Thursday, May 1, 2008

Hong Kong moves

It may not be visually impressive but this was
the quiet street on which I lived until recently... ;)

It's not often that I write two blog entries in a single day but I think that today merits it -- not only because May 1 is a holiday and I can make hay while the sun shines but, also, because it happens this May 1 happens to mark the 1st anniversary of my moving to Hong Kong. Yes, you read right, I've now been living -- and, as of tomorrow, working -- in Hong Kong for a year now!

In honour of that move and also my recent one from one apartment to another on Hong Kong Island, here's writing out a list of 25 things I've come to learn about Hong Kong housing (hunts as well as in general) which might serve those of you thinking of making a similar movewell:-

1. Residences on the 4th, 14th or 24th floor (regardless of whether you count it in the British or American way) are not considered attractive by native Hong Kongers.

2. Ditto re those near cemeteries, crematoria and pretty much anything with connections to the dead (though Happy Valley might be an exception to this rule!).

3. Ditto some more with buildings considered as old -- which can be just 25 years old.

4. Alternatively, places with a view of a body of water -- including Victoria Harbour, which for property (agents') purposes, is considered to be a "sea" (as in "sea view") -- are often considered very attractive by many Hong Kongers.

5. Something else which appears very popular -- and prestigous -- is to have a residence on a hill or a hill slope. Indeed, it seems as though to be high up, be it naturally or on a high floor of an apartment block, is much valued. (As a property agent told me, there supposedly is less noise and general pollution the higher up you are.)

6. Property agents can be very localized indeed -- as can be witnessed by their walking (as opposed to driving) you to properties they've picked for you to view.

7. There's a large range in terms of the quality of buildings and apartments, even when they're in the same price range.

8. Calculated property sizes include public areas/spaces in the buildings. And what with new buildings tending to have larger lobbies and such than older ones, it often is the case that what are supposed to be same size apartments in a new and old building actually is so that the apartment in the new building is smaller than the one in the old building.

9. It can seem like every apartment, even those whose sizes people in other territories would think are more akin to closet space (I've seen apartments advertised as being around 200 square feet in size!), comes with air-conditioning.

10. Alternatively, there still are quite a few apartment blocks (including, I've heard, some with as many as 13 floors) that are without lifts/elevators.

11. There is a transportation charge for items you buy and have delivered to your apartment if yours is in a building without a lift/elevator... :S

12. On the subject of size: It's not just that apartments are on the small side in general -- so too (and maybe especially relative to what many non-Hong Kongers are used to) are the toilets/bathrooms! :0

13. Also, many toilets are "wet" toilets -- i.e., there's not even a shower curtain to separate the shower area from its other sections!

14. Some apartments have outer walls which seem like they're only 6 inches thick at most!

15. Gas still can come in gas canisters -- like those you see exploding in movies, and yes, I now have them! -- rather than via pipes... :S

16. When you go on and apply for broadband services, the company will ask you for your address so that they can find out/make sure that your building is one where you can have broadband.

17. Property prices in Hong Kong -- even areas of it that are not particularly fashionable -- can make the renter (not just buyer) feel like hyperventilating upon seeing them!

18. If you have an apartment on the top floor, you are liable to have use of the roof. (A favoured spot for barbecues in the summer, etc.).

19. People can get pretty excited when you tell them that your apartment has a balcony even after you add that your balcony's on the narrow and small (tiny) side.

20. Life in Hong Kong being so busy and people often being out and about, it's rare to see -- and, even more so, speak -- to one's neighbours.

21. There's a certain cachet to saying that you live on Hong Kong Island (even if it's an unfashionable area of Hong Kong Island) as opposed to Kowloon or the New Territories. (One reason for this, according to a Hong Konger friend of mine, is that there's only one public housing estate on the whole of Hong Kong Island.) (Sunday, May 4 addendum: Another Hong Kong friend of mine -- who reads this blog -- just e-mailed me to tell me that, actually, there are more than 20 public housing estates on Hong Kong Island. Still, I think my point about the cachet stands.)

