Spending Money in Hong Kong

March 6, 2012 § 2 Comments

There’s something about reading good blogging that inspires me to do some writing of my own. In this case, I recently spent some time perusing Manhattan Nest (as well as his BF’s blog), and I feel inclined to do some updating on my own life, if only so I can later reflect on my adventures in Hong Kong. (I’ve also changed my blog theme to improve readability!)

While abroad, I’ve kept stringent records of all my expenses, even purchases as small as 90¢ for a carton of soymilk at 7-11. As far as non-food purchases go, I’ve bought an assortment of things, some that were outlined in a previous post, and mostly beauty/skincare-related because now, at the ripe age of 22, I should probably start getting concerned with such things. So please join me on a little photo journey that will be split into a few different categories.

First up: Non-Food!

It was so chilly these past two months, so I was on the hunt for sweaters & cardigans. I found this one for less than $15US at Argyle, which is a mall stuffed with hundreds of small shops and hundreds of hundreds of small teenagers any given day. The tag said Zara, which caught my eye; it only came in one size, which was not labeled and looked tiny, but the fabric was comfy and it had little pastel rainbow buttons(!!!), so I couldn’t resist. At the moment, a seam is coming apart, splitting the end of the left sleeve like a snake’s tongue.

Probably a knock-off.

Before coming to Hong Kong, I ordered a universal adapter from Amazon because the plug on my travel hair dryer wouldn’t fit into the two HK-specific adapters I already had. Within a week of coming to Hong Kong, the thing stopped working. As you can see, the plastic had started melting or something…in any case, I had to buy a new adapter. This photo is technically not something I bought in HK (though it did force me to buy other things), but I wanted to show you how this piece of junk broke anyway.

The prongs won’t go fully in or out; they’re just stuck halfway (after I tried to shove them back in).

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January 24, 2012 § 3 Comments

I spent my first few days in Hong Kong stressing about how I was going to clean my clothes. Well, more specifically, how I was going to dry them. HK is one of quite a few places around the world where drying machines aren’t common home appliances. They do take up a lot of space and use quite a bit of electricity, and besides, who needs dryers when you have perfectly good windows to hang your wet laundry by?

This, my friends, was quite disconcerting for me. Never in my life have I had to do my own laundry without the use of a dryer. My history with laundry is short — I didn’t learn to do it until I graduated from high school. My parents, being the wonderful people they are, always did the laundry, and apart from being lazy, I was also rather intimidated by those mysterious machines. Pretty much the only chore I did around the house was manually washing the dishes because there’s really no way to screw that up [arguably]. But the washing machine had so many settings! Do something wrong and all the clothes could get ruined, or worse, I could end up breaking the machine and flooding the house! I probably sound like a total moron, but having a hypercritical mother does that to your self-esteem.

Anyway, when I studied abroad in HK before, our dorm had huge laundromat-style dryers. When I taught English in China during the following summer, one of the church’s prayer warrior ladies [truly a blessing] kindly did my laundry for me. And whenever we visit our relatives in China, there’s always somebody else who will take care of laundry for me. The thought of not having a dryer really flustered me.

Another thing that continues to perplex me is the mystery of my missing laundry bags. I distinctly recall packing my two pink laundry bags into the front pocket of one of my suitcases, but when I arrived in HK, they were gone. Their inexplicable disappearance is annoying because 1. who would steal laundry bags??? and 2. they were a gift from my mother [if you can call it a gift?], and I considered them her blessing to go out into the world and do my own laundry freely. And they were pink!!! Also, not having laundry bags means I can’t haul my stuff to the nearest laundromat.

In any case, I’ve been keeping my dirty laundry in the random Express shopping bag that I used to pack all my toiletries. This turned out to be an advantageous option because the tiny washing machine in the kitchen of this apartment can pretty much only hold the contents of a medium-sized shopping bag, about two pairs of pants, one sweater and some socks.

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Pork & Socks

January 20, 2012 § 10 Comments

Last Saturday, I was able to meet up with four former study abroad classmates from HKU + two other girls.

