Sunday, 12 May 2013

My Hong Kong Top 10

Having been in Hong Kong for just over five weeks now I feel as though I am only just beginning to scratch the surface.  However, I thought I would compile my Hong Kong Top 10 based on my experiences so far.

1)  The Country Parks
Before arriving here it never occurred to me that we would have so many green spaces within such easy reach.  Within 10 minutes we are in Lung Fu Shan Country Park encompassing The Peak - and from there we can easily access Pok Fu Lam Country Park.  My regular hikes up to The Peak have increased my fitness levels dramatically, given me bulging calf muscles and introduced me to a surprising passion for walking up very steep hills.

The VERY sweaty hiking look

It's worth the sweat for the view at the top

2)  The food
Hong Kong is a foodies paradise.  The sheer quantity and variety of fantastic eating establishments in Hong Kong is overwhelming.  From dim sum to duck, sushi to salads, pasta to pizza, curry to crab, fry-ups to fajitas - you name it, I've probably had it in the five weeks we've been here... hence the importance of hiking in the country parks.  Without a doubt there is something to suit everyone's taste buds and if you love your food you are never going to run out of new places to go out for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

My favourite food so far - Dim Sum Bento Box at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental

3)  The shopping
Shopping is the national past time of the Hong Kong people and their needs are catered for in the staggering variety of shopping malls, boutiques, stalls and department stores.  My personal favourite is the fabulously glossy IFC mall which is the home to the Apple store where I have already parted with far too much money in exchange for an iPhone 5, an AirPort Express router and Apple TV.  Apple TV is proving to be a life-saver as amongst other things I can access UK radio stations so I can keep in touch with the latest music rather than forcing myself to become a fan of Canto-Pop.

4)  Dogs
I can't reiterate enough just how much I love the Hong Kongers passion for their four legged friends.  Where we live we back on to a veterinary clinic, a pet shop and the obligatory doggy bakery!  Dogs are treated like children  accompanying their owners to bars and restaurants - where I have witnessed a dog sitting on a chair at a table with its family, being fed cake off a fork!  They have their own domestic helpers to walk and feed them and there are countless grooming and clothing options to ensure they are always beautifully turned out.
Dog in shoes

Strangely groomed spaniels

5)  Expat community
Before I arrived here I had been told by other expat friends of mine about how welcoming and inclusive the established expat community is.  I have been astounded by the kindness and warmth David and I have been shown so far and how easy it is to meet people.  It appears that as none of us have our family support network close at hand, we all pick up that role to bolster each other.  As everyone has been in the position of being 'the new kid on the block' at some point in time, they will go out of their way to help settle you into the community.

6)  Transport
Arriving here I have discovered that it really is possible to have a clean, efficient, fully-functioning public transport system that does not cost you half of your monthly salary to use.  In addition to the fabulously effective MTR, trains, buses, mini-buses and trams, there are the incredibly cheap taxis - often driven by lunatics who are very heavy on the accelerator, break and horn - but miraculously get you from A to B in one piece nonetheless!

7)  Bars
Living in the Mid-Levels we are spoilt for choice with bars right on our doorstep.  This has already resulted in a few accidental impromptu sessions.  Whether you like swanky wine bars, cocktail bars, English pubs or the obligatory Irish drinking hole - it is all within easy stumbling distance of home.

Cocktails watching the light show in the Intercontinental Hotel

8)  Octopus Card
Having moved out of London just before Oyster cards were introduced, I never really experienced the full benefits of an Oyster card.  However, here in Hong Kong I love the versatility of my Octopus Card.  I can go to the 7/11, put money onto it and then travel around the city using all forms of the public transport system,  I can pay for my shopping and coffee, and I can earn supermarket points.  It is super convenient and helps make life very easy.

9)  Member's Clubs
There is a tradition in Hong Kong for members clubs and many people are members of at least one club.  Ranging from the prestigious Hong Kong Club and China Club, through to special interest clubs such as the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club and the Foreign Correspondence Club.  These clubs are little havens from the hectic city and generally provide a range of facilities from restaurants and bars, swimming pools and gyms, to bowling alleys, libraries and video rental shops.  We are waiting for me to get a job before taking the plunge and committing to joining one of these clubs and in the meantime we are trying not to abuse the generosity of club members who have invited us to experience their coverted retreats.

10)  Pacific Coffee Company
I am a total convert to Hong Kong's home grown coffee franchise - the Pacific Coffee Company.  No longer do I crave and hunt down Starbucks - instead I get my morning hit of caffeine from the Pacific Coffee Company with one outlet conveniently located directly underneath our apartment.  And when I am having a particularly trying day, I will indulge in an afternoon Chillino - Pacific Coffee Company's answer to a Frappuccino.

Just to balance this list a little and in the interest of not painting an unrealistic picture,  I am balancing these positives with the negatives I have experienced so far:

1)  Recruitment consultants
This doesn't extend to all recruitment consultants but I take great pleasure in naming and shaming Michael Page Hong Kong who do not have the vision to understand the concept of transferable skills.

2) Cost of wine
A bottle of Oyster Bay costs around HK$160 (£13) from the supermarket and a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc at a restaurant will typically cost around HK$400 (£34).  As such, we have rarely been out for dinner with friends and ordered a second bottle of wine and we don't often have wine at home.  Perhaps the UK government should raise the price of alcohol significantly as it certainly does curb the binge drinking!

3)  Bad hair days
Every day is a bad hair day thanks to the humidity.  I have nothing more to add on this point!

4)  Mosquitos and cockroaches
To date we have had one rogue cockroach in our apartment which I discovered at 3am on my way to the loo.  This resulted in me screaming and waking up David who leapt out of bed with no clothes on.  He pursued the evasive cockroach around our flat while I screeched from a distance, until he managed to maneuver it onto a piece of paper and chuck it out of the window.  It would have made entertaining viewing for any of our many neighbours who overlook our home.

In addition to the cockroach incident, it appears that I am particularly tasty to the mosquitos and gnats here and not a single bite-free day has passed yet.

5)  The weather
Seriously Hong Kong - sort it out - I have barely seen the sun since I arrived here!

So, without a doubt there are so many more positives than negatives and I hope this blog will help to persuade some of you to come and try out all that Hong Kong has to offer.

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