22. The most notorious areas of Hong Kong to live in -- notably Tin Shui Wai (dubbed 'the City of Sadness' and latterly the subject of movies like Besieged City) but also Yuen Long (where Triads are often shown operating in Triad movies) and Tuen Mun (which gave its name to an infamous serial rapist) -- are in its western portion.

23. As a fellow Hong Kong movie fan friend once remarked, those of us who love Hong Kong movies may consider certain areas of Hong Kong attractive (to live, hang out in, etc.) than other people -- including some native Hong Kongers -- would not. (One notable example: super-high density and notoriously Triad-filled Mongkok. Another: Prostitute and Triad-filled Yau Ma Tei.)

24. More than one friend might ask whether they can help you move -- which is nice... except that you'll liable to realize that few, if any, of your friends actually owns a car. (What happens when you live in a place with great public transportation...!)

25. Even if you live in a small apartment, you can accumulate (and store) a lot of things -- as you'll find when you have to move! ;S


Anonymous said...

Wow, a whole year? I can hardly believe it. But happy anniversary, of sorts. And happy May Day!

I found your list about Hong Kong apartments to be very interesting! It makes me feel like I live in a very different world from you. (My house is quite rural, and therefore we have lots of space. And land. And cars. And we even live at an address with a number that ends in 4.)

Good luck to you in your moving endeavors. Will we get to see any photos of your new digs?

YTSL said...

Hi Alejna --

Yup, one whole year. Amazing, isn't it? And glad you found my list interesting but sorry, no re photos of my new digs. Privacy concerns, etc. So notice that I didn't post the picture of the street where I used to live until I moved out of my apartment there! :)

Glenn, kenixfan said...

Does every street in Hong Kong look like that? (I know they don't) That shot looks like every daytime scene in a Johnnie To movie!

That's a compliment from this guy trapped in the States! LOL!

Rooftop barbecues like in Hooked on You?

sarah bailey knight said...

Happy First year in Hong Kong!

Great post. Are higher floors on buildings without elevators considered better? If so are they more expensive?

If you live in an apartment on an unlucky numbered floor next to a cemetery do you pay less rent?

How about a post on the "Johnnie To" look of HK. A regular neighborhood (not yours) with apt buildings, stores, restaurants, laundries, etc. Like Glenn I think these areas seem so cool to those of us living elsewhere.

YTSL said...

Hi Glenn --

Before anything else, I'm glad you can see the photo because for some reason, I can't and Blogger seems to generally go all weird (i.e., html) on me when I try to edit the post!

And haha, it's a quieter street than many other Hong Kong ones because it's effectively a dead end at one end. So I'm not sure about it looking like one from a Johnnie To movie... ;b

Also, as I recall, the "Hooked On You" rooftop was one on top of the market. But quite a few Hong Kong movies do feature rooftop social scenes -- with the most recent one I saw being "Happy Funeral".

Hi sbk --

Hmmm, would think that the lack of elevators would cancel out the higher floor attraction for most, so imagine that those would be less expensive. And yes, apartments on unlucky numbered floors and/or next to a cemetery are likely to be cheaper than others... ;b

Re a post on the "Johnnie To" look: You and Glenn have got to elaborate about what you mean by this. But one thing I should mention is that Kwun Tong may well be the area of Hong Kong that is the most suitable for "Johnnie To designation" since that's where the Milkyway Image office is... ;b

sarah bailey knight said...


What I'm thinking of are really two different blogs.

1. Pictures of a neighborhood with the mundane things people who live there see everyday-shops, laundry, restaurants, transportation, apartments. Living in rural northeast usa I find HK city pictures interesting.

2. Pictures in Kwun Tong or similar area where the triad , gangster type movies are filmed. As long as it's not dangerous for you to take photos there.....

YTSL said...

Hi sbk --

Hmmm, you sure people will find the first type of blog entry to be all that interesting?? As for the second: Lemme think about it... ;b