Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Asia (
-   -   Kind of a work/trip report: 6 Weeks Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur & Back to Bali! (

laartista May 5th, 2010 11:03 PM

Kind of a work/trip report: 6 Weeks Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur & Back to Bali!
Wasn't really planning on writing a trip report BUT had alot of help especially with the Hong Kong portion from Cicerone (local expert) and figured since it was my first time to both Hong Kong and KL I'd give my thoughts and maybe there will be some useful info. for others.

The trip was kind of last minute in that I decided in Feb. to head back to Bali before getting myself resituated in Florence. Originally was to return in late August but then I would be paying rent there and hotel here so while I am in nomad mode for the last 9 months better to do it now. Plus there were some kinks with our production house that needed my attention.

Hong Kong was added on originally for 6 days to source fabric and materials for an accessories line I am adding and also to source stones. Also, Bangkok was originally scheduled in for 4-5 days to visit another production facility and KL was originally a pass thru because we were flying Air Asia and it was cheaper to go thru KL than BKK direct to Denpasar. Due to the situation in BKK , and sourcing sucking up time in Hong Kong, while in HK , a complete change of plans. We cut BKK out extended HK to 10 days, extended KL from 2-4 days and am presently in Bali, been for 2 weeks and head back in another 2. Thankfully, Air Asia was offering free of charge changes to tickets in and out of BKK and we took advantage of it.

My business partner Robin would be traveling for 3 of the 6 weeks with me and then head back to New York to manage the "store" while I stayed in Bali to iron some things out and do additional sampling. I flew from Vegas where Bear's grandparents are kitty sitting him and met Robin in LA. LAX > Narita > Hong Kong a long day of travel and arrived in HK the night of 7 April to what would be our first of 3 hotels in 10 days.

laartista May 6th, 2010 12:19 AM

So weird! I started it then couldn't fid it!!

Sooo arrived in HK just before midnight, customs was quick, must say the whole taking of body temp thing as you pass by people wearing masks and gloves kind of freaked this hypochondriac out a bit. Picked up luggage and took a cab it was almost 1 amish, maybe a bit before and even though there was a shuttle leaving it was not for another half hour, we didn't feel like waiting. I booked the first 4 nights on the JJ hotel on Hong Kong Island on Wan Chai Road. Having never been to HK before had no idea where that was or if it was even ok, turns out pretty central.

Hotel budget for this trip was low for me, I mean really low, I didn't want to go over 60.00 a night anywhere. In HK that seemed almost impossible but doable with the first place I found which was HopInn, but they were booked so for 58.00 USD a night for the first 4 nights we were at JJ HOTEL. Located on the 9, 10 & 11 floors of a nondescript building with an itty bitty elevator. Floors 3 & 4 Mah Johg clubs, Floor 5 a restaurant called Megan's Kitchen ( actually very good), floor 6 billards club, top floor Karaoke club ( private , we could not get in as hard as we try). Have to say was a bit nervous about the room during the ride up and at reception. It was like 2 am , btw taxi from airport about an hour I think and 45-50 bucks w/ tip, street was deserted, but ok lit, 7-11 almost right across the street, I could see a Micky D's down the street. Checked in a suprisingly the best room we had in HK!! Very spacious, twin room, good a/c, new, modern, clean, flat screen TV w/ satallite channels, bathroom was cool w/ glass walls that had shades you pull down for privacy, very bright, big windows,super comfy bed a steal!Only caveat was that at certain times of the day it smelled like the cooking , I'm guessing from the place downstairs. We were soooo jet lagged, that as hard as I try could not sleep. Pretty much up all night so at 6am I went to get coffee at circle K ( later found a starbucks very close by)and planned our day. First stop was Sham Shui Po ( sp?), garment district, recommended by Cicerone, and even though we left before 8 somehow got sidetracked for 3-4 hours before we exited the subway at the stop of the same name. We walked from JJHotel on Wan Chai Rd. to the Wan Chai Ferry terminal to catch the ferry to Kowloon. We had crappy weather the entire time. I think maybe one partly sunny afternoon otherwise hot/humid/hazy or last few days cold and rainy ( ended up getting sick). That said, couldn't really see anything on the crossing.

Arrived at Kowloon and walked across the street to the subway. Very easy to use, people in the subway were always very friendly and helpful. Not so much at other times, but I think it's more being reserved than unfriendly, kind of like Eastern Europe.Seriously not alot of tourists or westerners at all in that neighborhood and not a ton of English spoken. We would spend a total of 6 of the 10 days there all day always using Ki Lung Street as our compass. They were exhausting days, carrying heavy bags and bolts of fabric,soaking wet, some days because it was so humid and sticky and others because it was raining.

After first 3 days which was then Sunday, we took the day off. Actually Sat. I had gotten stomache sick and needed to do illustrations and such so we worked all day almost 14 hrs. from the hotel room. So Sunday was to be an off day. It was overcast then rainy therefore Victoria Peak was out, so we started the day heading to Central.

laartista May 6th, 2010 12:53 AM

We spent that day looking around Central. Here's the deal, no doubt shopping is FAB in HK, everything you could want is there from designer down, but it's not cheap unless you buy cheap, in fact I found for most quality things prices are higher than the US and even Italy, just my experience. That said, is fun looking. I loved the feel of HK, vibrant and loud and busy ,busy, busy. The city IMHO most rivals NYC.
Except, NY has them beat on museums and cultural activities, again just my opinion. HK seemed very business everywhere, all the time. That's not a bad thing.

