We arrived in Hong Kong on Friday, January 15, 2016. We stayed in the Super7 Hostel in the Chungking Mansions. The building is filled with guesthouses & other traveler services. The bottom is a busy marketplace great for snacks, sim cards, or to do your laundry. Expect to have people to trying to hustle you to buy something. If you are not used to seeing these kind of places it could be intimidating at firs, but smile and either say “no thank you” or just keep walking. Most there are friendly enough and cause no harm so don’t worry about this. Just be mindful of your surroundings & be prepared if you engage in conversations with one, you will then be surrounded by 20 a few seconds later.
Other blogs I’ve read about the Chungking Mansions suggest waiting until you get there to get a room because there are many guesthouses(hostels) and you can barter people down if you wait. While this is true I would say that the amount you save by doing that is not substantial enough to be concerned over and that if you have not been there before the safer option is to book ahead of time online. They are still relatively cheap (we actually went with a higher end one and that is why it was $62USD for ours. We used the ranking on Hostelworld.com to decide. By booking online ahead of time we ended up in a hostel that was a bit quieter, the manager was very friendly and always around if we needed something, very clean, we didn’t have to worry about bartering & not having a place to go when we arrived at 1am in front of Chunking Mansions & the reserved hostel was very good about sending us a descriptive email on how to get from the airport to the hostel. After a long trip & getting in so late this all made things much easier on us.
No matter what you decide about booking, expect the rooms to be very small in comparison to anything you will have ever seen in a western country. What I mean by small is that you will likely only have space for the bed & for one adult to stand & turn around. Between Robert & I we had to take turns moving around due to lack of space, but for us that was fine we were not in need of anything bigger or fancier just a comfortable safe place to stay.
Thankfully neither of us experienced jet lag, so once we woke on Saturday morning we wandered around exploring the city a bit. Over the next few days there we went to NgongPing360 cable cars & up to Victoria’s Peak (also known as The Peak).
NgongPing360 was an interesting place for a great view (when the weather is nice anyways), interesting lack of view in the rain, small shops, a temple, & what is referred to as Big Buddha. Although I’m not really sure why it is referred to as Big Buddha because it isn’t what we know as Buddha but a very large statue of something to do with their religion. You will see it in the picture & if you know what it is please feel free to share. Personally I thought the best part of the top were the tea houses. The tea houses were very relaxing and had some interesting facts about which teas come from where in China.
On one of our last nights in Hong Kong we found The Peak Tram and took it to the top which has views of the highest views of Hong Kong. It is possible to take a taxi or bus to the top instead of the tram but the tram was an experience to do at least once. Expect to wait at least an hour in line for the tram though as it is packed and getting onto the tram they will pack you like sardines into a very small area to get onto it. All well worth it for the views it gives though. At the top is a shopping center & a look out. We went at night & it was beautiful! If you have the time I’ve heard that there are some hikes that have great views to look from as well. We would have loved to have done a sunrise at one of them but we just didn’t have the time this trip to do so. We got to see some great views from the top of the shopping center where the tram lets you off though and had dinner in the shopping center.
We found 2 great little breakfast places. One was a few blocks from our hostel called N1 & the other was on the other side closer to where the consulate building is called The Flying Pan. Both were good although a bit pricey compared to our other meals in Hong Kong. For other meals we ate at a variety of places. One that was very local and they did not speak any English but the food was good and they were friendly. Many of the other places had more of a western twist to the food.
PREPARING TO GO TO CHINA
First thing on Monday we went to apply for our Chinese Visas. Do not bother going to the consulate for this. Go to a travel agent who handles visas. It will cost a bit more but is much easier and very much worth the hassle you save from going into the consulate! For Americans they have a 10 year multi entry tourist visa you are eligible for or another visa that I do not know the details of but it enables you to work or do business as well. The travel agents assisting you with your visa can help you with the details. We chose a tourist visa as we have no desire to stay & work long term in China although we like the idea of multi-entry & our visas not being tied to the company we are voluntering with as they also offered a volunteer visa but with that it is one time entry and when you are not volunteering with that company you must leave straight away. We rush ordered our visa as well because honestly we wanted to get to Yangshuo and were a bit city’d out. By Tuesday afternoon we had our visas and left on the metro by Wednesday morning for the border. A word of caution here for the metro. We were able to get through with our luggage just fine although there are signs asking you to limit the size of your luggage. With this in mind, don’t stress over it too much but be mindful of rush hour and the direction you are going. For instance, we were going in the opposite direction of rush hour and so it was no problem but consider this when having luggage on the metro.
I’ve listed approximate costs for basic items below, all based on current exchange rates at the time of writing in USD.
Hong Kong Dollar at the time of writing was approximately $1USD = $7HKD.
Hostel: $62USD per night for a private room.
Food: Breakfast averaged $30USD for 2 & other meals averaged around $10USD for 2.
MTR(Hong Kong metro): $12USD per day for 2 people.
Finally, we crossed into mainland China on 1/20/16. All well worth it but this interim period of getting visas & temporarily staying in extra cities to handle such things can be stressful! If you can get your visa at home do so but the way we did it is an option for those like us who could not obtain a visa from where they live. Pack as light as possible so not to stress as we have over luggage. Most things can be bought while away although as we all know there are certain things which cannot and you will need to research what those are and take as needed.
Speak soon & hope you’re having a wanderful day wherever you may be wandering at the moment.