There is no getting away from the fact that Hong Kong can put a serious dent in a person’s finances, even a small room in a chain hotel such as Holiday Inn will cost well over $200 US or $1600HK. As I have said many times on this blog, a hotel in itself is not the destination for me, it is just a place where I can safely store my stuff and get a good night’s sleep. I don’t need minibars, infinity pools or 100 cable TV channels. So where can a money conscious retiree like me, or a young but thrifty backpacker, rest their weary head ?
For years the answer has been the (in)famous Chungking Mansions and it’s less well known neighbour the Mirador Mansion. Both are rabbit warrens of tailor shops, currency exchanges and camera shops on the ground floor, below apartments illegally converted into guest houses by subdividing rooms and putting in some often dodgy plumbing. While waiting for the lift one day during our recent stay I noticed a warning from the building management on the adjacent notice board saying something like “It has recently come to our notice that some apartment owners have modified their property into guesthouses …blah blah blah …..faulty plumbing is causing damage to units below”. Recently come to our notice ? I remember reading about these places in Lonely Planets “Yellow Bible” in the early ’90s, they were well known then !
Prices are around US$50/night, or HK$375 for most places in the Mirador building, a bit cheaper in the Chungking Mansions. So what do you get for your money at one of these places ? On my first visit last year I looked in at a few places before deciding on the Jas Guest House. They are all much the same, the only real variable is the management and the condition of the place. All have small rooms of around 7 or 8 square metres, big enough for a double or twin beds, and a bathroom that is about the size of a normal shower cubicle. Yes, that is small but ok for a few days.
Most have free wifi of reasonable speed, air-con that was not needed in December and some sort of cable tv. The only English language channel at Jas was FOX movies. The bathroom had plenty of hot-water (which often is not the case here in Thailand!) and toiletries, with fresh towels available …. when you could find the manager. All things considered, once you get over the small size of the rooms this particular place was more than adequate for me last year. But this recent trip I had my lady friend in tow, what would she think of it ? As it turned out she thought it was ok !
Chungking Mansions or the Mirador ?
Both are located on Nathan Road, an easy walk from the Kowloon harbourside promenade and the Star Ferry so it is a convenient location. The Mirador is right next to an MTR subway exit, and is closer to the Airport bus stop. The Chungking Mansions tends to have many more touts standing around outside either hustling up business for the tailor shops or selling “copy watches/bags, sir?” At least they are open about the stuff being fake ! Sometimes there was also a woman or two selling themselves …..
The Mirador Mansion also had a few touts, but nowhere near as many as the Chungking down the road. You just have to ignore them and walk straight past, eyes front. While you could never describe the Mirador as upmarket or even mid-market, it was certainly a step above the Chungking.
Other options ?
Yes, there are some small hotels located in side streets nearby which you probably would not find on Agoda.com, but while walking around in the evening looking for something to eat I did notice that many advertised hourly rates, and sometimes had women standing around near the entrance. Do I need to explain the significance of that ?
Hong Kong does have some official International Youth Hostels, but they all seem to be located inconveniently and are not really an option for most budget travellers.
So, if you are a thrifty traveller that eschews infinity pools and would rather stay in budget accommodation for a week rather than even moderate luxury for just one night think about one of the numerous guesthouses inside the Mirador Mansion. Unless you are arriving late at night there would usually be no need to book ahead, just arrive and check out a few places. There always seemed to be ‘room vacant” signs. If you do stay at the Mirador, a tip regarding the lifts …there are 2 slow, small (7 person) lifts near the front entrance, one for all the even floors, one for the odd numbered floors. Nearly everybody queues up to use these, but in the opposite corner of the building near the management office are 4 more lifts which only serve about 4 floors each and are much quicker !