Better late than never!
Let’s get straight to it…
I’ve just passed the three-week mark here Hong Kong and what a hectic three weeks they have been! If you’d have told me in advance about some of the situations I have been in so far I wouldn’t have believed it! And although I am absolutely loving my time here so far, my first couple of days in HK were eventful to say the least.
My first 48 hours in HK…
My Hong Kong adventure couldn’t have got off to a better start. On the long haul flight from London – HK I was lucky enough to have an empty seat next to me! This was fantastic for a number of reasons: Another seat to sprawl out on when trying to sleep, additional space to put hand luggage so I could stretch out my legs, and more importantly, an extra fold-out table to hold my continuous flow of free onboard beverages.
I began watching season 2 of The Missing (which I’ve recently finished and can confirm it’s worth watching), attempted to get some sleep, and began planning my arrival in HK with the help of my little Hong Kong travel guide.
Once I’d landed and got my bags, I made the decision to go against what people had told me to do and I got the bus to Tsim Sha Tsui instead of the Airport Express.
In TST, my £20 a night hostel was waiting and as far I knew it was going to be a cheap and cheerful place to stay for my first week whilst I found a more permanent place to live… Oh how I was wrong.
My hostel was on the 15th floor in a building called Chungking Mansions, on Nathan Road, TST. When entering the building I was pestered by numerous men trying to sell me their discounted SIM cards and knock-off handbags, which I didn’t want nor care about (especially when pulling around two heavy, over-packed suitcases after a 12hr flight). Trying to avoid being hassled by any more men, I dragged my suitcases along until I eventually found the lift that was well hidden among the flood of indoor market stalls.
As if having to go to the 15th floor crammed in a sweaty, grotty lift with two suitcases wasn’t bad enough, I had to do it whilst again being hounded by another man. This time, as I was trapped in a lift so I couldn’t walk away and instead had to try to avoid answering his questions such as what my name is, where I’m staying, what I’m doing here alone etc… If I wasn’t questioning my first impressions of HK before I definitely was now. GET ME IN MY ROOM!
The Canada Hotel.
The room I was given was directly behind the reception desk, so it was impossible to not hear people coming and going from the hostel. My room had tiled bedroom walls, just enough floor space to stand up, and a bed that was sandwiched in the narrow L-shaped room formed by an en-suite bathroom that had a shower head hung conveniently over the toilet… It’s not the Hilton but it will do the job!
After a quick shower and refresh, I forced myself through the pestering salesmen again, and left Chungking Mansions to meet up with my new boss, and a few others for food and drinks. I was delighted to be told by everyone I was meeting throughout the night that Chungking is known for being the centre of drugs, as well as a refuge for petty criminals, scammers, and undocumented immigrants (like I’d not already gathered it was a bit dodgy). If only I’d have known about the reputation of Chungking Mansions, or at least done a bit more research before I decided to stay there!
When I couldn’t fight off the jet lag any longer, I made my way ‘home’ on the MTR and called it a night.
First Night Check List:
- Dodgy encounters with foreign men ✓
- Fought the jet lag and went out and met with new people ✓
- Used the MTR alone and got back to my room in Chungking without getting lost or abducted ✓
My First Full Day!
I woke up pretty early, full of excitement to get out and about around Hong Kong. It was a very cloudy day but I still managed to get a good first look at the island skyline, and it sure did live up to the expectations I’d formed from looking at photos online before I got here.
I used the Star Ferry to get across Victoria Harbour from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island and from the boat I got an even better view of the buildings. After a wonder in the IFC shopping mall I managed to find the escalator and hopped on heading towards the Mid-Levels. The escalator was brilliant as I was far too hot walking uphill wearing jeans and a t-shirt (the locals were wearing coats and scarfs).
I hoped my first lunch in HK would have been more adventurous but I panicked when I saw an M&S food shop whilst on the escalator and I couldn’t resist the convenience of just picking up a pre-packed meal to go! So I grabbed a teriyaki chicken rice pot thing and jumped back on the escalator towards Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens.
When I eventually got to the gardens I found a bench next to the monkeys and sat and ate my M&S teriyaki chicken my own, watching them play on the ropes… I could say that the experience was very sad and lonely but in all honesty it was great. It’s not everyday you can find yourself surrounded by lovely plants and animals in a new exciting country that’s going to be home for the next six months. It was the first time I could really absorb the fact I was officially here and my HK adventure had begun.
I had a busy but lovely day (in comparison to the events of yesterday), filled with a lot of walking, a lot of photographing (really adopting the stereotypical touristic ways) and a lot of relying on google maps, until I eventually headed back to the dreaded Chungking Mansions.
My Last Night in Chungking Mansions!
It wouldn’t be a normal entrance to the building of Chungking if I didn’t engage in conversation with at least one dodgy bloke.. I’d made myself aware of this now and I was prepared.
