Hong Kong journeys with Airbnb

Although Hong Kong is not really the cheapest place in the world to visit, there’s something about it that keeps me coming back. Whether it’s your first or fifth time, there’s always something new to do, somewhere new to eat. And while there are always ways to cut costs from your Hong Kong explorations, I’m a great believer in value-for-money rather straight-out cheapness. This is where Airbnb comes in.

Victoria Harbor shore

 

Airbnb allows locals to rent out portions of or even entire apartments, houses, boats, or even castles to travelers. Airbnb’s network stretches across more than 34,000 cities in 192 countries, connecting people to unique travel experiences at any price point. My travels with Airbnb have concentrated on the “more reasonable” end of the “at any price point” scale and I haven’t been disappointed yet.

Hong Kong is the perfect place for Airbnb, as the reasonable offerings nicely fill in the gap between the Peninsula (my dream place to stay in HK!) and hostels where you have to sit on the toilet to shower. Last August 2014, I was they very, very lucky winner of the My Airbnb Travel Bucket List (see the original entry here), where I won Php 30,000 worth of Airbnb credits and Php 15,000 in cash. Three guesses where I used the prize money πŸ™‚

We traveled to Hong Kong last February 13-16, 2015 and stayed in Rosemary’s room in Tsim Sha Tsui. I initially considered staying in Cory and Carla’s place again (where we stayed in HK the last time), but it had a minimum booking of four nights so I decided on Rosemary’s place instead. And since it was cheaper compared to our previous accommodations, I used the remaining Airbnb credits for a weekend stay for my office team in Tagaytay in March.

Rosemary’s room did not disappoint. Although it was smaller than I thought it would be, it’s well-designed to make use of the limited space. Think of it as a spotless hotel room with lots of extras. She provided a coffee and tea station, a small refrigerator, cutlery, and plates. She also stocked practically everything: office supplies, bathroom supplies, even a Lonely Planet guidebook! The room is also near the Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station, a supermarket (in the K11 mall), and places to eat. It was just right for the needs of two people and was definitely worth the asking price. I would have ended up paying the same amount for a smaller hotel room.

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(Rosemary’s room is much brighter than my photos suggest it is. My apologies. Make sure to check her actual listing to see the prettier pictures she put up.)

However, there are potential cons that you need to consider with Rosemary’s room. First, the bathroom uses a shower pod that I found to be just the right size for 5’4″me. I don’t think it will be comfortable for someone particularly tall, wide, and/or claustrophobic, but I could be wrong.

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The listing also accepts up to 4 people in the room but I’d only recommend it for a maximum of 3 people. The extra bed for Person #4 goes at the foot of the main bed, leaving no space to move around once it’s there.

There were also lots of loud ongoing construction works that started at 8am. Hopefully they’ll be done soon or that you’ll be out of the room during the day.

All in all, staying in Rosemary’s place was a treat. Aside from her listing, Rosemary herself was a great host, communicating well via email and WhatsApp. She gave very clear instructions on how to find her place and how to use it (gate and door codes, etc). Very attentive to our needs too. I mentioned that I couldn’t find the cutlery and the next night, her husband Kevin shows up with new sets!

This trip marks my second stay with Airbnb so far and I wasn’t disappointed. Where are you taking your next trip? πŸ™‚

Airbnb and Nuffnang: my travel angels!

This post is two weeks late – blame work and long commutes – but here goes: I won first place in Airbnb and Nuffnang’s #MyAirbnbTravelBucketList contest!

*cue screaming and jumping*

My original blog post is here.

Thank you so much to everyone who read my blog post and signed up for Airbnb, Nuffnang, and of course, Airbnb!

Confession time: I had a mini panic attack during Airbnb’s call to confirm that I won when their representative asked me point-blank as to where I was planning on going. The truth is that I have no idea! Hahaha! I’m thinking maybe Thailand or Malaysia since I’ve never been (and no visa requirements!), or go local with Cebu and Bohol. Luckily, I still have a few months to figure it out πŸ˜€

The prize money disappeared quickly but for a good cause. I headed to Nautilus and bought a neoprene vest, pants, and a long-sleeved rashguard. I’m leaving in a few days for fieldwork in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay and these will definitely come in handy.