While I am not usually a fan of super modern architecture, I loved the buildings there, I loved the weird,I loved the neon, I loved how tall and skinny and pastelly other older buildings were. I wished the entire time for a clear day for Victoria Peak, or to see the hills surrounding the city, that never really happened during my stay. Really the only thing I did not love was the smell of the dried fish I suppose. Also not being a foodie I ate very tame. I could see for a foodie HK is an experience to behold but hey, I'm just not that girl.

Later that Sunday we took a taxi in the rain to Stanley to visit the market, i think it was about 10 bucks from Centralish. No great buys, filled with tourists, some cool stuff, fun all the same. Ate at a place called Lola's maybe or something like that, was good but expensive, like NY prices for a plain sit down luch about 40-45 bucks.We took the bus back to Central it was the only time we had somewhat clear skies and the views were gorgeous. We took the subway from central back to wan chai where it was a few blocks to the hotel. Sunday night was spent trying to find a reasonable hotel for Monday and Tuesday as we had not yet at that point decided to extend our stay in HK. Unfortunately, Monday started the week of the big electronics fair and everything was through my roofs budget. Finally buckled and booked 2 nights at the Dorsett Seaview on Kowloon located at the corner of Shanghai St. & Public Square and right around the corner from Temple St. night marketat 125 US a night. Location was AWESOME!!! The room,the size of a tiny cabin on a very old cruiseship, truely the smallest hotel room EVER!!!In fact I think the ferry I took from Split to Ancona overnight had a bigger cabin than that room and that ferry was easy from like 1950. Completely claustraphobic!

Seriously, our luggage took up every bit of floor space. I had to climb over it and the Robins bed to get to the bathroom. I picked the bed near the window because it was so claustraphobic! Also an extra 15 bucks a day for wifi, another plus for JJHotel free wifi!!! Breakfast was not included but a short 5 minute walk to Nathan Road was a Starbucks so we got our morning coffee there.

After we checked in we headed back to Sham Shui Po, spent the day there and to the ladies market at around six pm. Between Ladies, Stanley and Temple market we liked Temple the best. we actually ate there every night there after, usually some noodle or rice dish, spring rolls, nothing exciting. actually one night I think I had mussels but that could have been in KL. Tuesday am we spent most of the morning changing our Air Asia tickets, they were so backlogged with the BKK thing that we just changed the first ticket from HK to BKK to HK to KL. No price difference , no change charge. While Robin dealt with that I was trying to get another hotel, that roomwas driving me nuts!! Found a room at Metropark on Kowloon for 100 US anight inc. wifi, done deal! Back to Ki Lung Street and environs and then that eve to Temple Street, had to buy sweatshirts, it was gettin chilly, the change in weather was coming.

rhkkmk May 6th, 2010 07:31 AM

loving the report....sorry to be missing you in bali

filmwill May 6th, 2010 09:57 AM

ditto. sorry we weren't able to meet up in bali. would've been fun.

thursdaysd May 6th, 2010 10:24 AM

Hi laartista - nice to see you here. And thanks very much for the JJ Hotel info - I'll add it to my possibles list.

laartista May 8th, 2010 12:38 AM

Thanks you guys. I'm too sorry will miss you and missed film, I seem to be here a solid month in between. Have to say I could def live here in Bali part of the year but this place makes me LAZY! So to veg out before I tackle another installment.

Gpanda May 8th, 2010 02:41 AM

Thanks for the report. Squishing into the HK hotel room sounds amusing. Timely report, no penalty.

laartista May 8th, 2010 04:58 AM

Thanks Gpanda! I hope that you are feeling ok and see that you are looking to plan another Asia trip or somewhere thereabouts. I vote for India :)

Wednesday morning found us once again moving hotels to the Metropark in Kowloon. Nice big hotel fine location between 2 subway stops. Wifi was included, room was spacious, but a bit on the worn side but frankly anything would have been an improvement over the seaview. After we checked in we headed over to Hung Hom area in the search of stones. What I discovered is that I have neither the skill or desire to source them myself plus prices seemed higher than we were already paying. Afterall, I'm a designer that now does jewelry and my knowledge of gems is limited which is why I usually leave it to the professionals. Sometimes something that seems like a good idea ends up giving me a headache. I much rather just draw it and spec the stone and let them source it. While here in Bali I was speaking w/ a French jewelry designer from Paris who has been living in HK for 5 years and also has her line made in Bali. She doesn't source stones in HK only BKK, India and here in Bali. Lesson learned. An afternoon there was a bust except for the lovely park we visited whose name escapes me. From that park we walked toward the water and followed an esplanade for quite a while until it ended at a large bus terminal at which time we caught a taxi to the Mong Kok area. I don't think I have ever seen so many converse and cellphones anywhere ever!!! Got myself a pair of apple green chucks at the Ladies Market.Back to temple street market for some grub, nothing interesting, just some noodles and veggies.
Called it a night.