What I wasn’t ready for however was for another in-lift situation, this time with a really tall Nigerian man, late 20s maybe early 30s. He insisted in me telling him everything about myself (just like the guy from the night before) however this time the man wasn’t taking no for an answer. When the lift arrived at my floor and I got out, he got out too. He followed me towards the entrance of my hostel (I really didn’t want him knowing where I was staying because he knew I was obviously out here on my own)… He carried on demanding me to give him my number/WhatsApp and I kept using the excuse that I didn’t yet have a working SIM card (lie). Finally after a few more made up reasons why he couldn’t take my number, he got back in the lift. I couldn’t wait to get back into my room, lock the door and have a chilled early night.
I got back to into my room about 5pm (I wanted to get back and have a good nights sleep ready for my first day at work on Monday morning), had a nice shower (as nice as it can be holding a shower head over the toilet) and climbed into bed. I watched The Voice on ITV catch up and caught up with my mum on the phone.
As bad as it seemed when I first arrived, I was a lot more content with my room as I got ready to go to sleep for the second time in The Canada Hotel. I was just glad to have a room I could lock myself away in, and have a bed to sleep in and somewhere to get a shower, and I felt ok at the thought of spending my week there as once I was in my room, it was fine… But then surprise surprise that mindset soon came to an end.
It was between 9:30 – 10pm and I was almost asleep. My laptop was away, the lights were off, and the aircon was on (full blast). I was half asleep when I heard what sounded like someone using a key on my door trying to get in. Before I could gather what was happening, the man from reception let himself into my room and opened my door wide open (remember that I am practically 2 feet behind the reception deck of the hostel, laid there in my bed). Both scared and shocked that someone had entered my room, I sat up and the man backed away realising I was there and shut the door.
There were many questions I asked myself after that:
- Why was he entering my room in the first place?
- Why would they go into my room at almost 10pm at night?
- What would have happened if I wasn’t there?
- Would someone have gone into my room to look through my things?
- How could they not know I’m in the room as I had to walk behind the reception desk to get into my room?
- How could they not know I was there as I should also be in ‘their guest book’ as checked in on Saturday?
- Why did he have/use a key to get into my room?
- What is the point of having a private room if the staff are going to let themselves in whenever they please?
- WHAT IF I HAD BEEN NAKED?
It was taking a while for me to sleep after that as all those questions were continuously running through my mind. I’m a very independent person and I don’t actually get scared often as I like to think I can hold my own, but when I hadn’t even been in the country 48 hours yet, and my ‘safe’ room didn’t seem that safe anymore, it didn’t take much that night to put me on edge.
After another phone call with my mum I finally went to sleep, not knowing that the night would be my last night in Chungking Mansions.
My first day at work was great, didn’t get lost, got to the studio on time, went to a local Thai restaurant for lunch and didn’t cave under pressure whilst using chopsticks among the experts, and met all my lovely colleagues.
As I saw James (my boss) on Saturday night he was already aware of my intense encounters from that afternoon and wasn’t surprised by what I had told him. However when he was updated on Sunday night’s antics and I told him about the guy following me out the lift and the receptionist letting himself into my room, he wasn’t too impressed.
Once the work day was over James and I headed back to Chungking Mansions to pack up my belongings as the company had kindly offered to pay for me to move into a different hotel for the rest of the week. The new hotel was on Hong Kong Island (where I was planning to look for my permanent accommodation) which meant I could get a feel for the area and stay in a more comfortable and safer place whilst I settled into the new routine.
We got to my room and luckily because the room was so small, I hadn’t even unpacked so it was pretty easy to gather all my things together in a hurry.
James was adamant that I was going to be refunded for the rest of the week, as I had paid for the week upfront, and because I was leaving due to not feeling safe in the room. James explained this to the man at reception (who I recognised because it was him who had let himself into my room the night before).
Things escalated. VERY QUICKLY…
After James had argued my side of the story, the receptionist was having non of it. He accused me of lying and making the whole thing up, refused to give me any form of refund, and soon starting threatening to push James out of the door of the hostel (whilst all this was happening I sat on a bench with my suitcases by my side and clutched onto my travel pillow.. Not really a great back up for James).
As the man and the whole situation was becoming very heated James threatened to call the police to help get the whole thing resolved without things getting too out of control. The man continued to confront James so the police were called and they were on their way.
By the time the police had got to the hostel we had been forced out into the corridor. James had also had a nice conversation on the guys phone to the so called ‘manager’ who threatened to come down to the hostel to “fuck James right up”. Also, the defensive and aggressive guy from reception had admitted that he was the one that came into my room… Conveniently this happened before the police arrived.
As expected the police couldn’t do anything other than ensure nothing kicked off. By this point a little crowd of other hostel owners and staff had formed in the corridor of floor 15, so I was happy that the police were there as it seemed like everyone stuck together. They took my passport details, jotted down a brief summary of the situation and escorted us down and out of the building.
We jumped on the MTR to Causeway Bay and then caught a taxi to the hotel.
As you can see, there wasn’t anything to complain about getting this hotel for the rest of the week. I couldn’t be more grateful to Innermost for looking after me and helping me out.
So it’s the beginning of week four now and I have been living in a flat in Wan Chai for two weeks now. I live with another girl from the UK who is a knitwear designer, and another girl from Singapore who works for a newspaper. The flat is great, I’m in a great location, and I am so excited for the next few months living in Hong Kong.