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What I did in Hong Kong last week

  1. #1
    ausnyc is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Pokfulam, Hong Kong

    What I did in Hong Kong last week

    Hello there,

    I thought that I would provide some thoughts on looking for housing in HK last week.

    We are moving to Hong Kong from New York at the end of March and were in Hong Kong last week scoping out housing and schools.

    I have 2 children, 3.5 yrs and a 3 mth old, so this move is going to be painful. I am currently in a house that seems schizophrenic - things that CAN go to Hong Kong, things that have to stay in storage, things that have to be donated or trashed.

    So here's a brief summary of places, schools and my thoughts on them (from the perspective of a mom of 2 kids who now has to stay at home in Hong Kong).

    1. Baby daycares don't seem to exist in Hong Kong. In fact, until a child is 2 yrs, supervision is necessary for childcare programs. Puts my going back to work plans out a little further

    2. Schools we visited have strict hygiene practices, which is comforting. One does have to get used to the smell of disinfectant for sure! Bilingual offerings range from daily to twice a week, and these tend to be in high demand.

    3. Accommodation is indeed small. We expected to not be that surprised having lived in New York City apartments, but we certainly were. The bedrooms were the ones that threw us off. I have learned the concepts of "efficiency ratio" and that a room that can fit a king size bed ofter means a Hong Kong-sized king size bed, which according to the realtor is about 6 feet in length (or thereabouts).

    4. Buildings that I visited based on our requirements of 3 bed, short (<25 min) commute to Central, and need for amenities were:

    * The Belchers - I wanted to love the apartments here for its convenience. Supermarket and schools right on premise and a very short commute to Central and a strong Hong Kong local flavor. Alas, 2 of the 3 apartments that I saw had a serious case of mold that was pervasive through the apartment ceiling and walls. I do believe someone on the forum had posted about this before. I could not believe how widespread it was through the apartment. In my opinion, the problem is far deeper than the solution of repainting. With 2 very young kids, I definitely had to say no to these apartments.

    * The Sail at Victoria - These were brand new apartments that were pretty, bright, reasonably sized rooms and had great views and just up the street from Kennedy Town commerce. There seems to be a cargo company at the base of the building (bottom of the hill) so lots of trucking and moving activity. Can't speak to whether noise would be an issue. The amenities were a little lacking for what I was looking for. A very small (but beautiful) pool for the whole building. The decks were nice, but again, small. I think this building would be ideal if I did not have kids. Playground was tiny - no slide, just one of those rocker thingabobs.

    * Bel-Air on The Peak - There have been many postings about this development on the forums (thanks to all) so I was somewhat prepared for what I saw. Apartment bedrooms are small. I think for the smallest bedroom, after fitting a crib and changing table, it will be a tight fit. Having said that, the open views are valuable in stretching the eye out which will make the apartment seem bigger (something I learnt living in NYC apartments). In addition, the amenities are such a value-add! I am nervous about being a stay-at-home mom and need all the help I can find with respect to activities. Having also seen the community of kids playing after school on the grounds also means that friends will be easily made.

    So, we decided on Bel-Air, however, have become victims of what I understand to be typical HK landlord behavior in recent flush times. Having put in an offer to rent at the asking price, the landlord has come back with an increase in rent. So we are playing the waiting game. I had hoped to secure accommodation before the move, so that I could move directly into the apartment (I hate moving), but I will settle for temporary accommodation instead.

    Other thoughts:
    Having seen apartments in Hong Kong has changed my moving plan. We have had to cull more things from the move to Hong Kong in favor of "Hong Kong sized" furniture in an effort to reclaim square footage. I would appreciate any suggestions on where I can get furniture (second-hand or otherwise), and/or recommendations on companies that can custom-make furniture. I looked into a couple in Wanchai, but they seem to base their pricing from Pottery Barn catalogues (pre-Recession), which is ridiculous. I don't know whether ShenZhen will be an option on account of kids tying me down in the first couple of months.

    So many thanks to all who have contributed their thoughts on this forum in the past- it has been a great help. I hope my post will be helpful for those in my position (a newcomer planning a move).

    My other questions are:

    1. Is there a Target equivalent in Hong Kong where I can get everything I can possibly need at a reasonable price and under one roof? e.g. kids clothes, baby supplies, household goods, toiletries, etc.

