Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Ah Shan The Great

For lack of a catchy title, I chose the one above. But this is not a tale of a dragon but a review of Ah Shan, the hostel in Mongkok, Kowloon.

When I first sought out a place to stay for our holiday in Hong Kong, I had nothing in mind. With the realization that we probably will not be able to afford more than 75 USD a night, I checked out Ah Shan got one of the highest rating and the reviews seemed good enough for me. So, I booked and we got here last Sunday early morning. The price we paid is even less that 55 USD per day for 4 beds.

Coming from the Macau airport, we went to the ferry terminal and took the turbojet to HK. At almost 1 am, it was the only one available and it didn't even go to Kowloon Island but to the Hong Kong Island which means we'd have to travel by land to Mongkok in Kowloon. But, as we were all sleepy and exhausted, we didn't have a choice so we took it.

It was quite hard to find the hostel because it was our first time in Hong Kong and the cab driver did not speak English. He didn't know where Argyle street in mongkok is. Either that or he just didn't understand the way we spoke. However, he was very resourceful. After much hand signals and body language, he finally said "Ah! Chinjere House, ok ok". Ah Shan is in Sincere House and he knew exactly where it is. We paid him about 80 HKD, 20 HKD lower than the price of the cab driver who was offering us a ride. It was good that we went directly to the taxi stand.

We got to the hostel at 3 am. If you're familiar with hostels in Hong Kong, you'd know that it isn't like a hotel where they have a formal reception area and all that. Mostly, the reception area serves many purposes. It is the office, the storage hall, the computer area for both guests and management, etc. It is like that at Ah Shan. So, our arrival came as a surprise to both myself and the staff - a man in his late 50's or early 60's who I eventually called Uncle. We were expected at 1 am as indicated in my reservation. But the good Cebu Pacific flight left 1.5 hours later than schedule so it produced a domino effect.

We were given a small (about 9 sqm) but clean room. It is a good thing that I booked for 4 beds because I had anticipated that there would hardly be any room for our luggage. I was right. There were two single beds and a double deck. Since there were only 3 of us, we had made the extra bed into a luggage area - luggage were on top of the bed and the shoes and other extra stuff were under it.

The room I got is what they call an ensuite which means that the bathroom is inside and not shared with other guests. It is quite small - about 1 square meter big. The location is right in the middle of the city where lots of food options are available. It is close to a mall and the MTR (train) thus we were able to get to most destinations in a few minutes. Like going to Hong Kong Island only took about 15 minutes or so. The Ladies Market is about 2 minutes walk and can even be seen from our room's window. The Langham Plaza is about 5 minutes away, and if you like budget shopping, there are stores that sell cheap ware at the ground floor of the building. Finding food was not hard. Well, that is if you like chinese food. We do so we tried the small restos nearby. The Ferry Terminal in Kowloon which we took going to back to Macau on our way to Zhuhai was just about 15 minutes away and taxi fare was just about 40 HKD. We could have gotten the ferry to the Jiuzhou port in Zhuhai from HK but we had to get a visa at Porto Do Cerco to enter china. The China Travel Service was asking for 750 HKD per person to secure a Chinese visa but I said no because I knew that it would only cost 150 HKD at Gongbei. But it would have been cheaper had I learned earlier. (Please read my hub for securing a chinese visa.)

My husband was so happy with the place. He had brought his Thinkpad to do some unfinished work. Fortunately, Ah Shan had 24 hours wi-fi inside the room for free. Also, we were happy because we were able to eat real chinese breakfast. I am an early riser and got up the earliest. When I did, I'd go down and find some bakery (not a nice bakeshop with aircon and all that but a real chinese bakery) and buy some pastries and bread. It cost less than 20 HKD. Very good huh?

Going around from Ah Shan wasn't a problem probably because I am able to read a map well enough to get around and the hostel staff were very helpful. Even when it was hard for us to understand each other, they were so patient to try to understand what we needed. At one instance when we were looking for a place to eat which is not chinese, the staff brought me outside, pointed upward to a building and said " tai twelf floh" which of course meant there's a thai restaurant at the 12th floor.

After having spent 4 nights and 4 days, I was asked to give them a rating. What should I give them? They have the kindest staff although most of them do not speak nor understand english. They were very helpful, and their place is right in the middle of everything. Above all, it only cost us 440 HKD per night for 4 beds per night. So, the 90% rate I gave them would probably be justified.

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