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Might be moving to HK: where to live/bike?

6 years 9 months ago #2259 by tantrum
Hi all,

I was hoping someone might be able to give some feedback on this.

Quick background: been MTBing for 1 year on an AM bike here in Switzerland where I currently live. I generally like riding easy-moderate singletrails the most.

While not definite, there is some possibility I'll be relocating to Hong Kong in the coming years. My family and I are doing a little holiday/exploratory visit soon and I've been checking out some options for where to live, including looking at the very helpful trail overviews on this site.

I was wondering...

1) If you were to choose somewhere to live in HK solely based on easy access to the best MTB trails, where would you live?

2) If you had to balance lifestyle and easy access to the best MTB trails, where would you live?

Just curious what you think about this. (I would either be working in Central or from home. One of my kids will be going to school at The Peak.)

Thanks and hopefully the move works out and I can help out with the trail building initiatives, which sound great.

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6 years 9 months ago - 6 years 9 months ago #2260 by econbus
I live in a village house near Tai Po in the New Territories - I am surrounded by beautiful mountains and country parks - I can ride to trails if I fancy a good workout or reach all the best trails by car within 20 minutes. If you have parking and are willing to set off to work early ( I start at 7am), travel to Central only takes around 35 minutes - around an hour if you take the train and bus. There are few decent trails on HK island and the roads are crowded, so you would need to travel off the island by car or rented van if you want to reach the best trails. Living on Lamma or Lantau islands is another option - both have some excellent riding but this increases travel time. A good compromise might be Sai Kung, which has great scenery, is closer to Central, but has fewer transport links. I guess your family will have a say in the matter - many people prefer the convenience of HK island for shopping and entertainment, but the New Territories and outer Islands offer more opportunities for adventure.

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6 years 9 months ago #2261 by StanleyJ
Hmmm. Tricky. The most extensive trail network in Hong Kong is the Tai Lam/Tai Mo Shan/Ho Pui network:


... which has paved access road riding (half the network), easy single track (bit round the reservoir) to full-on downhill/super-d type stuff (everything else).

For this, if you live in a village house (or the more expensive private developer villas) with easy access to Kam Sheung Road MTR or Tai Lam Tunnel bus interchange (villages: Kam Tin, Ho Pui, Ma On Kong, Shek Wu Tong, Tin Sum Tsuen)... then you can get to Central in about 30~45 minutes. The Peak is difficult to get to anywhere in Hong Kong (unless you live _on_ The Peak...) though on a good day you can get there from Central in about 30 minutes. I personally live in Ho Pui which is only 10 minutes walk from the tunnel interchange and I can ride into the trails in about 20 minutes... very nice. :)

Lamma is also a good option. There's a (unofficial) MTB trail right there:


It is kid friendly as there are no cars on this island and the commute to HK Island is via a ferry service only and goes to Central. This takes about 25 minutes either way. You can also take informal sampans (like water taxis) and get to Aberdeen, on the south side of HK Island. This might be an easier commute up to The Peak for the kid to the school if they have a school bus pick up?

Or there's living on HK Island itself, which is where new expats invariably start off at, somewhere on the Mid-Levels area (between Central & The Peak), or possibly anywhere along the northern coast (Kennedy Town, Sai Ying Pun, Wan Chan, Causeway Bay/Happy Valley... or maybe even as far east as Quarry Bay, North Point or Tai Koo Shing). From HK Island, the only trail is Dragon's Back:


... though not too difficult to do a "reverse commute" and take a bike to Lamma Island.

I think that's more than enough options to get yourself into on your first exploratory trip... and if you want to ask about the village houses in my area, you're welcome to send me a private message and have a look at the places with you, since the real estate agents on this side of HK are more local/Chinese orientated.

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6 years 9 months ago #2263 by tantrum
Thanks a lot for the responses! Excellent info and thanks StanleyJ for the offer to look at places with me - that's beyond the call of duty and much appreciated. Most likely in the upcoming trip we'll just check out various neighbourhoods and a subsequent trip would involve looking at houses/apartments. My goal is to move in mid-2013, but there's a lot of planning involved (mostly trying to get my employer to send me and keep my salary intact. :S )

It seems like the school at The Peak is a limiting factor. They have school buses from Clearwater Bay or Lantau or Kowloon, but some leave at 6:30am. Seems a bit early to me, but I asked my daughter what she thought about an early morning bus and she said no problems if we could live near a beach. :) My wife would also be keen on being near a beach. So long as I can ride somewhere decent and there are several good Cantonese and other Asian restaurants nearby, I could probably put up with that and a lack of easy transport. Looking at the map, the TMS area might be a hard sell, as it has a long school commute plus no beaches, but I'll definitely check it out. Apparently a house rather than apartment would be popular in my family (although I'd prefer the latter myself), so maybe there is some hope.

Lamma sounds pretty interesting, except for getting to The Peak. If that doesn't pan out, I might look at Aberdeen, which has the ferries or sampans over to Lamma for a ride and, as you say, seems close to The Peak. Lantau also looks OK for trails and there is a school bus from Discovery Bay. I haven't been there on my previous trips to HK, but I did see the term Stepford Wives mentioned in the context of D Bay, which is scary. :cheer:

I'm most struck by the differences in rental prices between HK Island and anywhere else. Huge!

