We’ll be in Hong Kong for a week, not our original plan, but we’re going to pick up a visa for our November trip to Vietnam and take my iPhone into the repair shop before the warranty runs out.
Hong Kong is incredible. Everything I thought it would be so far. But it’s hard work on a budget. For a start, we’re in the cheapest accommodation that we could find (that’s not a dorm room or sleeping in a cardboard box) and it’s costing us HKD$240 a night.
Our room is in the Chungking Mansions in Kowloon. Once upon a very long time ago this building was full of drug dealers and there was a lot of nefarious business done here. Now it’s full of Indians and “guest houses”. There are heaps of places to eat Indian food here, buy SIM cards and just set foot out of your room and you’ll probably have 10 business cards thrust in your face with a “Tailor? Suit Sir? Handbag? Watch? All good copies”. When you read reviews about places to stay here and the Chungking Mansions generally, they’re full of how in your face it is, all these people trying to sell you things.
My thoughts? “Huh is that it?” Yes really, those folks who complain about the selling need to head to China or Vietnam – like one couple we met in the elevator, when they said “Wow, it’s pretty full on here isn’t it” – Nige retorted, ha, this is nothing, we’ve just come from China. The lady turned white and said that’s where we’re going next. Ah, ” have a good trip”, said Nige and we walked off.
There are five building blocks to the Chungking Mansions and on the ground floor a central area, that has lots of little shops, food places and essentially hawkers. Each block (a, b, c, d, e) has its own set of two elevators – one for the even numbers and one for the odd numbered floors). There’s a line up system for these elevators. There are also places to eat going up to 16 floors in these blocks – so you’re not just competing for one of the up to 7 spaces in the elevator with the folks staying and living here, but also with folks who are heading to get something to eat. Blocks A, B and C are VERY VERY busy. D is less busy and our block, E, seems the quietest. It’s right at the back on the right hand side.
The elevator says 7 people, but we’ve obviously all grown a little since that 7 was calculated and we didn’t take into account for the bed linen, food, deliveries and empty plates from the food places going up and down. Although, if you’re the unlucky person who gets buzzed when you try to squeeze in, then, if you slide back out, and slowly, slowly, slither back in, you might just be able to kid the elevator that you’re not overweight and then everyone else in the elevator will collectively breathe out and you’ll all go up. I’ve never seen it work, but all the locals try it every time.
There’s also CCTV that you can watch in the elevators..
Our guesthouse is the New China Yan Yan Guesthouse. We’re in room 1. Our room is fully tiled, floor to ceiling. We have a strip light, an air con unit fitted into the window, which also opens. We also have a fan, which when on full speed is like one of those deep earth boring drills and will soon fall off and burying its way through the mattress and me on its way down from the 8th floor to meet up with the center of the earth. There is a double mattress and a bed side shelving unit. The mattress is on a frame with clear space underneath to store bags. There’s a plastic stool hiding under there too. You can walk down the side of the bed to the window, spin and turn back again.
There’s also a bathroom cabinet. That’s right, it doesn’t qualify as large enough to be called anything more than that. There’s a folding door, one of those tiny sinks about 10 inches long that you only ever put in when you don’t really have room for a sink, and there’s one cold tap. There’s an overhead water boiler and a shower hose and head and a toilet with an overhead old fashioned (well 1970’s old fashioned) cistern. The drain in the floor does work well. The boiler works too well and it’s only just this morning that I scalded my hand trying to get the shower to give me neither boiling nor cold water.
It’s a quiet place, surprisingly, once you escape the slight madness on the ground floor and manage your way through the elevators and it’s been home for a week. We’ve enjoyed that most evenings we’ve wrapped up with a HKD$5 (US 0.64, GBP 0.39) samosa that reminds us that India is not far away in our travel plans and the Internet access has been a delight after China.
The Chungking Mansions might not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s more than a little gritty, but the food has been fantastic, the sleep and Internet good and at the end of the day, staying here has helped us to keep to budget.. but more on that shortly.
- Where we stayed in Hong Kong – The new China guest House
- What to eat in Hong Kong
- How to get around Hong Kong on a Budget