Here’s to more travel and adventures in the months to come!

My Travel Bucket List (at this point in time)

Everybody needs a goal, right? Goals give you something to aspire to. Goals are even better when they’re in a nice little list because there’s just something so satisfying about ticking off something from a list πŸ˜› So this here little blog post is the short list of where I want to go within the next 5 to 10 years. I say this list is doable within five years because they all have Airbnb listings! I tried out Airbnb in 2011 when we went to Hong Kong and the service did not disappoint. Airbnb connects people to unique travel experiences, at any price point, in more than 34,000 cities and 192 countries. Anyway, here goes:

Macy’s Travel Bucket List (at this point in time AKAΒ #MyAirbnbBucketList)

1. Petra, Jordan

Why I want to go: Because it’s gorgeous. Because I’m in awe just looking at pictures. Because I fell in love with it when I was 12 and watched “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” for the first time. Because I want to wear a fedora when I visit.

2. Kathmandu, Nepal

Why I want to go: Because I love its architecture. Because I love learning about new cultures. Because I’m pretty sure I’m going to enjoy just walking around the city.

3. Kyoto and Tokyo, Japan

Why I want to go to go back to Kyoto: Because the one day I spent in Kyoto last May felt criminally short. Because there are tons more temples to visit. Because gorramit, I want a photo of the Fushimi Inari Shrine. Because I want to have tea in a legit ochaya. Because I spent high school and college fascinated by Japanese history (all because of Rurouni Kenshin!) and just walking those streets was amazing.


Why I want to go back to Tokyo: Because the one day I spent walking around Tokyo last May felt criminally short. Because I didn’t get my photo taken with Hachiko the first time around. Because I still want to attend an Arashi concert. Because I still want that photo of Tokyo Tower. Because I want to go to the Tsukiji Fish Market when it’s actually busy and to eat the fantastic sushi that people wait in line for hours for. Because there’s still SO MUCH TO SEEEEE!

4. Cairns, Australia

Why I want to go back to Cairns: Because three words: GREAT. BARRIER. REEF.

5. Hawaii, United States


Why I want to go to Hawaii: Because I want to go diving. Because I want to laze on the beach. Because I want to learn about Hawaiian culture. Because I want to go surfing in the land where surfing was born (this is under the assumption that I’d have learned how to surf properly by the time I go. And I WILL have learned how to surf!). Because I want to stalk Grace Park, Daniel Dae Kim, and Alex O’Loughlin. Because I want to nomnom some of those malasadas I’ve heard so much about. Because I want to check out the University of Hawaii at Manoa because for one world-standing-still moment, I considered doing my PhD there (hey, if you’re going to be stuck somewhere studying for five years, might as well be a place with lots of surf and sand).

How about you? Where do you want to go next? πŸ˜€

Exploring Hong Kong: getting there and our first meal in HK

Aids and I arrived in Hong Kong at 7:30 am. There was a line for immigration but the wait was bearable. Our baggage was waiting to be claimed by the time we got the coveted stamp in our passports (I love HKIA!). First order of business was finding out where the airport buses were. After that, I got in line for the information counter (there was only one lady fielding questions) to find out where the China Travel Service (HK) booth was (it’s booth A10 in the arrivals hall), as they offer discounted admission tickets to some of Hong Kong’s attractions.

The tickets we bought:

  • Ocean Park – HK$240 instead of HK$280
  • Round-trip Peak Tram + Sky Terrace – HK$56 instead of HK$65
  • One-way Airport Express ticket (Kowloon) – HK$72 instead of HK$90
  • One-way Ngong Ping cable car ride – HK$80 (no discount. Boo!)

Edit: we found out later that Ngong Ping is one of several attractions (including Ocean Park and the Peak Tram) that participates in a promo wherein you can get 10% off the admission ticket if you present a recently used ticket from one of the other attractions. So if you’re going to Ngong Ping during the later part of your trip, you can save the Ocean Park or Peak Tram ticket (which you already got at a discount :D) and present it when you buy your cable car tickets onsite. Ten percent off for minimal effort sounds good to me! Promo runs until January 2012.

