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Adventures in Lodging

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Today we have a Guest article from Jack Emery.  Jack has been a LiP contributor in the past, and is here to tell us of another of his adventures since living in the Philippines.  Thank you for your contribution, Jack!  I always enjoy reading your articles.  MindanaoBob

This month marks the end of our first year living full time in Davao. When we came here from Arizona we bought a round trip ticket, thinking that we would probably want to visit the U.S. every year or so anyway. The return ticket was set to expire after a year, so it was either use it or lose it. So we just returned from two weeks in the U.S. with a week in Hong Kong on the way back. A one way ticket this time.

LiP Gift Shop

The Hong Kong stopover involved an experiment that may be of interest to others, Hong Kong being not too far away and not too expensive to travel to, and also one of the obvious options for those needing to go out and come back in to renew a visa. It’s also a good place for shopping, especially for electronics; if you go to the right places, prices on computers and related items are ten or twenty percent less than U.S. prices.

Coming to the Philippines from the U.S., it’s often possible to get a few days stopover in Hong Kong for not too much more than the price of the ticket to Manila. The drawback is that Hong Kong hotels tend to be expensive at best, and it can sometimes be hard to find a room when you want one. This time, the hotels we stayed at on previous trips were full; the only hotel rooms I could find in Kowloon were going for prices that would have had my Scotch ancestors spinning in their graves. I was at the point of giving up on the Hong Kong stopover, but then it occurred to me to try airbnb.com.

 

Airbnb is a relatively new web site on which ordinary people who have space in their houses or apartments can post listings offering to rent a room to people who need a place to stay. “Rent from real people in 19,732 cities in 192 countries”, according to the web site. (I didn’t know there were that many cities in the world.) The site has an Amazon-like rating/review system, which is key: you can find out what others thought of a host before you decide. Airbnb handles the reservations and payments by credit card, which eliminates the risk and complication of engaging in financial transactions with a stranger in a foreign country.

At this writing, airbnb has 238 listings for Hong Kong, ranging from rooms in outlying areas at $10 per night to an entire luxury apartment for $480 per night. Interesting choices abound — you can even rent a room on a boat near the famous “Jumbo” floating restaurant for $98 a night.

One of the listings was a room in a two bedroom apartment in the Yuen Long district owned by Joe Fung, an enterprising young Hong Kong native. Previous guests had given him very good reviews; we decided it was worth a try.

This trip definitely made me into a believer. Some of the benefits:

  1. The place: Yuen Long is well off the beaten tourist path, so by staying there we were able to get a taste of the “real” Hong Kong, living in the same kind of apartment, eating in the same noodle shops and dim sum places, and shopping in the same kinds of neighborhoods as the locals. We were also a short walk from the nearest subway station, and Central was only a half hour subway ride away. If you go to Hong Kong with a Filipina, Central is an obligatory destination since that is where the Worldwide Plaza is located – a five story building full of Filipino shops and eateries, and the place where all the OFW Filipinas congregate on Sundays. We also wanted access to downtown for shopping and for some of the excellent free classes offered by the Hong Kong Tourist Board.
  2. The people: Airbnb turned out to be as much a social experience as a lodging choice. During our stay the other bedroom in the apartment was occupied first by two young women from Malaysia, then by an Indonesian engineer working in Taiwan, and finally by a Filipino accountant from Bulacan. Most nights Joe accompanied us and the other guests to local restaurants (KKB), where we got to try out dishes that I’ve never heard of before (and I eat a lot of Chinese food).
  3. The local knowledge: In addition to the restaurants, Joe took us on long walks showing off local attractions; helped us find a tea shop where I could lay in a year’s supply of my favorite Chinese tea; even went with me to a computer mall in another part of town to translate for me and help me buy some computer parts. In the past I’ve had a hard time finding some things in Hong Kong; despite being a former English colony, not much English is spoken there once you get outside the major tourist places.
  4. The cost: in this case, $36 per night. This wasn’t a suite in the Peninsula by any stretch – you can find much more upscale places on airbnb, but that wasn’t what we wanted. The room was small (as are most hotel rooms in Hong Kong), but very clean, with good a/c, wi/fi, and internet, everything worked, and Joe, the host, was accommodating above and beyond the call of duty. Another big advantage: no hassle about early check in. Our flight from the U.S. arrived at 6 a.m., and the room was ready when we got there.

All in all, it was a very different and much more enjoyable experience than being an anonymous guest in a big hotel in a tourist area, and at much lower cost.

So, we’re back in Davao for year 2. Asia is starting to feel like home. One of the great things about living in the Philippines is that there are so many interesting places in other nearby Asian countries that are only a cheap flight away. And with airbnb you can go to any of them and stay with ordinary local people at budget friendly prices.

P.S.:  For those who may be interested, airbnb also currently has (at last check) 13 listings in Davao, ranging from $10 to $97 per night. We’re thinking of listing our spare bedroom – probably not much of a money-maker, but just for the fun of meeting interesting people.

Posted in ,

Jack Emery

Jack Emery is a guest writer participating on the Live in the Philippines Web Magazine.

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chasdv
Guest
chasdv

Hi Jack,
Thanks for the heads up on Airbnb, worth looking into for Singapore, which like HK accommodation is expensive.
I now fly in and out of Davao via Singapore which thankfully avoids Manila.
In addition, you now have Tiger Airways flying the Davao/Sing route.

Regards,
Chas.

