Anand Thakur (MBA 2011) and Sebastian Bujnoch (MBA 2007), two graduates of the Chinese University of Hong Kong(CUHK) give us a "from the horse's mouth" guide to life in Hong Kong.
From how to access healthcare to getting around town, to spots for romantic dates, to the best place to party like it's the end of the world, these guys have got the answers to these questions and many more covered.
Obviously they liked the city enough to stick around after their MBAs. Anand works for financial engineering software company FinIQ consulting and Germany-born Sebastian is a client liaison manager at design consultancy DETEKT.
On a scale of one to ten, Anand and Seb rate life in the Hong Kong an average of 11.5 so we can only presume that you'll want to know what makes Hong Kong such an awesome place!
How to access healthcare
Most of the universities have clinics but the cost of being hospitalized is quite high so it's better to be insured. As a student, Sebastian had access to the CUHK Medical Centre free of charge. He also guarantees us that “There are hundreds of doctors (Western and Chinese) all over Hong Kong and hospitals are at least as good as in Europe or the U.S., sometimes even better”, so no need to worry.
Where should you live? What are the safe districts and how much is rent?!
Crime is relatively low in the city and according to Seb, there are no guns at all so there is no unsafe zone.
For places to live, Anand advises considering your university location when deciding where to live. The average rent varies depending on how close you are to the centre of the city. Rents and property prices are ludicrously expensive in Hong Kong.
Seb currently lives in a 700sq feet flat in the north, next to the Chinese border and still pays around 700 Euros a month. The same flat on Hong Kong island would easily be 2,500 or 3,000 euros per month, he says. If you want to live on Hong Kong island be prepared to shell out at least 700 to 800 Euros for one room in a shared flat. Try to get a room in the university dorm - this is by far the cheapest option!
Best time of year
Despite having a sub-tropical climate, the city does have four distinct seasons and there is plenty of sunshine for most of the year. Seb says that Summer (July, August) is incredibly hot and humid: 33C at 98% humidity is no fun at all. If you want to visit, October, November and April thru June have milder temperatures.
He advises staying away during the "sourcing season" which is from mid April to mid May and mid October to mid November when dozens of trade shows are held in Hong Kong. The shows attract tens of thousands of buyers from all over the world leading to a tripling in hotel prices.
For Anand, winter is an especially memorable period. There is lot of fervor because of the English and Chinese new years. Chinese New Year in Hong Kong is the city's biggest celebration and there is plenty to celebrate with.
Nice places to go on dates
If you’re looking for the best places to take a special someone, you could head to Cafe Deco on the Peak. You have the best view over Victoria Harbour. Get a window seat but book well in advance! The food is fantastic!
You could take walks around some Islands such as Lama and Lantau and check out their local markets. There are a few beaches for boat trips which are quite popular among students.
If you’re feeling you could do with a getaway you can head out to Shenzhen, the city in Mainland China bordering Hong Kong. Most European passport holders (but not Americans) can get an on the spot visa for five days for Shenzhen only. That allows for a quick massage, shopping and eating getaway, if your MBA budget will allow it!
Across from the Lo Wu border crossing you find the ShangriLa Hotel. For 15 Euros per person you can fill yourself up with delicious dim sum, better than most HK restaurants. And for 40 Euros you can pamper yourself for three hours with massages. Seb warns that you should stay away from the places with girls in mini skirts though, these offer a 'special' kind of massage.
Most popping party spots
According to Seb, the to main party spots for foreigners are both on Hong Kong Island. Lan Kwai Fong, located just in Central, on a little street up the hill has bars and restaurants on either side. From English pubs, to German, Thai, Indian and Malay restaurants you can get anything you like. The place can get pretty packed on the weekends and rarely empties before 3am.
However because Lan Kwai Fong is in Central Hong Kong, the prices for drinks are dear. A pint or a bottle of beer goes for between six and seven euros. If you're a student go to the 7/11 convenience store. You get the same booze for a fraction of the price and since the place is so packed, you'll be standing out on the street most of the time anyway. In Lan Kwai Fong there are two 7/11s.
Wanchai is a mixture of red light district and bar area. According to Seb, there are three types of bar in this area, broken down as gfollows (MBAs can’t resist making bullet points!):
1) The "normal stuff- pub / sport bar / rock bar": Typhoon is good if you want to watch football, Mes Amis if you want to hang out with your mates, as the name suggests. If you're into live music head to From Dusk Till Dawn. Starting from 11pm they have fantastic Filipino cover bands singing everything from Queen to Lady Gaga. Don't go before 11pm as the place doesn't fill up before. If you're in Wanchai on a Friday head to Carnegie's, Spirit of Rock. From 7pm to midnight a bottle of Corona is just HKD 10 (1 Euro). A very economical way to get pissed. Wanchai has three 7/11s within 100m.
2) "Titty bars": “The titty bars are easily recognizable. There are usually a few pretty girls and the "mama san" (older and not so pretty) sitting out trying to attract potential customers (white, ugly, fat, drunk, lots of money) into their "bar". Don't even bother. They are overpriced and shows are lame.”
3) Nightclubs, aka "hooker pickup points": The "nightclubs" primarily function as a meat market. Meat on sale are young girls from Southeast Asia, the demand side are normally old, white guys with big bellies. It's fun to watch the old guys and young girls dancing (or what they refer to as dancing). It's not a place for girls though, customers are all male. Some of the bars, do feature really decent live music though.
Anand’s answer? Simply “LKF. No doubt.”
Anand recommends sui mai, fish balls and chicken wings while Seb says that Mong Kok has good street food such as meatballs, sausages, and squid.
How to get around
Public transportation is fantastic in Hong Kong. The underground (MTR) and buses get you anywhere. Be sure to buy an Octopus card (equivalent to the Oyster card in London), this card can also be used to pay for purchases in convenience stores. Don't use a bike, unless you live in the New Territories. Taxis are also plentiful and relatively inexpensive.
Historic locations to visit
Having existed for around 150 years, Hong Kong has less history than much older cities. You can head to Stanley, south of Hong Kong, which has a nice market and resembles an English seaside village.
To experience and learn more about Chinese religions and culture, head to the Temple of Wong Tai Sin and the Nunnery next to it. Attached to the nunnery is a beautiful Chinese garden. The MTR stations for these are "Wong Tai Sin" or "Diamond Hill".
Some historic locations in centre are the old Town Hall in Central Hong Kong located right in the middle of skyscrapers. There’s also a nice church if you walk through Hong Kong park.
Networking groups and societies to join
Every country has a Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong and they usually organise meet-ups or events every few weeks. Also there are usually active MBA clubs for almost anything you can think of on campus. The more the merrier!
Gyms and sport clubs
There are several chain gyms around the city. At CUHK there's a free gym next to the dorm. Seb currently uses "Physical Fitness" in Hong Kong,and the chain has around 16 branches in HK.. There's also "California Fitness" in Central. On top of that, there are government-owned swimming pools and gyms that are cheaper but not as well equipped compared to the private alternatives.
Any downsides to living in Hong Kong?
Seb thinks that property prices are sky high, it's too hot in the summer month - "without air con you'll die” - and the air quality is getting worse because of the number of old buses and lorries on the road.
Anand finds the houses to be quite small and the streets are usually packed with people during peak hours.
For slang terms you can visit www.cantonese.ca/swearing.php or www.cantonese.ca/slang.php That has it all!
Overall rating of life in Hong Kong
Seb: At least 15