FIRST NIGHT IN HONG KONG
We arrived in Hong Kong at 1 AM. The first thing that struck me was the sheer size of the airport, it was huge. Being so late we were able to quickly get through immigration, collect our bags and get through customs. Luckily the place is well sign posted and we find the taxi stand after a few minutes. It would have been quite easy to get lost if not for the signs. The airport actually has a subway to take passengers to some of the boarding gates they are so far away.
Hong Kong International Airport
At the Taxi stand there were lines of different coloured taxis; Green, Red and Blue. Which taxi to catch depends on where you want to go. Our hotel was in Kowloon, so we jumped in a Red one. As well as being signposted which taxi to catch there was also a concierge type of gentleman advising which taxi we needed. Most of the taxis seem to be the same make, Toyota Crown Comfort. The taxis and their drivers in Hong Kong were quite professional and the one from the airport took it upon himself to be a tour guide on the way to the hotel. Pointing out landmarks and throwing in some facts like ‘it takes just 3 minutes to unload a container’ at the docks. It was obvious he was quite proud of his city. He gives some advice on which markets to visit and where to go. Most of what he says goes in one ear and out the other as I am so tired and unfamiliar with the names of the places.
The Red taxis that serviced the Kowloon area
It was about a 45 minute ride to the hotel. It cost about $350 Hong Kong dollars (about $45 AUD) which was not too bad considering the distance. The hotel also sent an email prior to explain estimated costs and gave a few options such as shuttle bus, so it was not a surprise. The taxis in Hong Kong charge HKD$20 for the first Two Kilometres and then HKD$1.5 for each additional 200 metres. They also charge $5 extra per piece of luggage (and also $5 extra for every bird or animal)
The hotel was part of the Chungking Mansion building and they had warned us in an email not to listen to anyone on the street or at the entrance as it’s a scam and they will take you to a different hotel. The hotel was part of a larger building with markets on the first floor, filled with shops that sell bootleg DVDs, fake phones, porn or Indian food. The ‘Mansion’ had five different blocks/wings, each with its own set of elevators. It was built in the 1960s as cheap residential buildings for the Chinese, and now houses many different nationalities, mainly Indian, African and Arabic from what I can guess. It turns out the place is infamous because of a string of fires, racial flare ups and robberies.
As soon as we leave the taxi there are two African men who ask if we want a room and have a place to stay, after telling them we are okay, they continue for a minute before leaving us alone, but not before trying to sell us some hashish. This was to turn out to be a regular occurrence over the next two days, each time we left or entered we were offered hashish and fake watches. The place is a labyrinth of little lane ways and it took a while even to find the correct set of elevators to go up. It was quite a daunting place and it and the whole building was in different levels of decay. It is quite a large complex, fifteen stories tall that houses around 4ooo people. Each block housing hundreds of hotels, hostels, lodges, flats and restaurants.
The Chungking Mansion certainly was an experience
After a few wrong towers, we eventually found our one. We were to go to floor Twelve, but the elevator only went up in odd numbers. So we got off at Eleven, but couldn’t find the place. (We find out on the second day that the left elevator is even numbers and the right one is odd numbers) We lugged our luggage up the fire stairs and found the place, but at 2 AM no one was there. There was a notice stuck on the wall with our names and a phone number. Problem: I just arrived and had no local SIM card yet. It had taken fifteen minutes to find the place and now couldn’t get in. I bite the bullet and put my Australian SIM card into my phone and call the hotel with roaming rates. A lady is there to greet us in a minute and leads us to our rooms.
The view from our room in the ChungKing Mansion
The place was basic, but clean and safe once we had passed the double security doors. Free Wi-Fi, but the mattresses were extremely hard and it was like sleeping on cardboard on concrete. The staff were pleasant enough and the air con worked with plenty of hot water. We were only here for Two days so it would suit us. I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.
I found this video of the Chungking Mansions on YouTube and it gives an idea of what it was like