Jack
Guest
Jack

Definitely agree about avoiding Manila. I’m kind of interested to try airbnb in Singapore too. I didn’t know Tiger was flying that route, glad to have that info. Now if there were only an inexpensive way to get to Singapore from the US west coast, that would definitely be the way to go — makes a long trip, but worth it to be able to come straight into Davao I think.
Jack

Neal in RI
Guest
Neal in RI

Hey Jack
Great article, its always interesting to here a success story of another Kano living in the RP.
I am deep in the planning stages of relocating to the RP, I am just waiting for all the Gov’t red tape to clear on my early retirement.

Jack
Guest
Jack

Good luck with the red tape. You’ll be happy to know that one of the nice things about being over here is there seems to be a lot less red tape, and what there is they’re mostly pretty reasonable about (at least here in Davao). Hope your move all goes well.
Jack

PapaDuck
Guest
PapaDuck

Neal,

If i recall correctly your with the Post Office right? Is your early retirement part of the Post Office cutback? Good luck hope you will be over soon. I will be there in 2014 in Bataan. Take care and be safe.

Neal in RI
Guest
Neal in RI

P.Duck My retirement is not part of the cutbacks at the PO. I am getting out before the Sh_t hits the fan. Everything is on the table from cutting pay, pensions, and health benefits. Rumor has it that the PO will offer up to 25K cash incentives in the spring to take early retirement so they can get all us old timers that are in the top pay step out the door and replace us with younger lesser paid employees. I am not waiting for them to throw me a 25K bone as the PO is imploding as we speak.… Read more »

Ricardo Sumilang
Guest
Ricardo Sumilang

After taxes, that 25K bone is reduced to abut 13K, still not bad to take to the Philippines with you as icing on the cake, so to speak. Spring is not that far off, but I understand your apprehension about a possible reduction of pension and health benefits while you’re hanging on waiting for the buyout that may or may not happen. On one hand, it’s pretty risky to wait for the buyout; on the other, it’s like a golden parachute. If they can make it official (the buyout) through a special announcement from the top, I’d wait. But, if… Read more »

PapaDuck
Guest
PapaDuck

Neal,

Ok will see you on F/B.

gerry
Guest
gerry

Interesting article and I have used airbnb before too with no problems.

1 quick point Jack… Scotch is a drink… you mean your Scottish ancestors 🙂 I know you are just tongue in cheek but I wish we could stop circulating this undeserved myth regarding Scots being mean 🙂 Yes of course I am Scottish 🙂

Regards
Gerry

Jack
Guest
Jack

Thanks Gerry,
good catch on the Scotch/Scottish, that one got by me. I (and my Scottish ancestors) don’t consider it mean, we consider it prudently frugal. 🙂
Jack

Dave Starr
Guest

Great report. I’m so glad to find at least one other kano (and fellow Scotsman) who is not afraid to travel. So many seem to come to the Philippines and then be stuck tighter than superglue could hold them. Hong Kong is a great tourist destination, so close to the Philippines, and neither Americans nor Filipinos need a visa to visit, unlike so many countries which are actively “Filipino-hostile”. For those of us living up north here on Luzon, it’s also a very practical alternative to look for discount fares from US to Hong Kong and then garb a really… Read more »

Jack
Guest
Jack

Thanks, Dave — agree about HK, it’s a fascinating city. We haven’t ever tried Macau, I had the impression there wasn’t much there except casinos, but sounds like we ought to give it a look. Maybe you could write up something and give all us LiP readers the benefit of your experience there — ? As for hotels in HK, you’re right, in the past we’ve always been able to get a room in one of the Kowloon hotels for around $50 a night, just by scouting around on the internet. (I’m talking about actual hotels, we’ve never tried the… Read more »

Tom N
Guest

Interesting resource. I will have to give it a try.

Jack
Guest
Jack

It’s kind of an interesting site to explore. Lots of different options.

sugar
Guest
sugar

Hi Jack – Thanks for this post. Will check it out.. want to travel to next yr..

PapaDuck
Guest
PapaDuck

Jack,

Thanks so much for the info about airbnb. Sounds like a good deal and a great price. I want to do some traveling to other countries when i move to the Philippines. Like Dave said above very cheap flights out of Clark and other airports by Cebu Pacific. Good job with the post. Have a nice day.

Jack
Guest
Jack

PapaDuck — yes, I sure wish they’d open up some direct flights from Davao to Clark so that those of us down here in Mindanao could take advantage of it. I imagine it will happen one of these days.

Jack
Guest
Jack

Sugar, you didn’t say where you’re planning on going next year, but I guess with listings in “19,732 cities in 192 countries” you can probably find something 🙂

Alfre
Guest
Alfre

Hi Jack,

Thank you for sharing your experience. It’ll definitley be helpful to fellow travelers.

My children and I used airbnb finding our accommodation in London in July/Aug. Now, that is the peak season in one of the most expensive city in the world. The holiday money we saved from hotel costs we were able to use for fun things.

Will definitely use airbnb again. But like in all other internet transaction/bookings/purchase, one must read reviews, research and ask questions from the host until all concerns are addressed.

cheers,

Alfre

Jack
Guest
Jack

Alfre, yes, you raise a good point — very important to do one’s homework. In our case the host had very good reviews and was very responsive to questions. Also, I figure there’s a clear limit to the downside — worst case, if you get into a bad situation you walk away from it and get a hotel room.

joop
Guest

Very useful story. Thanks! I will list our cottage in Orchid Park on airbnb as well.

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