Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My stay at an AirBnB.com place in HK

A decent hotel in Hong Kong would cost between P3,500.00 to P4,500.00 (or $80.00 to $100.00) a night. Since my recent HK trip was on a really tight budget, 4K was too expensive for me. I needed a cheaper place to stay.

While surfing the net (mostly in Agoda.com) to find a good deal, I chanced upon AirBnB.com. It's a visual directory of rooms/apartments/houses from all over the world, up for rent by their private owners. The concept is nothing new. It's similar to couchsurfing.com and roomorama.com. But I especially like the AirBnB website because it's so easy to use that I found my ideal room within minutes!
What happens is you just type the location of where you want to stay and the website will generate a list of rooms for rent at that location. There's a map on the side so you see where they are. For each place there's a corresponding price. If you like one property, then you click on it. Then you make sure its available for the days you're there, and then pay by credit card or Paypal. Simple and straightforward.
How can a person verify that what's posted on the site is the real thing and not some shabby and messed up shack? Well, there are reviews by previous guests which you can check. If what you read isn't positive, then don't proceed with the reservation and check the next place.
Anyway, back to my HK trip. I found this place in Mongkok, which was the closest there was to my bike group's meeting point in Tsuen Wan. It's a flat in an apartment building on Shanghai St., right across Metropark Hotel Mongkok. From the airport, Bus A21 stops right in front of it. On the other hand, via MRT, entrance C2 of the Prince Edward Station is just around the corner. Tsim Sha Tsui, via the subway, is just 5 minutes away.
With my AirBnB Host, Nic
Now I'd like to emphasize that the building is neither the Hilton nor the Shangri-la. It's old and not sparkling clean as one would expect from a  3-star hotel. It's really just a local residents' apartment.

But what the outside may lack, the inside of the apartment tries to make up for. 
The door opens to a quaint living room. There are two chairs, one facing a computer with high-speed internet access. There's a vintage phone to make local calls. And there's a bookshelf with all kinds of travel books.
Behind the living room is the kitchen. Although there's no stove, microwave or other cooking ware, there's a coffeemaker, a teapot, some cups and a kitchen sink--enough to make a simple breakfast. It isn't a big deal. I mean, I wasn't planning of cooking anything anyway. Besides, there's a Maxim's Tea House and Mcdonald's nearby. That's where I had breakfast. There's also a Seven-Eleven on the ground floor for junk food and drinks.
The toilet and the shower are in separate stalls, which is good because these are shared facilities (there are 4 rooms in the apartment). The toilet is clean. Nic makes sure that toilet paper is always in stock. The shower is heated (although you have to wait a few minutes after turning the heater on to get things going). In my 4-day stay in Nic's apartment, I had no "schedule" conflicts with any of the other guests. I got to use the toilet and shower when I wanted to.
On my first night, I stayed in a room with a single bed. The following nights, however, I stayed in another room, one I shared with my friend, Eugene. In both cases, the rooms were spartan but adequate. No TV, but who cares, right? There's free WIFI anyway, so I got to check my email and surf the net. There was aircon and I had no issues with the beds.
Room w/ single bed
Room w/ bunk bed
 All in all, I enjoyed my stay at the AirBnB place of Nic in Mongkok. It only cost me P2,000.00/night ($45.00/night). The place is accessible by MRT; it can easily be located by a cab driver (just say "Metropark Mongkok"); the toilet and shower worked; the beds are comfortable; and, there's aircon and free wifi!

My only gripe is the climb to the apartment. It's on the 4th floor, and there are no elevators! I had to carry my 17kg folding bike up 79 steps everyday. I was out of breath by the time I got to the 3rd floor. It's okay. I considered that "exercise" as my warm-up for the day's bike ride.
The apartment is secured enough.
Having said that, I had a pleasant experience with this AirBnB thing. The host was nice and friendly; location was good; facilities were okay; and the price cheap. 

I'd still prefer to stay in a hotel when the budget permits, but when unavailable, an AirBnB place would be a great alternative!

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