Hong Kong, China

  • March 01, 2019

we spent 5 days in Hong Kong, China.

for readers with little time, it was incredible. you can close the tab now.

while Hong Kong is technically run by a bunch of communists (see: China), it feels a lot more free than Shanghai and other Asian cities we've been to with similarly protective governments.

first, Hong Kong is a breeding ground for Western expats. you can walk down the street in SoHo, where we stayed, and observe 100s of non-Chinese people.

Hong Kong Expat Stats

for the full infographic from HSBC Bank, go here.

in Central and the surrounding areas of Hong Kong Island, English is the default language. even when an Asian person walks into a restaurant or shop, employees at the venue are more likely to open up a conversation in English.

Ryan found this surreal, perhaps because we've been traveling a couple months now and grown accustomed to a language barrier.

12 Quirks About Hong Kong, China

  1. grocery stores tape over US nutritional fact labels with the "100 grams per serving" version

  2. many locals (especially in the service industry) switch fluently between English and Chinese

  3. Hong Kong is built on steep hills. wear comfortable shoes

  4. jaywalking is acceptable

  5. 10%+ tipping is expected. pay attention to your receipt subtotal. some places will automatically add 10% of the bill towards tip and you can add to this for good service

  6. waiters will awkwardly stand 5 feet away and watch while you sign your receipt and collect it straight away. as a former waiter, Ryan strongly dislikes this behavior and prefers receipt collection after the guests have left

  7. suckling pig eateries are common: locals line up in anticipation, a huge suckling pig is brought in, the chef cuts off sections to each customer until the pig is gone

  8. we advise you to pick up produce from street vendors. we bought a box of 8 strawberries from a grocery store for $10USD. street vendors are still expensive but grocery produce prices are sky-high

  9. heavy population of expats

  10. real estate prices continue to soar. our friend runs a gym and her rent doubled this year

  11. available cabs are very difficult to find. we found a ratio of ~50 occupied cabs per every available one. Uber does exist there, but we didn't try it

  12. the few country parks are under threat of property development. Hong Kong is only 426 square miles and the currently available property development space is quickly diminishing


pricing ranged from $5.00 for steamed dumplings at a hole-in-the-wall spot, to $20 for a salad with protein, to $150 for an Asian fusion tasting menu for 2.

while there is a large selection of Chinese food, you can find all kinds of international cuisine (Ethiopian, Indian, Japanese, Russian, Korean, French, Mexican, Spanish -- you name it).


Hong Kong is the most expensive city we've traveled to on our year+ long journey.

while we talk about budgeting and expenses in every city recap, perhaps it would be helpful to mention a few factors contributing to that commentary.

in the USA, for example, the "CPI" or Consumer Price Index is a clever metric that examines changes in pricing to every day goods over time.

we apply a similar perspective at Rickshaw to every city:

  • price of a coffee?

  • price of a 10-15 minute taxi?

  • price of a large steak? (Ryan-only)

in Shanghai a fairly long taxi ride was just $2-4 USD. in Hong Kong, a cold brew coffee with no milk, sugar, or flavoring was $7-9 USD.

Hideko got a half salad that was $20 USD. granted, we usually go to "trendy" places but even still, Hong Kong beats NYC in this category. at least in Manhattan you can still get a $1 slice of pizza or a big serving of chicken and rice at Halal Guys on 53rd for $8. in Hong Kong you get a coffee.

our Airbnb was $142 per night (+ $33 in fees per night). meals were $30 /each on average.

here's a comparison of our New York City vs Hong Kong lifestyle.

The Crib

our Airbnb was clean + well-located, but tiny. no matter where you were in the apartment, a window was < 5 ft away.

waking up like this was pretty cool though.

Hong Kong SoHo Apartment View

in the area we stayed -- SoHo / Central -- there is a sort of pedestrian "highway" known as The Escalators.

this is a series of literal escalators and walking bridges that make it easy to essentially traverse up a small mountain without losing your breath or mind.

Hong Kong Escalator View

on the left is a typical view down a section of street, and on the right is the escalator beside this view, facing south. the hill begins on the northern coast of Hong Kong island and elevation increases as you travel south.


Rickshaw followers are accountability partners. here's what we achieved in 5 days in Hong Kong.

Ryan finished reading Company of One by Paul Jarvis and wrote a controversial article about his competitors at Fomo.

he filmed instructional videos for our new virtual assistant (via Zirtual.com). his Honest Marketer scholarship program also kicked off, and he wrote a recap about that here.

Hideko completed her Launch School assessment, finished "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle, and continued adding test coverage to Fomo integrations.

together, we completed v1 of our invoice management app. it's now fully functional with a user interface.


nothing about Hong Kong was difficult.

the weather was great (mild, 60's Fahrenheit) and we even saw a couple friends -- the first time socializing with others since we started traveling.

if we had to describe 1 challenge though: streets in some areas are very hilly.

for those out of shape, daily life probably sucks a bit. but we stay in shape, and luckily we found another gym just across the street from our apartment. they offered a free 1-day trial so we did that + home workouts to keep our bodies in check.

Ryan's Corner

a very cliche remark about New York City is that there is an "energy" in the air that makes you work hard and live better. i felt this in Hong Kong.

my needs are pretty simple: good coffee, meat, and positive environments. with Hong Kong's slew of everything from burgers to Argentinian steak houses and fancy in-house cold brew coffee roasters, i was in heaven.

Tango Argentinian Steakhouse Hong Kong

it was a bit of a slap in the face to leave Hong Kong so quickly, and we're extending future travel plans to get more acclimated + experience less "fomo" about all the cool things we don't get to do during short trips.

Hideko's Corner

as fun as it is to live in the heart of the concrete jungle (i.e. the NYC's and Hong Kong's of the world), it's important to remember the "fisherman and businessman" fable.

if you don't know what i'm talking about, read one short version here.

(tldr: on a tropical island a businessman meets a local fisherman who catches just enough fish to feed his family. a businessman tries to advise him on how to expand his fishing into a business to make more money. fisherman asks what happens after he does this. businessman responds that the fisherman will be able to retire, relax, and spend his days on a beach. fisherman shrugs and replies that he's already living that life.)

here is an apartment in central Hong Kong, listed at $2.4 million. It's 3-bed, 1-bath and 628 square feet:

here is a newly built house in suburban Boulder, Colorado. it is also listed for $2.4 million but has 5 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms at 5,069 square feet:

after 5 years on and off in New York City, i salivate over the thought of a dishwasher, in-unit washer/dryer, multiple bathrooms, and a kitchen with a full-size oven. the "NYC grind" builds character but i'm not working hard so that i can hear my neighbors watching retirement fund infomercials at 3am through the thin walls.

you could say my "tropical island" from the fable is a house with a yard.

as you can tell, Ryan and i feel differently about this. he would happily spend his days cafe hopping through the likes of Hong Kong or NYC.

Rickshaw Report

Hong Kong earned a 82 / 100 score according to our Rubric.

Rickshaw Report Hong Kong

while the city is a lot of fun, and painless for anyone who speaks English OR Chinese, it's also remarkably different than most places around the world:

  • we still used VPNs to access most websites

  • expensive AF, and we're former New Yorkers(!)

  • tight and not easy-going (small apartments, aggressive drivers, career- vs family-oriented)

most Western people with "real" jobs seem to work in finance or real estate. at the very least they work for big companies and wear suits M-F. we prefer a city full of people who choose their own destiny, so while we'll definitely visit Hong Kong again, it's not a "forever" place for us.

thank you (means "thank you" in Hong Kong) for reading!

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