When you travel through Asia you get spoiled with cheap accommodation in most countries; anything more than $15 for a single room can be seen as steep and ridiculous. But if you are travelling to The Pearl of the Orient with its fancy smancy Feng Shui skyscrapers bid the banana pancakes farewell, get out your Hong Kong Dollars and be ready to ante up.
If you want to stay in the bustling part of Kowloon where the nights are young, the markets are plenty and the lights are spectacular you have two choices; you can either stay in a hotel and fork out at least $80 per night or you can opt for Hong Kong’s version of budget accommodation and head to the Mansions!
The Mansions in Hong Kong – Mirador and Chungking Mansions – are located in one of the busiest districts of Hong Kong and inside you can find anything from Guest Houses/Hostels to tailors, clothing stores and even some African and Indian restaurants. Between the two Mansions there are over one hundred Guest Houses and a single room can be anything from $20 to $70 – it all depends on your haggling skills and if you were lucky enough to catch an early bird special on some booking website.
When you read the Guesthouses’ reviews you realise they come with more than just a bed, they come with a whole lot of complaints. Despite the reviews I still shacked up in a Mansion Guesthouse during my trip in Hong Kong and was pleasantly surprised.
Here are some of the most common complaints with my counter-complaints:
Does size matter?
Complaint: The rooms are the size of shoeboxes and the bathrooms smaller than a shoebox.
Going Somewhere Slowly’s counter-complaint: Yes, the rooms are indeed very small – if I sat on the bed with my back to the wall my feet could reach the opposite wall – but this is not a hotel. It’s just a place to sleep; it’s just about a bed and a shower. During my stay I didn’t need anything more as I was only in the room while sleeping.
Not “Oh So Pretty”
Complaint: The Mansions are dirty, old and falling apart.
Going Somewhere Slowly’s counter-complaint: The buildings are old and yes, a bit dirty but I won’t say it’s falling apart. Just keep on mind that you are not staying in the dirt – you are staying in the Guest House which is clean (well usually). Obviously it differs from Guest House to Guest House, but where I stayed they changed the sheets and towels daily and everything was spotless from the floor to the bathroom.
It’s a long way down
Complaint: There are only two elevators serving 17 floors (one for odd and one for even floors) and sometimes you have to wait 15 minutes.
Going Somewhere Slowly’s counter-complaint: If you’re on a business trip and rushing for time then this is a valid complaint, but if you’re on vacation, please, relax (or take the stairs). I never waited longer than 5 minutes.
Complaint: The men standing outside the Mirador and Chungking Mansions makes travelers feel uncomfortable.
Going Somewhere Slowly’s counter-complaint: I geared myself with headphones and sunglasses before entering the Mansion and acted as if I knew exactly where I was going. I honestly expected it to be a lot worse. I stayed at the Mirador Mansion; I think the Chungking Mansion is more the culprit for “shady characters” gathering at the entrance.
Complaint: It’s noisy and you can hear your neighbours.
Going Somewhere Slowly’s counter-complaint: Loud neighbours can even be a problem in the Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons. I couldn’t hear anyone in the Guesthouse over the sound of the fan and air conditioner in my room. I always pack a pair of ear plugs (silicone or wax for optimum noise cancelling).
~ The Final Verdict ~
What the Mansions lack in atmosphere they make up in location. The Mirador and Chungking Mansions are situated in the busy district of Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon and within less than 5 minutes you can reach the airport bus stop (Bus A21), the Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station, Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade (Avenue of The Stars and Symphony of Lights) and Kowloon Park by foot.
If you’re not up for any surprises, read a few reviews before you go. From what I can gather it seems as if the conditions of the Chungking Mansion are a lot worse than at the Mirador Mansion. I had a pleasant and cheap stay (thanks to a big early bird discount) at the Pearl Guest House – it was clean and comfortable with free drinking water ; they even allowed me check out at 6pm (with no additional charge) on my last day.