It must have been more than a decade since I last stepped foot into HK. In fact I think the last time I was in the territory might be 13 or so years ago.
The Jetstar flight coming here was uneventful. The seat is of a comfy size for Buddy, though to me, it is a little uncomfortable and too cramped. But my husband feels it’s no different from that of a full service airlines. Well, Jetstar is a budget carrier, I guess expectations are low. It’s Ok for short-haul flights, but for long distance, best to take full service airlines.
At Changi airport, the gate for Jetstar is located at the far end since it’s cheaper. At Hong Kong airport, not only is it far from immigration but the plane is not even connected to the terminal. We had to walk down to the tarmac to board a bus. And this turned out to be the beginning of the trek to immigration. After alighting off the bus, we followed the crowd, and I saw a signage “Please do not run, the train would arrive shortly.” I was puzzled and wondered why the airport express was located here before we even cleared immigration. And unsurprisingly, some people ran towards the waiting train as if they were rushing for their incarnations. Upon spotting the train, my husband remarked, “Jetstar is so cheap that the plane dropped off passengers in some godforsaken part of the airport.” Yes, we had to take the train to the main terminal. I don’t know why Jetstar cannot get a gate there.
The toilet is quite clean with the usual amenities like paper towel and baby changing table, but my husband remarked that it seems a little more shabby that those available at Changi airport. I don’t think so. But I do think the airport authorities should have allocated a bigger area for immigration clearance. They make the passengers walk in a snaking line before assigning them to different counters, with queues at some slow counters backed up against the cordon barrier, and other passengers trying to get past to line up at those they were assigned to.
After clearing immigration, it was almost mid afternoon and we were hungry. My husband checked out what were the dining options available, and it was either Tsui Wah or a recommended congee place. Unfortunately, both are located in the transit area. Out at arrival hall, we could see a McDonald’s (yucks!) or a local eating joint that offers roast meat, Tai Hung. Naturally we went for local eat, I mean why would we wanna have McD in HK? I ordered the roast goose and char siew (BBQ pork) rice. It turns out to be one of the worst meals I had, the roast goose was bland, and there was measly char siew for Buddy. In fact when my husband saw the plate of food, he asked, “where is the char siew?” You needed a magnifying glass to find it. I think, maybe we would have a better meal at McD.
I was fortunate my colleague loan me the local subway value cards (Octopus) for two adults and a child. The line for the airport express ticket is damn long. With the octopus cards, I only had to top up its value for train rides. I must say the train ride is pretty comfortable, and the journey is smooth. We reached Kowloon station in only 24 minutes’ time. Too bad there is no free shuttle bus to our hotel, which is located in the new territories, and is considered too far away. So we took a taxi instead, and that was our first taste of the road and traffic after a long absence.
My boss, who was in HK a couple of weeks ago, told me that the territory hasn’t changed since two years ago when he was last here, and he finds the place boring. Though my husband and I cannot remember much but it does seem to us that most buildings still look old and shabby. We drove past some new looking private apartments, and were amazed at how narrow they are. And they are located close to each others, not very much different from the sad old grimy buildings that still stand. In fact when the plane was about to land, we had a glimpse of Hong Kong Island and could see that there were many tall buildings interspersed by compact shorter ones. The city is basically very dense.
Though we took the taxi shortly after 4pm, traffic along Kowloon was pretty bad, as roads are rather narrow and yet there are so many vehicles around. The place still has a rundown feel, with few vegetation around. It is only when we get closer to the new territories that we see more greenery, but the area is still compact with buildings.
The private apartments and mall are developed by the MTR corporation, which is the subway company. This is replicated in many of the stations located in the new territories, and they are relatively newer compared to those in the older parts of Hong Kong like in Tsim Sha Tsui and HK island areas. I must say this is the first time I see a subway company which also operates as a property developer.
My husband remarked, "It's ok to hang your laundry outside your expensive apartment since it won't affect property price. Just don't show your red undie."
My friend, J, explained that the residents have no choice since the apartments are pretty small. I’m not sure if you can see from the pictures that the apartment units are seriously tiny! Though I have not been into one myself but friends have all related their own experience, where the bedroom can only fit a bed and nothing else. Or that the apartment is so small that there is no balcony or yard to even hang the laundry. Worse, the developers even include the areas of the aircon ledge and external corridor to the rubbish chute as part of the apartment unit.
Apparently this is the reason why HKers rather stay out than remain at home. Imagine being cooped up in a tiny apartment! I will surely go mad.