    2. Does anyone have recommendations on baby formula? My 3 mth old now subsists on Similac and I saw it available only in 1 supermarket and it of course was the priciest of the lot. Can I buy it in bulk? Same goes for diapers.

    3. If you know of any helper who is experienced in taking care of 2 kids, newborn and up, please let me know. (Haha - I had to throw this in!)

  2. #2
    southside852 is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    1. No, there is no equivalent of Target here, you would most likely just go to a big department store like Sogo, Wing On.

    2. I would ship all your formula over from NYC if you can. Call Bumps to Babes to see if they carry what you use with your baby.

  3. #3
    Gataloca's Avatar
    Gataloca is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    If you want to buy items in bulk, you may try going to Gateway (located next to Seung Wan MTR station). It is like a smaller version of Costcos or B.J..... I don't know if it would be cheaper to buy diapers there or in local pharmacy though.

  4. #4
    LeahH is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Hong Kong, Mid Levels
    Re. accomodation, as a backup and depending on your budget - you could look at other developments in Pokfulam as this is where your search has been centred. Scenic Villa, Bagio Villa, Victoria Garden etc. Older style buildings that still have facilities, but more sqm for the $.

    1. Going to back work is MUCH easier in HK than other countries. A good helper/s will enable to you work part or full time, with quality day care in your own home that you have complete control of. Combine that with school for your older child and some accompanied baby classes for your little one.

    Gateway for bulk buying (paradise for my American friends!) but I buy a lot of stuff at local pharmacies - diapers etc. It's quite fun to go to various different places to get thing (e.g. stanley or smaller little boutiques in Wanchai for kids clothes)

    You may not have a lot of room for storing bulk purchases though....

  5. #5
    Sleuth is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Fo Tan
    2. I have never seen formula in bulk. We make sure we always have a second can because sometimes there is a run on the stuff (like when they give away free tissues with the purchase or when the mainland has yet another tainted milk scandal). Whatever you were using in the US is probably here, but it is going to be more expensive.
    A cheap diaper alternative is to use the Toys-r-Us brand.

  6. #6
    cesh is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Hong Kong
    Hi Ausnyc. We're actually doing the opposite to you - moving to NY form Hong Kong in April.
    We live at Scenic Villas in Pokfulam and LOVE it. Depending on your budget it's a fantastic place to consider. An older development (about 26 years I think), it has good facilities and the effieciency is great. When we come back to HK in a couple of years I'm hoping to be living here again.

    Anyway, about your questions;
    1. While there's not one great store to geteverything, I would suggest checking out a couple of places like Gateway, Wing On for basic baby stiuff and normal household items and Eugene Club for baby items. International/ American brands of nappies etc are available from the supermarkets and drugstores as well.

    2. My daughter has been on Similac until recently and the Similac here is imported directly from the US, just labelled with Chinese writing as well. It is in most supermarkets (I've bought it at Taste, ParknShop, Wellcome and Marketplace) as well as often in Mannings drugstores. Prices can vary slightly but it's definitely not the most expensive. At my local supermarket it's priced between S-26 and Enfamil.

    3. I don't have any helper reccommendations I'm afraid - never had one.

    Good luck and I hope you enoy your time in Hong Kong. I'm going to miss it.

  7. #7
    ausnyc is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Pokfulam, Hong Kong
    Thank you all for your responses - it's been 4 weeks, and we are now in Hong Kong (finally). For a while, it seemed like the move just wouldn't end! I am now getting excited about living in Hong Kong as my brain is finally catching up with me!

    Now, on to a search for our new home and playdates for my 3 yr old daughter before school starts in May!

  8. #8
    Obiwan is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Hong Kong
    Ausnyc, did you check out Kowloon West? This is just above the Kowloon Station, one MTR stop from Central (IFC). Much closer to Central than Pok Fu Lam and I dare say Mid-levels, having lived in both areas.

    The developments here are new-ish (Harbourview, The Arch, Cullinan, Sorrento, Waterfront). The mall here (Elements) is large and baby friendly. There is a large playground here, in addition to club house facilities in every development I mentioned above. The area is pretty planned (if you like that) with nice outdoor area, and little traffic.

    Worth checking out if you are still house hunting! Welcome to HK.

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