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Monday Travel Update – Leaving Hong Kong


I few years ago I wrote about something I dubbed Gary’s Paradox (if figured I could name it after myself since I came up with it). The gist of it is, I can be out exploring or I can be working at my computer, but I can’t do both at the same time.

My time in Hong Kong has been spent working. I haven’t really strayed too far beyond a several block radius of where I am staying in Kowloon. I’ve been very productive. I’ve made headway on several projects I’ve been working on, I’ve been writing a lot more and generally just getting stuff done. I haven’t, however, done much in terms of exploring. I’ve been to Hong Kong before so I didn’t feel that obligated to so much this time.

Hong Kong has changed in many ways since I was last here. If I could pin it on one thing, it is probably the increasing influence of Mainland China. There are many more restaurants now that have no English signage whatsoever (remember, this was a British colony). There are many more luxury goods stores, with an emphasis on men’s watches, jewelry and handbangs. There are fewer electronics stores. The ones that are still here all tend to focus on mobile phones. That is probably a story for another time, but I’m not seeing any stores selling cheap PC parts anymore. It is a similar trend I noticed in Singapore’s Sim Lim center.

I went to go get a pair of new glasses, something I did the last time I was here, and prices were no different than what I could find in the US.

I used to mentally file Hong Kong under “reasonably affordable destinations”. Not anymore.

On Wednesday I’m flying back to the US business class via Cathay Pacific. I know a lot of people think I fly like this all the time, but the reality is this will only be my 2nd business class international flight. I almost always fly economy.

On Saturday I’ll be starting my first every photography tour. We start in San Francisco and will then be heading to Yosemite, Las Vegas, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Monument Valley, and the Grand Canyon.

It looks to be a fun trip!

  • 10 Comments... What's your take?

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  1. Plan to stop in Hong Kong later this year. Is it only the western style accommodations that are expensive or is it possible to find guest houses. Ever tried “Couch Surfing”?

  2. Vitali says:

    Although mainland influence has increased in Hong Kong when (as I live in inner China) I come to this city for me still it seems as like I’ve come to a Western civilization, but maybe just the contrasts that we experience are different. Money wise its extremely expensive…just go to Shenzhen and buy everything there.

  3. Your MessageI’m disappointed.

    I can’t agree that Hong Kong is not affordable. I’ve been living here since January. Everyone told me it was expensive, too, but once I’d arrived, I discovered that was completely untrue.

    Accommodation is expensive here, there’s no getting around that, but I haven’t found a single other thing that isn’t cheaper in Hong Kong.
    Sure, if you want your Western creature comforts (like a gourmet cheeseburger), you may have to pay close to Western prices. Some restaurants are expensive.
    And if you’re at the southern end of Kowloon (Tsim Sha Tsui), that area is intentionally priced higher due to the number of tourists who stay there.

    But step out of TST or go into a place without English writing out the front, and you’ll find it’s cheaper than any Western country out there.
    In HK you can have a 2 or 3-course breakfast, lunch and dinner for about USD $5… even less if you know where to go. If you want to buy beer cheap, go to a supermarket or 7-Eleven where it’s less than USD $5 for a six-pack of Asahi.
    While American Apparel charges you USD $18 for a t-shirt, Uniqlo (which is Japanese) is only charging USD $5 to $10, and the quality is astounding.
    Taxis are USD $2.50 for the first 2km and ever paying more than USD $20 for one is almost impossible.
    This is all within the radius of TST, Jordan, Yau Ma Tei or anywhere else in Kowloon you might be.
    Hell, I live on Hong Kong Island and I can find it all in a few blocks of me, too.

    I don’t disagree that HK has changed to accommodate so many mainland Chinese visitors wanting to show off and spend big but the old HK you talk about is still there and it’s still cheap… it’s just no longer in TST, which has made way for Louis Vuitton and Coco Chanel.

    • Gary says:

      When you are traveling, you can’t dismiss accommodations. That is a huge, if not the majority of what anyone is going to spend.

      You are also talking about your experience living there which is of course is going to be different than someone who is traveling.

      Yes, I’ve found some cheaper places to eat, but I don’t think it changes the overall claim, which most travelers seem to agree with me, that Hong Kong has become expensive.

      • Evanie says:

        I recently stayed in this hk hotel that offers those travellers who’d rather spend on other things than accommodation an great alternative yet you need not to scarifies for convienence and cleanliness. I think it’s a great deal to share here since hk hotels are generally crazily expensive. This hotel locates at the most expensive district in Asia – Central (3 mins walk to LAN Kwai Fong and 5 mins walk from MTR and 10 mins walk from airport express)and it’s newly opened in March. Super small but Spotless clean and comfortable bed. It’s called MINI HOTEL . I must mention the friendly staff too but remember to bring your own amenities as it’s a green support hotel which you need you to buy toothbrush set at vending machine for HK$2.

  4. Andrea says:

    Interesting, I’ve never been to Hong Kong but I was under the impression that it would be a cheaper destination, like other parts of China. Good to know I guess, now I’ll be prepared!

  5. HK can be a massive money drain. We visited last year on our way home form China and couldn’t find a hotel room under $270 a night!

    I did however buy my first ever DSLR on that trip and saved a healthy amount compared to buying at home in Australia…

    But then everything is a ripp off in Aus :)

  6. Wandergirl says:

    I think it would be nice to just work while travelling. Taking a break would be so much more refreshing when you’re somewhere new and exciting.

    Can’t wait to see all the beautiful photographs from your upcoming tour. Have fun!

  7. HK is crazy expensive! But I LOVE it anyway!!!

  8. Iain Manley says:

    Did you work at Kowloon Park, with its free government WiFi? Or nearby, on the China Ferry Terminal’s promenade?

    I spent six weeks in Hong Kong not long ago, mostly hard at work. I stayed at Chungking Mansions and had an orbit of a few blocks. Initially, it was expensive, and seemed hostile to people trying to live cheaply, but Hong Kong also provides its residents with so public goods, which keep costs down.

    I think public space and public utilities are a part of Hong Kong’s British heritage. On the mainland, in an equivalent city like Shanghai, there isn’t as much public space.

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About Gary Arndt

My name is Gary Arndt. In March 2007 I set out to travel around the world...
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