Wednesday, April 30, 2014

New Year, New Home part 6

What I like most about the new apartment is the kitchen. Most Hong Kong apartments have no kitchens. They all claim to have a kitchen, but a sink against a wall isn’t my idea of a kitchen. The new expensive luxury apartments all have kitchens, but they’re also ridiculously overpriced. People in Hong Kong are more than happy to pay way too much for something if it gives them a sense of status. If a building is famous or it’s in the neighborhood that’s fashionable this week, they’re more than willing to pay twice as much as it’s worth. We found a few reasonably priced apartments with kitchens, but most were smaller than this one.

What Lily likes most about the new apartment is the gym. Newer apartments all seem to have gyms. Most of the older apartments don’t. I don’t know when they started putting gyms in Hong Kong apartments, but you can always tell when an apartment was built by the gym. The gym in our apartment is decent. It’s not like a club that you’d join, but for something that’s just downstairs, it’s pretty good. I’m not sure how much I’ll use it, but it’s a nice option to have.

What Kevin likes most about the new apartment is the balcony. Most apartments in Hong Kong have balconies, but they’re usually very small. They all seem to have tiny laundry balconies that are just big enough for a washing machine and a little bit of space to hang your clothes out to dry. Our apartment has that, but it also has a real balcony outside the living room. It was the biggest balcony we saw in our entire apartment search. Even the new luxury apartments had smaller balconies – some didn’t even have any at all.

There was a building overlooking the harbor that had great views of the Hong Kong side, but they didn’t have any balconies. That seemed strange to me. They build something with this great view but don’t take advantage of it.

I don’t know how much time Kevin – or any of us – will spend on that balcony, but it’s nice to have. My old apartment only had the tiny laundry balcony which only had a view of the building next door. We can see plenty of other buildings from this one, but we can also see the harbor. Looking out the window and seeing water is a nice change of pace. Seeing anything besides other buildings is a luxury in Hong Kong.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Paperback Writer part 2

Hailey’s Bali Diary is now in paperback. As usual, if you buy the paperback, you can get the e-book for free. The price will probably change all the time. Nudist Cruise seems to have a new price every day. I don’t have any control over that.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

New Year, New Home part 5

Moving is a pain in the butt. I like to think that I don’t have a lot of stuff, but when you move you find out just how much you have. I definitely have less stuff in Hong Kong than I did in Minnesota, but it’s still too much.

I came to Hong Kong with a suitcase and a backpack. If I knew then what I know now, I would have brought less. Most of the clothes I brought were completely inappropriate for Hong Kong. I even brought a big winter coat. That just seems ridiculous to me now. Most of the clothes I wear now are from Hong Kong anyway.

Lily & Kevin came to Hong Kong with 3 or 4 suitcases, 2 carry-ons and backpacks & bags. Like a lot of expats, they brought everything they thought they’d need. Like most expats, they found that they didn’t need most of it and ended up buying the things they needed here. Now they have a crazy amount of stuff. Every time I take a trip out of Hong Kong I bring back souvenirs and gifts for other people. Every time they go out of Hong Kong they bring back gifts for others and souvenirs for themselves. They have boxes full of trinkets from their travels.

We also had to move Ryan’s stuff. He didn’t bring nearly as much to Hong Kong as Lily & Kevin, but he’s bought more here than I have. He left most of his stuff here when he went to Fuzhou because he never knew how long that would last. He’s been there for almost 2 years now, but he still sees it as temporary. Now he’s buying more stuff there.

We decided to go through each other’s stuff and throw away whatever we didn’t think was necessary, but that didn’t work out. If I suggested throwing out Kevin’s golf clubs and all the junk that goes with them – balls, tees, gloves and a bunch of other stuff – he said he might start playing golf again. He hasn’t played in all the time he’s been in Hong Kong. I think he should at least sell them to someone who might actually use them.

Kevin wanted to throw out Lily’s CD collection. She has literally thousands of CDs. We couldn’t even count how many she has. It’s just endless boxes and boxes full of CDs. Obviously, music is good and nobody suggests she do without it, but all of the songs on all of those CDs can be put on her computer. It would probably take an extra hard drive, but at least that hard drive would be a lot easier to carry.

Lily wanted the throw out most of my Disney stuff. When you work at Disneyland you get a pretty good discount and I went a little overboard when I started working there. Kevin thinks it’s all junk and Lily’s not impressed by things she sees every day at work, but I think some of it is cute. I’m not going to work at Disneyland forever and someday I’ll want some of this stuff when I look back on this time. People are always saying they wish they still had Disney things from 20 or 30 years ago that Disney doesn’t make anymore. Maybe I’ll feel the same way in 20 or 30 years.

