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.
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.
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…
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?
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.
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.”)
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!?
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.
We then dined in our hotel at Grissini – delicious, five star Italian food at five star prices.