From left: Cathy, Winnie, me, Kathy, Christian, Danny

Cathy, originally from mainland China, is back in HK doing her Masters. Kathy, who graduated from Cornell, is working in Shanghai. Christian and Danny are both from Australia. Winnie, a friend of Danny’s, grew up in Hong Kong but now lives in Australia. The photographer was Yi, Danny’s cousin, who teaches at Hong Kong Baptist University (and apparently studied at Yale?? I only heard fractions of that conversation). Everyone except Cathy and Yi were only in HK on vacation and departed with the weekend.

Fun fact: Christian and Danny showed up wearing the exact same cardigan (unplanned). Which they had bought together at H&M (allegedly). From the back, they looked exactly the same that day (can you tell?). I mean, I thought it was pretty bad whenever LC and I happened to wear similar colors to church, but we never took it to their level! That’s true destiny ♥

We had lunch at some hole-in-the-wall place in Wan Chai known for their barbecue pork, which was indeed delicious.

Also known as “char siu”

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Settling In

January 19, 2012 § 2 Comments

After traveling for 24 hours.

My first day in Hong Kong was hectic and endless. The list of things to do:

1. Buy a SIM card for my phone
2. Open a bank account
3. Transfer money from U.S. to HK so I could withdraw it immediately
4. Exchange my USD and RMB
5. Buy some household items, like a pillow and a cup
6. Email my family & access some social networking so everybody knows I’m alive
7. Call my friend Kathy to meet for dinner
8. Shower & sleep

None of those tasks are particularly difficult, but I was a frazzled hot mess and don’t understand Cantonese, so it added a layer of complications.

After dropping off my luggage at the apartment, Bobby walked me to the nearby MTR (subway) station, showing me some shops along the way. I popped into a 7-11 to buy a SIM card (852.6702.6379 call me!) and boarded the MTR to Central, hoping to find a Citibank without too much trouble. Thankfully, I found one right outside the MTR exit I happened to choose, but there, my progress slowed to a dispirited halt.

I chose to go with Citibank because I have an account there in the U.S. (is this too much information to be revealing on the Internet??), so transferring money between the two accounts wouldn’t generate any fees. However, lately I had learned (through opening various new bank accounts at home) that banks basically hate people, especially non-rich people, and will do anything they can to squeeze money from even the most basic of checking accounts. I HATE BANKS.

Run…run from nefarious banking fees!

Citibank HK was no different. I couldn’t qualify for the waived-fee work-pay checking account (or whatever it was called) because I was only here for an internship and didn’t have my work contract with me, so I had to open a basic checking account, which has a $100HK monthly fee unless there’s a balance of $10,000HK in there (almost $1,300US). Well, great. I already have to keep $1,500 in my U.S. Citibank account; where am I supposed to magic this extra money from?? Whatever.

I spent 2.5 hours in that bank. One third of it was listening to my banker (a young man named Axel, as if he were a character from Cars) explain everything to me, another third was spent watching the poor guy run around trying to process my paperwork while I tried to process all the information I was receiving, and the last third was spent at one of the e-kiosks on the side, trying to activate my online accounts and do a global transfer. During the last part, I had to go back to Axel twice for help.

After that experience, I truly understood the value of just keeping all your money under your mattress. Besides, the debit card they gave me starts with “666”…if that’s not an authentic sign of banking evil, I don’t know what is!

I withdrew my funds, visited the currency exchange next door, and finally had enough money to pay Bobby the deposit + one month’s rent, which came out to a total of more than $900US. Damn. I never had to pay that much for an apartment during college. $465 a month could get me a pretty nice place back in Columbia!

Stopping by a Japan Home Centre on the way back, I discovered that pillows were outrageously expensive. Most cost around $100HK (a little less than $13US), and the cheapest one I found was $49HK — but it was an embroidered throw pillow. Like, one you would have on the couch. I was pretty sure that I had bought decent pillows at Wal-Mart for $5, so color me bamboozled. I ended up buying nothing and went home, exhausted and dejected.

Fortunately, the rest of the day went according to plan, and I was happy to be reunited with Kathy, whom I had met while studying abroad in 2010.

My friends have been asking me to post photos, but I haven’t been having that many adventures because I’m working full-time. Seriously, though, I took so many photos while I was studying abroad two years ago. You guys can creep through those while I work on my next blog post, which will definitely have pictures!

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