In the end, Lily got rid of a few boxes. She kept all of her CDs, but she threw out a lot of clothes. Kevin kept his golf clubs but threw out maybe 10% of his stuff. I threw out some Disney stuff, a lot of clothes and all kinds of junk that I never use. I probably tossed 25% of my stuff.

Monday, April 21, 2014

New Year, New Home part 4

We finally moved to a new apartment. We looked at so many different places that now I can’t even remember what any of them looked like. Each one could be classified into 2 different styles. Every apartment in each style was just like all the others. There were always minor differences here and there, but it almost looked like they were all made by the same company. Maybe that’s how buildings can go up so quickly in Hong Kong. They all follow the same blueprint.

The hardest part about picking an apartment wasn’t what it looked like. It was finding one that we could all agree on. We didn’t want to vote and let the majority rule. We wanted it to be unanimous. If we took an apartment that one of us didn’t like, there would only be problems later. Since we all agreed on this apartment, hopefully we’ll stay here longer.

The second hardest part was location. Lily & I work at the same place, but Kevin works on the other side of town. Most expats – and most of the better apartments – are on Kevin’s side of town. Living there would only make it harder for Lily & I to get to work. It wouldn’t really be hard – we’d still take the MTR. It would just take longer.

I don’t want to live around a bunch of expats anyway. What’s the point of living in a foreign country if you’re only surrounding yourself with other foreigners? I already work with a bunch of foreigners and I’m sharing an apartment with 2 foreigners. The last thing I want is to live in some gated foreigner community or exclusive building. I want as many Chinese neighbors as possible. I want to go outside and be in a Chinese neighborhood.

The third hardest part was the price. Kevin makes more money than Lily & I combined. We agreed right from the beginning that we’d all pay an equal third of the rent. This meant that it had to be based on Lily & my salary, not on Kevin’s. Finding a cheap apartment in Hong Kong is easy. There are a lot of dumps out there. We wanted something nicer. With 3 people we could still afford something better, but we had to ignore some very nice places. There are a lot of cheap run-down apartments in Hong Kong, but there are also a lot of very nice luxury apartments. We limited our search to something in between.

Eventually we found a place in our price range that was more or less half way between our jobs. It’s actually closer to Kevin’s job, but it has a free shuttle to an MTR station that goes almost directly to our job. That was the clincher for us. We were trying to decide between this apartment and another one that we all liked when we found out about the shuttle. We can always walk to the nearest MTR station, but then we have to transfer to the line that the shuttle goes to. That shuttle just makes our lives easier.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Vacation to Somewhere part 2

Our short list is Amsterdam/Alkmaar, Scotland, Bangkok/Chiang Mai, Bali, Israel/Jordan. There are pros and cons of each.

The only downside to Amsterdam is that Ryan & I have been there, but we both liked it and we don’t mind going back. I really want to check out the cheese in Alkmaar, which is just outside Amsterdam. Lily wants to rent a houseboat, but I think if we go there we’ll just get nice hotel rooms or a suite.

Scotland is mostly my choice. My family was originally from Scotland and I know everything about our family tree – I’ve just never seen any of the places I’ve heard about. Kevin is a little interested in Scotland, but nobody else really cares. So we probably won’t go there. If we do, there’s a castle we can stay in.

Ryan & I have been to Bangkok and Kevin wants to go to Chiang Mai. If we do this one, we’ll fly into Bangkok, stay there for a few days and then go to Chiang Mai. I think this could be a pretty good trip, but going from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and then back to Bangkok might be a hassle. There are flights from Hong Kong to Chiang Mai, but far more options to Bangkok.

Lily really wants to go to Bali. A lot of people seem to want to go there now and of course she heard all about our trip. One of the great things about Bali is that with 4 people we could get a very nice 5 star villa. I’d also like to see more of the island since we didn’t see much of it the first time.

I’d love to go to Israel and/or Jordan, but Ryan and Kevin have opposite opinions on all the political issues. I don’t care about any of that. I want to see the history, meet the people and eat the food. Lily thinks if we go there then we should spend equal time in each country. That way Ryan and Kevin can have equal time. That sounds fair, but I have no idea where to go in Jordan outside of the most obvious places. I also don’t know anything about hotels in Jordan – but I can figure it out. In Israel, I know that we can rent a house. I’d rather stay in a nice house than a hotel.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Vacation to Somewhere

Lily, Ryan, Kevin and I have decided that we should all take a vacation together. One of the major benefits to all of us going together is that we can afford a better place to stay. When Ryan & I go somewhere we don’t splurge that often when it comes to hotels. The villa in Bali was very affordable, the cruise was practically free, we chose smaller boutique hotels in Europe and we almost never go for anything expensive in China. Lily & Kevin are pretty much the same – and they stay with family whenever they go back to Canada. With all 4 of us we can aim a little higher.