We took the Cityflyer airport bus going to Tsim Sha Tsui as it was much cheaper compared to the Airport Express train ($33 versus $72) and the room we got was only some steps away from the bus stop. You get a free sightseeing tour too! However, we decided to take the Airport Express going back as we had an early flight. The bus route starts at 5:30 am and takes about an hour, so we could have missed our flight back if we’d taken it. And besides, taking the AE was an added experience πŸ™‚

Note: if you’re taking the Cityflyer bus from and to the airport, Citybus offer a round-trip bus ticket + Ocean Park ticket for only $295 πŸ˜€

We arrived in TST by 9:30.Instead of a hotel or hostel room, we rented a private room via Airbnb. Why Airbnb? First, hotel rooms in Hong Kong are extremely expensive in October (think 3x the usual rate) because of the trade fairs that bring hundreds of business people into town. Case in point: we just missed the HK Electronics Fair and could have gone to the China Sourcing Fair (I forget for what products). Second, we didn’t want to get a hostel room because this was a special occasion and we wanted something nicer than the usual clean but tiny room. We ended up staying in Cory’s apartment. He and his girlfriend Carla were such great hosts – very friendly and accommodating. They left for a business+leisure trip two nights after we got there so we had the place to ourselves for the rest of our stay.

The guest before us was still in the apartment by the time we got there so we just dumped our bags and got some brunch. Carla recommended a barbeque place along Hankow Road and we did look out for it, but we missed it somehow and ended up in a hole-in-the-wall noodle shop. It was more than a little intimidating at first, as it was full of locals and the owner spoke limited English. Good thing the menu had photos and English labels so the tried-and-tested pointing method worked πŸ˜€ One bowl of shrimp wonton noodle soup was HK$33.

We went back to the apartment to rest a bit and unpack some stuff. The day’s itinerary: the museums along the harbor front, the Avenue of Stars, and the Mong Kok night markets!

Hong Kong trip planning references and craziness

A 46 segment Γ— 3 exposure HDR panorama of the ...
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Aids and I are going to Hong Kong this October for our 5th anniversary (OMG 5 years?!) – it’ll be my 2nd trip (though the first time I went was way back in high school) and his first overseas trip ever. So yes, being the sort-of travel veteran compared to him, the trip planning was mostly done by me πŸ˜›

Some of the references I used:

“Hong Kong (Step by Step)” by Ruth Williams (Insight Guides)

Some of you may be asking “why buy a guidebook when everything is online for free?”. Three reasons: 1) I wanted something I could carry around, 2) this guide organized the interesting places into self-guided walking tours (I love walking tours – I try to walk everywhere whenever practical), and 3) this one includes a full-color map. I love maps. My sense of direction isn’t the greatest so having a map on-hand is important. Bonus: it has lots of pretty pictures that inspire me to take my own pretty pictures πŸ™‚

Airbnb.com

Hotels in Hong Kong are super expensive in October owing to the trade fairs that bring lots of people to town but we didn’t want to stay in a hostel either. (Hey, it’s our anniversary. We wanted something nicer than the standard hostel.) The answer – getting a room via Airbnb! I’ll post photos of the room we booked when we get back. Location’s great (right in the middle of Tsim Sha Tsui), free use of the Wi-Fi, linens, kitchen, and roof deck, and reasonably priced (US$85 per night plus Airbnb’s $34 processing fee).

Hong Kong International Airport’s transportation page

Everything to need to know on how to travel to/from the airport is right here πŸ˜€

MTR travel planner

Most places you’re likely to visit on a short trip to Hong Kong can be reached via MTR. This website calculates the fare and approximate travel time between stations. Tip: get an Octopus card. It’s a reloadable card that you can use to pay for the MTR, Star Ferry, public buses, groceries, and fast-food. Aside from the convenience, you get a discount on the MTR if you pay via Octopus card πŸ™‚ Mark P is lending us his Octopus cards while Jovan is lending us her HK SIM card. This reminds me: I must do a proper post on the “Brotherhood of the Traveling Octopus Cards”.

Whee I’m excited πŸ˜€ I’m even getting a new bag for the trip – will write about it soon. All I can say is that good things come to those who are persistent!