Moving - Again

We've been here for almost three months now. The first month, we lived in Causeway Bay and while the apartment was a cell-like bunker, the area was bustling with life 24/7. Almost a little bit too much, really.

But that's not where we wanted to live. We, or rather Mats, thought that Mid-Levels was the place to stay. Just an elevator ride to/from work, lots and lots of restaurants and nightlife.

It turned out not to be all that nice...

Mid-Levels, especially a block or two on either side of the escalator, is an expat ghetto. Almost all living here are expats, the restaurants and bars are filled with expats, and everything is geared towards the wants and needs of expats. Boring. Extremely boring. So after two months here, we have decided to go to another part of town.

Question is: Where?

Last Sunday, we entered our requirements on a portal site for serviced apartments, asking for offers anywhere from Kennedy Town to Causeway Bay. All on the north shore of Hong Kong island. We got 30+ replies. From all over Hong Kong. From as far away as Shatin and Tin Shui Wai in the Northern Territories, more than an hour away from Hong Kong Island. And we got quite a few way outside of our budget. No, we don't want to pay almost HKD 100'000 per month for a one bedroom apartment, even if it's got harbor view.

But a few of the offers were quite interesting, and we have currently a short list of two places: One in Wan Chai, twenty minutes from work on the tram, and one in Sheung Wan, ten minutes walk from work.

On Tuesday, when we are back from Hanoi, we will make a decision. Hopefully.


More Observations

  • Hong Kong is a city of scents. New scents meet you where ever you go. On the streets, in the markets, in the subways, in the restaurants.
    Not always pleasant, though.
  • You are rarely harassed by street peddlers in Hong Kong (except in the tourist infested Tsim Sha Tsui). Not even in the street markets, where the hawkers ignores you until you pick something up.
    The contrast was startling when we crossed the border into China and the city of Shenzhen. The Mongolian Horde (or at least a bunch of Chinese men) came down on us like, well, the Mongolian Horde!
  • Banking is so different here from in Sweden:
    • In Sweden, you can use any ATM. Not so here. Our bank here is HSBC, and we can only use ATMs belonging to HSBC and Hang Seng.
    • Checks. We got checks! We haven't seen checks in Sweden since the late eighties.
    • Paying your invoices. Done by check. Or in the utility companies shops. Or at seven-11. Not online using a centralized money transfer system as in Sweden.
    • MasterCard/Visa debit cards are basically unheard of. They are credit cards.
  • Eating at restaurants:
    • Don't expect the starter to come in before the main dish! The order is random.
    • In most restaurants the guests are expected to share the dishes.
    • Tips are not expected. There is often a service charge added to the bill.
    • The front and interior of the restaurant give no hint at all on what the food will taste like. We have had some of our best meals in places that seemed to be in serious need of an uplift.
    • Food court restaurants and restaurants at tourist attractions can be really, really good!
    • It's traditional to serve warm water to drink at Chinese restaurants. Quite a surprise the first time.
  • Many restaurants and shops are not located at ground floor but instead you can find them several floors up or in the basement. And the signing is often difficult to see. So bend your neck and look upward.
  • Bus routes numbering are obviously meant to confuse. The same number can be used by any number of routes, even routes running in the same area. And to make things even worse: Not all bus stops have signs. You're supposed to know where to stand and wait for your bus. And you have to flag it down. or it will just go by without picking anyone up.


Hong Kong ID

As a Hong Kong resident, you are obliged to have (and carry, we guess) a Hong Kong ID. It must be applied for withing thirty days of activating the long term visa. So you go to the Immigration Tower and apply for your ID. A week or so later, the ID is ready to pick up.

The ID is pretty plain, just a picture, some basic information like name and birthday. But also a chip with some biometrics.

And the biometrics makes for a very nice feature: You use it instead of your passport when entering and leaving the country. Fully automated gates works in two stages: First reads you ID and, if accepted, opens the first set of doors. You enter, the doors close behind you. The second stage is a finger print scanner that match the finger print on the chip with what is scans. If OK, the second doors open and the immigration/emigration procedure is done. 20 seconds, tops!

I wish we had an ID like this in Sweden, too.

Did I say you get the ID for free?