work (the ATL Logistics Centre on the Kowloon side, for reference), so we’re aiming to live within 30 minutes of there and contacting schools anywhere in between.

Our next step was contacting an estate agent over in Hong Kong. So far she has actually been kind of unreliable, so I can’t fully endorse this course of action just yet! But the plan is that she will show us around on one of the days we’re in the city and have a full schedule of places for us to view. We’ve given her the particulars, so we can only wait and see…

And What About Things Here?

If you own your house you probably want to look at renting it right away. We were lucky enough that my sister and her flatmate were looking to move, and are happy to keep some of our stuff and sell some of theirs. This makes the whole packing up process a LOT easier.

So, what about that packing up process? We move in eight weeks and have already started, which is necessary especially given we are also having a vacation in a month. Personally, I’d recommend getting started early anyway. We started with things we don’t use often, like tools, books, ornaments and stationary. We also packed up most of our wardrobes, which is actually a great exercise in teaching you how little you really need (and if you’re me, how much you actually have…).

The most boring, difficult part is of course all the paperwork-y, VISA-y, tying up of loose ends that needs to be done when you move at all, let alone overseas. I have found this checklist to be invaluable – it allows you to track your progress and personally reminded us of so many things we hadn’t even thought of (medical records, vaccines etc.)

But We Will Miss Our Friends!

Now is the time to actually let your friends and family know you’re moving. So far we’ve failed kind of miserably at this! Basically it all happened really quickly and there were so many question marks and only just now is it being confirmed, yet our departure date is only eight weeks away!

Most of our closest friends have been involved in the whole process: Aaaah we might be moving! Shit it is really happening! Hong Kong is so expensive! But there are still loads of people who we haven’t told at all or haven’t updated. So our next move is to write an email and plan a leaving party. I think we are pretty much in denial and haven’t wanted to face this yet…

Obviously this is NOT a comprehensive account of everything you need to do before an overseas move, but it’s what’s been on my mind!

Any tips??

ZW