We don’t know where we’re going, but we know it will be in August. That’s the only time all of us can take time off all at the same time. August isn’t the best time of the year to go on vacation – especially since most of the world is hotter than usual and a lot of other people are also on vacation – but that’s when it’s going to be. Hong Kong is hot and very humid in August, so I’m sure it won’t be too difficult to adjust to the heat & humidity of wherever we go.

Right now we’re trying to decide where to go. I’m open to pretty much anywhere that doesn’t treat women like property. Ryan wants to get out of Asia, but will settle for getting away from China or anything Chinese. So Singapore or any place with a large Chinese influence is out. Lily wants to stay away from war zones. Kevin prefers somewhere with exotic food. That could be almost anywhere, except Canada and the United States. That’s not exotic to any of us.

Usually whenever I go somewhere, I have very little time to plan anything. All of my trips since I’ve lived in Hong Kong seem like they’ve been at the last minute. This time there’s plenty of time to pick a good place and get everything right. We should have more than enough time to get visas if we need them and find a nice place to stay.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Ryan in the Rain

The timing of Ryan’s trip to Hong Kong was pretty good. There was a big hail storm while he was here, but he got here before it all started and left after it was over. The hail storm delayed a lot of flights, but he didn’t have to deal with any of that.

There are a lot of times when you have to plan your air travel carefully around here. During Chinese New Year everything is just insanely crowded and expensive. I would avoid the airport as much as possible that entire month. During the summer you have to consider the rain. Most days it’s just rainy, but sometimes it rains enough to affect flights. During typhoon season you have to think about typhoons. They give you plenty of warning before they hit – and they rarely hit Hong Kong – but if you plan a flight a week or more in advance, you can easily get stuck because of a typhoon. Now we have hail storms wreaking havoc at the airport when it should be perfectly safe to travel.

I still live in my tiny apartment, so we stayed at a hotel while Ryan was here. I picked the Regal Kowloon on Mody Rd. between Tsim Sha Tsui & Hung Hom. It’s a little expensive, but definitely worth every penny. This is a nice hotel in an area full of nice hotels. It’s not very close to any MTR stations, but that also means it’s not as close to all the crowded tourists spots. This is the kind of neighborhood where you can go out and walk around without walking through a million other people. But it’s not in the middle of nowhere. It’s a block from Salisbury Rd. and the beginning of the Promenade.

There’s another hotel between the Regal and Victoria Harbour, but they’re not right on top of each other, so a lot of rooms have views of the harbor. Even if you don’t have a view, it’s a block away. The hotel is also very close to the Hong Kong Museum of History and the Science Museum.

A lot of hotels don’t have any outlets to plug anything in unless you unplug one of their lamps. This hotel had plenty of open plugs on the walls that were easy to get to and readily available. I don’t know why all hotels don’t do this. I don’t have a bunch of smart phones and ipads and tablets, but most people have things they need to charge. Usually when I stay at a hotel outside of Hong Kong I have a cellphone and camera to charge.

With the hailstorm, we spent most of our time in the hotel. The easiest things to walk to are the Promenade and Avenue of Stars. We’ve seen all that a million times. Even in perfect weather we wouldn’t have gone there. This was a good hotel to spend more time in. Some hotels are good for sleeping and little else. I wouldn’t recommend that anyone who comes to Hong Kong just stay in their hotel all day, but if you’re going to, this is a pretty good place to do it.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Rainy Day

It’s been raining a little in Hong Kong. That’s nothing new. Hong Kong has somewhere around 150 rainy days every year. May to September are especially wet months. We get more rain in June than October through April combined.

What’s different is the hail. That’s not something Hong Kong sees with any amount of regularity. There have been less than 30 hail storms in the last 50 years.

This weekend’s hail storm freaked a lot of people out. It’s been a colder than usual winter – at least cold by Hong Kong standards – with some unusually hot days in between. Now we can add hail to the list. Fortune tellers are predicting a turbulent year of the horse.

The hail didn’t affect me at all. I was mostly indoors this weekend. It did some serious damage to one of the malls close to my apartment, but this is Hong Kong. There are always a hundred other malls within walking distance.