Saturday, 6 February 2016

Our second home

On Thursday we moved from Mid Levels, expat playground, to Fortress Hill, a much more Chinese part of town. When I say 'we', I actually mean Wilko, as he moved our stuff while I was at work. And got me flowers. I knew I married a good egg.  

Our new shoebox has a comfy couch and a great bed so we're happy. Shame I can no longer walk to work though, that was nice while it lasted. Seeing the tai chi in the park was a very calming start of the day. 

Our new (temporary) apartment building is right opposite the tube station and in the middle of a gazillion restaurants. We had dim sum yesterday and some famous noodles for lunch today, followed by a local delicacy: egg waffle. We just followed our nose and according to several locals it was the best place in the area to have these. They were absolutely delicious.

Our apartment hunting is going so so. The view in the previous post won't be ours, as our offer was overbid by a massive HK$4000 a month, (about €480). We also made offers for two of the lower floors but those landlords don't want to get back to us until after Chinese New Year.  Patience is required.... The whole process is pretty interesting here. You offer a package of rent, rent-free period (1-2 weeks is not uncommon), start date and anything you'd like thrown in (like curtains) and then the agent negotiates with the landlord, often through another agent representing said landlord. Hopefully we're just a few negotiations away from signing a contract. And we have some time as our container is only somewhere between Egypt and Singapore.

Other than eating, we spent a fair bit of time getting organised: opening a bank account (a bureaucratic affair and the only reason I now have one is that I have a UK driver's license that has an address on it, albeit one I haven't lived at for 4.5 years), getting a phone contract, and applying for my Hong Kong ID (needed to apply for W's dependant visa, get my phone deposit back and many other things). In a country where everybloodyone is constantly staring at their mobile phones it's pretty shocking how undeveloped things are when it comes to organising things online. To give an example: my payroll account comes with a sort of savings account and online banking. However, the first time I want to transfer money to my savings account, I have to go into their offices. I also noticed many ATMs offer the option to do money transfers.  There's an app for that people!

Ah well. I could do with some patience, and this is a good place to work on that. For now, I'll enjoy my five day sunny weekend.  Kung Hei Fat Choy!

Tuesday, 26 January 2016


So. Hong Kong. The big move.  Been wanting to (some time) move here for years and now that it finally happened I spent my first day thinking 'Aaaargh... Someone please remind me why I wanted this?!'  But luckily that was mainly my lack of sleep talking. We're now on day five and I am truly happy the man and I decided to come here.

First of all: it's cold. We had to ask reception for a heater. Apparently Sunday was the coldest day in 59 years. And we're kinda lucky: in other parts of Asia things were much worse. Tomorrow should be better and I am looking forward to not having to shiver in my summer coat.

Second: food. So many options here. We had fantastic fried rice at a very random restaurant in Kowloon, stumbled upon a roast goose resto that happened to have a Michelin star (sharing tables, food served within five minutes and main under a tenner, not your average 1* restaurant) and had some fantastic sushi. The choices are endless and I can't wait to further explore all HK has to offer food wise.

Then of course we need a roof over our head. We're currently staying at 2 MacDonnell Road, a serviced apartment in the Mid Levels. Thanks to an upgrade we have 60sqm which is pretty big for local standards. In a week we have to pay for accommodation ourselves and we'll move to a serviced apartment in Fortress Hill, an area a bit east of the center. We'll swap the big rooms for a 40sqm apartment and the amazing view of the island's sky scrapers for a wee bit of harbour but we'l be in a much livelier neighbourhood and the apartment itself is very nice. Plus it has a rooftop terrace that all the residents can use. Nice!

Most of our days so far were spent apartment hunting. The sister in law of a friend of mine is a HK estate agent and she's awesome. She showed us loads of different places in different areas and also suggested we'd try Kowloon when we had asked her to find us something on the island. And though we will still view two more apartments on the island, we really liked the southern bit of Kowloon, TST (or Tsim Sha Tsui). More Chinese, cheaper and some great condos. We might just end up with a very decent sized apartment with a gym and infinity pool on the premises and view of the harbour. Not too shabby!

And finally: I've never seen so many people look at their phones when walking. Pretty annoying as they really really really slow down and Chinese aren't the fastest walkers to begin with. So when I was looking at google maps while walking, I made sure to keep my pace. Which I did. Just straight into a pole. Ouch. My arm is still blue. The locals might have a point....

Monday, 28 May 2012

A week in Sing

Even before one of my best friends had moved to Singapore, I'd already booked a flight to visit her and her family. So last week was spent in hot and humid Singapore, pretty much just when summer decided to show its face in the Netherlands as well.  Having caught sinusitus pretty much on the way to Sing, it turned out a very quiet week. Still, I had a lovely time seeing E, getting to know her kids better, and catching up with a few colleagues. I lost most but not all of my appetite, so still managed to eat some of the great food the city has to offer. Next stop: Vienna, in two weeks time.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Travel bug

After my hols down under it took me a while to get back into the swing of things in the Dam. But I think I got there. Spring so helps. My balcony is full of flowering plants. When I work from home, I can do so with the balcony doors wide open, surrounded by flowers. And my travel bug is back well and truly.

In the past week I booked a ticket to visit my friend Marianna in Vienna, and another one to visit my friend Lira in Boston and a bunch of Dutch, British, American, French and Australian friends in New York. This on top of the ticket to visit a friend in Singapore I booked last month. plans till end of September sorted. Although I might sneak in a trip to London soon as well.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Beautiful Amsterdam. After a tough week at work, I was so happy to go out and play on Saturday! Blue sky, not too cold, and a beautiful walk on the canals. First time I could do so since I moved to the Dam in '98. Loved how so many Dammers decided to sell mulled wine and hot choc in their stalls on the canal. One of those perfect days when everybody seems happy.
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Thursday, 9 February 2012


My cunning plan didn't quite come together.... Rather than skipping the winter, I skipped some weird extended autumn. The past week it's been minus something, with a max of minus 18 one night last week.

And I love it! It's white everywhere, it's properly cold and it's been sunny most days. People are ice skating on the Amsterdam canals, which I don't recall having seen before in the 10 years I've lived there. In Leiden some cafe had even put some tables and chairs on a frozen canal: al fresco hot chocolate! Now all I can wish is for it to be sunny until Saturday so I can take my camera and capture the wonderful sights.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Country nr 3

Petronas Towers by Gypsy Saskia
Petronas Towers, a photo by Gypsy Saskia on Flickr.
Guess where I am? ;-)

The last day of my hols. One more night in KL before I start my 18 hour journey home. It's a good thing I've been to KL before as I feel incredibly inactive. I start my mornings in the pool, walk to one of the malls for lunch, laze in my hotel room with iPad and books in the arvo and walk somewhere for dinner. That's it. And man, it's nice.

Just taking in the scenes, drinking an iced coffee while watching the world go by and reading are the most relaxing thing. And the food, oh, the food. Bebimbap, Laksa, butter prawns, nasi rames, I've had all sorts of great Asian dishes. Even tried durian ice cream but just like the fruit, it's not for me.

Though I hate malls in the US, I love them here. So many nice cafes, food courts, and Chanel and Dior window shopping is a good way to spend some time. Behaved reasonably well: did some Uniqlo shopping simply because we don't have them in NL, got one of Chanel's limited edition nail polishes and bought Aesop creme that is actually cheaper here than in Oz.

So...last day tomorrow before heading to the airport. If all goes to plan I should be drinking a Melburnian coffee in my Amstie apartment by 7am on Sunday. Nice.