Winter holiday 2015: The non-political part of my Hong Kong visit

Aberdeen Harbor is on the south side of Hong Kong Island

Aberdeen Harbor is on the south side of Hong Kong Island

Since I’ve already started in the middle of my travels, I’ll finish telling about my two days in Hong Kong.

To recap, my friend, Sophia K., and I had traveled together to Guangzhou and Shenzhen for a week. That was all the time she had, and so had to return home. I, on the other hand, didn’t. But the question was, where to go next?

Shenzhen and Hong Kong are separated only by a river, and a political boundary. I really like Hong Kong, but the hotel prices there are normally too high for my modest teacher salary. Yet, even though I had already spent five days in HK in December to hang out with my son, it beckoned to me.

Quite by chance, sent me a low, low price offer for hotels in major cities. Most of the Hong Kong deals, though, were either still exorbitantly priced (for my budget, anyway) or shoeboxes that make my university flat seem palatial. Most were in Kowloon and the north side of Hong Kong Island, where I’ve stayed before. But one caught my eye: two nights for the price of one at the Ovolo Southside in Aberdeen. Even at 50% off, the price was steep — US$97 a night — but the location and the design of the hotel were intriguing. So, I booked it.

Aberdeen is on the south side of Hong Kong Island, where I had never been.
HK Island

I’m sure I’ve described how to cross from Shenzhen to Hong Kong before, but just in case you missed it, here’s the process.

  • From our hotel in Xiaomeisha, Shenzhen, Sophia and I took bus 387 to the Huangbeiling Metro station. (About one hour)
  • We took line 5 to the Shenzhen North Railway Station, where Sophia bought a ticket to Guangzhou. We said our goodbyes, and I then took line 4 to Futian Checkpoint (Another hour)
  • At Futian Checkpoint, mainland immigration officers stamp an exit visa in your passport, and you walk across the bridge to Lok Ma Chau, Hong Kong SAR, where Hong Kong immigration gives you a paper visa good for 90 days. (One hour total)
  • From Lok Ma Chau, I took the Hong Kong MTR to Causeway Bay Station, transferring three times. (One hour)
  • From Causeway bay Station, I took a taxi to the Ovolo Southside. (15 minutes)

The Ovolo Southside intrigued me, because it used to be a warehouse. Now, it’s a mid-range hotel in a formerly industrial and commercial part of Hong Kong that’s being rebuilt into a residential area. The owner of the Ovolo Hotels is a Hong Kong native, and has taken a different approach than most in the hospitality industry.

I was cheerfully greeted at the ground floor entrance by a young woman who welcomed me, took me to the elevator (lift, in local parlance) and punched the button to reception on the fourth floor. The receptionist there cheerfully handled my paperwork and gave me my room key and a “user’s manual” for the Ovolo Southside. I’ve reproduced two pages below. Staff are in business-casual attire — no uniforms.

First page of the Ovolo Southside "user's manual"

First page of the Ovolo Southside “user’s manual”

The map is pretty useful, despite the cartoony look.

The map is pretty useful, despite the cartoony look.

All the consumables in the room are free. Most hotels in China charge inflated prices for the Cokes, beer and water in the mini-fridge, but they’re all free here and replenished each day. You can even take home the slippers at no charge, if you like. (I did.) Drinks at the daily Happy Hour are also included in your room charge. Breakfast is likewise free, but that’s not so unusual.

The décor is modern/industrial/functional — exposed ductwork and electrical conduits, and LED lighting — but the bathroom fixtures are by the Italian designer brand Bellini. The bed was really comfortable, not as rock hard as the usual Chinese hotel bed. The room size was modest, but substantially larger than rooms I’ve had elsewhere in Hong Kong.

To be honest, my first full day in Aberdeen was spent at the hotel, though I did go out to buy some items at the 7-Eleven. Hong Kong doesn’t block Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc., so I spent some time catching up with those and resting up. My second day, I asked to check out late and took the bus to Aberdeen Harbor to take a walk on the Aberdeen Promenade. The sun was coming out and I wanted to take some photos, one of which is at the top of this post.

Near the promenade is Aberdeen Square, a shopping complex. This shot will give you sense, I hope, of how Hong Kong and China in general combine traditional motifs with modern environments.

Aberdeen Square shopping complex

Aberdeen Square shopping complex

From there, I took the bus back to the hotel (about 10 minutes each way), checked out, and took another bus to Causeway Bay, where I encountered the pro-democracy rally just beginning.

Really, if my budget had allowed it, I would have stayed in Hong Kong longer. There’s a lot of see in such a small space!

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