Would that trail near Clearwater Bay (said to be too boring to travel to) be not worth riding often if it was just up the road from your house?

Thanks again for the comments. They're really helping me to narrow down where we should look around. More welcome too!

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6 years 9 months ago - 6 years 9 months ago #2265 by StanleyJ
Living by a beach... staying on HK Island side, that means living on Deepwater Bay, Repulse Bay, Stanley or Shek O.

Lamma, being a small island has a couple of good beaches within walking/hiking distance from anywhere on the island. Aside from Western restaurants for the expats that live on the island, there are also a good number of Chinese/Cantonese seafood restaurants.

Lantau is really big (same island as the airport) and Discovery Bay, being almost a seperate country(! ;)) has is own private beach. Alternatively, there's Mui Wo and is like Lamma in that it has Chinese village houses, basically without cars, the commute is via ferry to Central... and the nearest trail is Chi Ma Wan.

Now if you don't mind me asking, you mention your daughter looks likely to go to a school on The Peak. By any chance is it The Peak School run by the ESF (English Schools Foundation)? If so, I too am an ex-ESF brat and know they actually have a few other primary schools dotted around, which depending on where you finally live, may be more accessible (as I believe they still use the catchment area system... so if you don't live in the area, you don't go to that school)? But then you say they have school buses from all over HK going to it, so either that has changed, or it's not the school I think it is. ;)

As for housing, which ultimately ties to money as well, HK has a top rate of income tax of 15%. That's it. No income gains, no sales tax, no death tax, etc etc etc. Transport is also plentiful and cheap. I have no idea if you're on an "expat package", in that besides your salary, there'd be a seperate housing allowance... though from the tone of your original message, I assume not. But in any case, your salary would go further in HK than in Switzerland.

House or apartment... it's all pretty much high-rise apartment or low-rise apartment. HK Island is all of the former and (1sq.m ~= 10sq.ft.; 1 CHF ~= 8(!) HKD) as typical family apartment of ~70sq.m will be about 3,000CHF/month (24000HKD/month). Scales linearly with size (more or less) and more desireable areas (The Peak and South Island side) can command double/triple that rate.

"Village houses" in the New Territories (like where I am) or on the Outlying Islands (Lamma, Lantau, etc) are low rise 3 floored houses. Their footprint is usually 70sq.m now (though there are some older ones of 35~40sq.m) and typically split into an apartment on each floor. The middle floor is always the cheapest (~125CHF/month (1000HKD/month) cheaper) as the bottom floor usually gets the garden area and the top floor will have a full-size roof terrace. The average price right now seems to be about 1125CHF/month (9000HKD/month) for ~70sq.m. Occasionally, the landlord may have had the house set up as a duplex (~75sq.m or 140sq.m.... 1200CHF~2250CHF/month (9600HKD~18000HKD/month) or triplex (~100sq.m or 210sq.m.... 1800CHF~3000CHF+/month (14400HKD~24000HKD/month). May even get lucky on the triplexes and have your own private pool! ;)

Discovery Bay is high-rise living, mostly (there are villas, but lower density = $$)... and prices are more in line with HK Island. The Stepford Wives thing comes from the fact young-ish expat couples move there to have babies. ;) You'll go there and either love it or loave it. ;)

I guess to go any further, you'd need to be in Hong Kong... and as for whether you bring your bike with you (not so difficult with an appropiate bike case), that's up to you! ;)

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6 years 9 months ago #2266 by tantrum
Thanks again Stanley. Lots of good info there once more!

My daughter would go to The Peak campus of the German Swiss International School. She's done all her schooling to date in German and we're likely to head back to Switzerland after a couple of years (and my wife and I are native English speakers), so we thought there might be best. (Eventually she'll get the chance to get schooled more in English, but when we read about the waiting lists situation for most HK schools, we were relieved that the German stream of the GSIS would let her in most likely without a problem. Of course, the downside is that is really the only choice we have, but it seems OK except for getting there!)

The rents on most of HK Island are much more expensive than where I live in Switzerland (like double for half the space), but outside there they look doable and it seems like the cost of living (other than aircon) is OK too. It's 30 CHF (about 250 HKD) for a basic restaurant main meal here and taxis are brutally expensive.

Yep, now looking forward to visiting, most likely in April. I won't bring my bike, but I thought about contacting the Crossing HK guy about a half-day tour on a hire bike.

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6 years 9 months ago - 6 years 9 months ago #2267 by StanleyJ
Ah, GSIS... forgot all about that one. That makes a lot more sense! ;) School starts around 8:30am, so generally kids are there for 8am... so the school buses leaving around 6:30am~7am is actually about right... takes about half an hour to get up to The Peak from Central.

Costs of Hong Kong... yeah it gets expensive if you live here with an expat mindset. The more "local" you are willing to go, the cheaper it is... since the average office worker earns only 750~1250CHF/month (6k~10k HKD/month) and they have to live/eat/travel in the same city!

