I’ve been in Hong Kong for a week, almost exactly. In that time, I have been very busy doing the following things:
I haven’t seen many sights but the ones I have are worth mentioning, I think. In my seven days, I have managed to go to the Avenue of Stars and the beach at Shek O.
The Avenue of Stars is basically Hong Kong’s answer to Hollywood Boulevard except I think the view from the Avenue of Stars is better. The street runs right next to the mass of water which overlooks Hong Kong Island. It makes for a rather pretty photo
There are many paving stones with famous Chinese actors and directors hand prints. I spotted John Woo, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Chow Yun Fat and Bruce Lee among many other people I have never heard of. It was a fun walk. Whilst we were there, a Junk boat sailed past. They really are interesting bits of kit (and I hear you can party on one every Friday night which is something I will be looking into, naturally).
The avenue is easy to reach from Tsim Sha Tsui station and provides a great view for the daily light show put on from Hong Kong Island at 8pm.
The beach at Shek O was a complete surprise. One moment we were arranging coffee with people, the next, we’re waiting for a bus to take us to the beach. It was truly a fantastic surprise. You exit the MTR at Shau Kei Wan on the island line, board the number 9 bus and, Bob’s your uncle, there a beach!
Meandering around the beach, we spotted an area to the far left which seemed more crowded and vibrant than the sun bathers so we went to investigate. What we found is that you can hire a BBQ and cook your own feast on the beach at Shek O. It’s actually one of the best things I’ve seen for ages! You, of course, have you standard shops peddling food, ice cream, drinks etc but to be able to invite a tonne of friends and make a day out of it with a hired BBQ is, basically, genius. BBQing at Shek O beach has made it onto the list of ‘things to do’.
We were totally unprepared to hit he waves and, as such, sat looking at the sea for most of the afternoon. I did find time for a little paddle though.
I began my job hunt before I left the UK but it was completely fruitless. I had read on many expat forums that getting a work visa once you have arrived in Hong Kong is no real issue so I decided that’s the method I would follow once I was here. Basically, to get a working visa in Hong Kong, you have to have a job offer from an employer who is willing to ‘sponsor’ you. This ‘sponsorship’ allows you to work legally in Hong Kong whilst you are employed by your sponsor. Your visa can be transferred to a different employer once you have been sponsored for the first time, but that initial sponsorship is the killer. Once you have your working visa, you can apply for an all important HKID card. This card opens up doors to bank accounts and all manner of other joyous and essential things in day to day life. That’s why I was worried about getting sponsored. No sponsorship = no life in Hong Kong.
I’d been looking on various websites (recruit.net, jobsdb.com, ctgoodjobs.hk are a few) for Native English Speaking Teachers (NETs) and an awful lot of vacancies listed a valid Hong Kong working visa as a requirement for the post. This made my already jittery self even more unnerved. Anyway, I ploughed on and applied for all the jobs I was eligible for.
I needn’t have worried as my whiter than white face coupled with my neutral(ish) English accent meant I was a safe bet as an English teacher.
I put in about half a dozen applications and had two interviews scheduled within twenty-four hours. My first interview was six days after I landed in Hong Kong. I was offered the job on the spot. I accepted the next day. That meant I had been unemployed in Hong Kong for a princely seven days. I am now an English teacher for 4, 5 and 6 year olds. Hoorah!
Space is a premium in any City but in Hong Kong, it’s amplified. The space gets even tighter when you look at Hong Kong Island. being an island, there’s not a lot can be done to increase land mass (aside from pulling a Dubai and throwing money at it until something sticks i.e. ‘The Palm’). This means that not a lot of space costs you a great deal of money.
Ideally, we wanted to be in the same apartment but renting separate rooms so, if one of us changed jobs and needed to relocate, we weren’t locked into a flat for a long term rent. Looking for rooms to rent in Hong Kong is easy. Finding rooms to rent that aren’t a massive sack of c**p is an entirely different thing.
We knew that, geographically, we wanted to be on Hong Kong Island proper because, if you’re living in Hong Kong, you may as well go the whole hog, right? We knew that, budget wise, we did not have the funds or means for anywhere ‘nice’. We knew, from experience, that wherever I live is always clean so that wasn’t really a massive issue. We also knew that finding a place which had an oven, or even a proper kitchen, would be next to impossible (it’s all hot plates and microwaves here). With these criteria in mind, we set about the hunt.
The websites we used included gumtree.hk, asiaxpat.com, hongkonghomes.com and easyroommate.com.hk. Of all the sites, it was easyroommate.com.hk that came up trumps. Gumtree provided the (expected) scams, asiaxpat was too pricey and hongkonghomes.com was all agencies (tonnes of deposit and long tenancy agreements). Easyroommate lets you find either a place to live or roomates to move into your apartment. I used the equivalent site in the UK for London room with great success.
On the day of my interview, we got a call asking us to come see some flats on that evening. We were happy to do so. We saw two places in Wan Chai and two places in Causeway Bay. The first place in Wan Chai was light, airy and with all mod cons (even a tumble dryer). We liked it. The second place in Wan Chai had no living room and only one room had any natural light. We thought it was ok. The first place in Causeway Bay was unreal. There were two ‘bathrooms’. What there actually was were two rooms with toilets and hand basins in. We were thinking ‘where’s the shower?!’. Well, we spotted it. There was a shower head propped on taps which protruded from the wall. Just a shower head. No tray. No shower holder. No proper drain. Nothing. There was a hole in the wall behind the toilet which I presume was for drainage but I didn’t bother asking. I wasn’t interested. The last place in Causeway Bay was just tiny and awful.
The first place in Wan Chai which was within our budget, not a horror story and in a decent building so we haggled down the monthly rent and took both vacant rooms in it. We can now stagger home from Ladies night (free drink in each bar in Wan Chai for a girl) every Wednesday. Winners.