Thankfully electricity is cheap... for an average flat (70sq.m), even in the high of summer with air-con all day and night in all rooms, the monthly bill should still be under 250CHF/month (2000HKD/month). This is one advantage of living in a village house is that they are generally in the "country side"... so during summer, I can have the windows open and the natural breeze does quite a good job anyway! So a "green living" electricity bill could be well under 38~75CHF/month (300~600HKD/month) even for a family. Water is very cheap, around 20CHF/month (160HKD/month... no typo!). Gas would be around 45CHF/month (360HKD/month), but HK village house don't have mains gas... so they are either electric hobs or use LPG canisters.

Internet/TV/Telephone bundle will be about 40CHF/month (300HKD/month... plus more for whatever subscription only channels).

Taxis are still (compared to anywhere else) cheap... it's now 2.50CHF (20HKD) flag fall and ~0.2CHF(!) (~1.50HKD) for every kilometer. So even a journey from Central to The Peak would only be about 6CHF (50HKD... assumes no traffic jam!). A long 35km journey from Airport to downtown through a toll bridge and toll tunnel is still under 45CHF (350HKD).

Typical bus ride is about 0.80CHF (7HKD)... longer journeys (like New Territories to Hong Kong) are under 2.5CHF (~20HKD). Metro/Commuter rail is generally a little cheaper for comparable distance, compared to buses.

Food. A reasonable Western restaurant/gastropub would be about 12CHF (100HKD) for a set lunch and 25~38CHF (200~300HKD) for dinner, per person. Beyond 40CHF (350HKD) per person... that's getting into 5-star hotel all you can eat type buffets... HK spoils you like that! ;)

Eating local. Dim-sum type lunch can be had for 2.50~5CHF (20HKD~40HKD) per person. Full on Chinese evening meal, 10~20CHF (80~160HKD) per person (I think the last time I was in Lamma, the seafood dinner I had with 3 other friends came to 75CHF (600HKD) for all of us).

As you're a family, you might consider a domestic helper to do house cleaning etc. A part-time local Chinese cleaner is about 7.5CHF/hour (60HKD/hour). Alternatively (and a lot of HK Chinese middle class and general expats) is to have a full time live-in maid (usually Phillipino, otherwise Indonesian). Chinese employer wages are about 475CHF/month (3800HKD/month)... expats are a bit nicer at 500~750CHF/month (4000~6000HKD/month). They'll obviously live with you, but it isn't unknown (and quite common) for them to take the child to/from school, do the grocery shopping and even the cooking.

Lastly, a two year stay works out quite nicely for home rental as the contracts are also for two years. 1 year is contractually required, so if you cancel the contract, you'll forefit the remaining of that 1st years rent. Alternatively, if the landlord breaks the contract, they own you (this happened to me one and I got some money... :)). The 2nd year of the contract, either party can terminate the lease without penalty as long as there is 1 month's notice. Also budget 4 month's of rent "up-front". At the extreme, it is 1 month in advance. 2 months as deposit (which you get back t the end of the lease) and 1 month to the real estate agent for "finder's fee". There are a few other permutations (which all work out cheaper)... but forewarned is forearmed!

I'll be having some visitors from Brussels in early April, but if you are here whilst I'm free (say later on in that month)... give me prod. Am happy to help out. :)

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6 years 9 months ago #2268 by tantrum
Thanks for the cost rundown. Very handy, as I'm preparing two budgets. One, if I get the transfer with work, in which case I'll have no problems. And the other if I don't, in which case I'll be rocking up and looking for work and/or working from home for whomever might throw me some coins here and there. In case of the latter, I'll be looking to go as local as possible, within reason for someone who doesn't speak the language, is put to sleep by humidity and doesn't like eating the gelatinous or bony bits of the animal. :)

What exchange rate did you use, out of interest? You mentioned 600 CHF/month (8k HKD) as an average salary, but by my reckoning 600 CHF is about 4900 HKD. (CHF is just a bit more than USD.)

I think we will be in HK when your Belgians are, too. But no worries... if it all pans out, I'd love to get some help finding the trails when I finally arrive. B)

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6 years 9 months ago - 6 years 9 months ago #2269 by StanleyJ
Oh hmmm. Ballpak exchange rates when friends ask, it's 10HKD = 1EUR = 1.2CHF = 1.3 USD. So my "CHF" values in my previous posts are 30~40% too low. Ooops! :blush: :blush: :blush:

I knew I should have stuck to Euros for the Maths... I can take a zero off without issue! ;) Now lets see if the forum lets me correct them...

My visitors are two Latvians, a Scot and a German... but we'll see how it works out... may be at least be able to point you in various directions, online. :)

And yes, Steve's good on the MTB guide front... and his bikes are more than up to the task in hand. :)

Edit: Previous posts corrected... hah! :woohoo:

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6 years 9 months ago #2270 by tantrum

StanleyJ wrote: Edit: Previous posts corrected... hah! :woohoo:

Cheers! :thumbsup:

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