We spent Thursday at the Jade market and then back to Sham Shui Po to pick up the last of our fabric and metal components we would take to Bali to have our samples made.
Friday we headed to Macau. We took the ferry, nice ferry , nice ride. I loved Macau, but I really loved not working that day and just being a tourist. I like being a tourist. We grabbed a taxi from the ferry terminal and went first to see A-Ma Temple which is beautifully built around these large boulders. Snapped a bunch of photos, got the map out and walked ourselves past the old Portuguese architecture to the main Square in Old town.

It was beautiful and did remind me in parts of Lisbon as it should, especially the limestone sidewalks.A quick stop at Starbucks for my compulsatory mug purchase ( I think I'm up to 45, it's a sickness) Most of our day was spent just wandering around there, trying different street foods, none I took more than a bite or two of. We visited Sao Paolo Cathedral before heading to check out the MGM and Wynn hotels. My folks live in Vegas and got a kick from those pictures. Lost 20 bucks, had some dinner, watched a fountain show and headed back to HK around 9 pm. The next day we had an early start at 8 am for the airport to catch the flight to KL.

We caught a taxi at 8am for an 11 am flight on Air Asia. Check in was somewhat of a cluster you know what. We had booked our tickets from the states in March when they were having a huge sale so our flights were pretty cheap. This ticket was one of the ones that was changeable w/ out the fee cause originally we were flying Hk > BKK. We had also purchased anticipating taking materials from HK the super size 30 Kilo allowance each, hot seats ( board first) and fried rice on board. I think that all came to an extra 30 bucks or so but it is so worth it. If you don't pre buy xtra baggage weight you will get slammed at the airport with CRAZY charges!! Been there done that!

I had just packed a drop bottom duffle, using only the bottom part for clothes for 6 weeks. Here in Bali I send my laundry out once a week for like 4 bucks and I would need the room to bring our stuff back. I also had a wheeled carryon for my laptop and 1/2 the jewelry line. Flight was fine only required only one xanax, we both sat first row on the aisle across from each other. I beleive the flight was 3 1/2 hours to KL. I had no expectations about KL except that Robin had told me that had a stellar airport. Well it seems they have 2 and the one we landed at was less than stellar!!

We caught the Air Asia shuttle bus about 9 ringet to Central bus station. Ride is close to an hour and a storm was brewing by the time we arrived in town full fledged downpour. Jumped in taxi to the Novatel across from the 2 year old Pavillion eating and shopping extravaganza! We got a RE-diculous low rate of 54.00 a night somewhere on line. It's a really nice hotel, huge rooms, with all the ++++ and free wifi!! By the time we finally checked in it was around 6 pm, we were starvin marvin so we headed over to Pavillion for some eats. That night we had tapas and sangria it hit the spot , not too heavy and just the right buzz. As we were walking back to the hotel which was almost connected to the pavillion we passed by the Tang dept. store from Singapore. HUGE SALE MEANS BIG TROUBLE IN KUALA LUMPUR! two handbags and a pair of super cute patent leather and woven wedges later I found myself making a haircut appt. for the next eve Sunday at 7pm. I don't know why I find it necessary to always get my haircut in different countries while traveling but I ALWAYS do. It was hot and humid and my normally shiny straight hair was a frizzball, a dark dark brown frizzball. I had the color done before I left and went a few shades too dark, I just couldn;t stand it another minute!

KL was originally intended as just a pit stop but we were glad we had 4 days there. I loved it and it makes me want to explore Malaysia more. I found it really progressive for an overall Muslim city.

Our 54.00 room did not come with breakfast but no biggy cause across the street was both a Starbucks and a Coffee Bean. Robin and I took turns fetchin the brew in the morning. Sunday we walked and walked and walked. First stop was the Central Market, a little too sterile and touristy ( prices too) for me but we had a great lunch of Malaysian food at the food court upstairs. From there we walked to the Little India section. Well that's a crazy little part of town. Robin was insistant that she could find silk and in 2 days have a wedding dress made for her October nuptials. I kept telling her not gonna happen but she was insistant! Insistant until when she told the woman at the gorgeous fabric store of 6 floors and showed them a picture and then said 2 days, they literally laughed at her. I just sat in the corner and could not help myself, " told ya". I felt bad for her, but it was ridiculous. We needed needles and thread and pins and tape measure to do the mock ups for the handbags so we bought all that stuff in Little India, Toured adepartment like store there that was like a TJ MAXX Little India, ate some delic! street food, bannna puff, samosas yummy!!! Then we walked to China town and Petaling Street Market. Well that was an experience!!

Kristina May 8th, 2010 05:10 AM

Hey girl! I'm loving following along with all the detail.

laartista May 8th, 2010 05:44 AM

OK so I know this is both contraversial and illegal BUT my family apparenty doesn't care and wanted designer copies. I myself, as much as I like to shop do not like overt labels. At 44 I have never had a Gucci or Louie or anything of the sorts. I like my labels on the inside. The other women in my family like most women do like them and even though they have real ones, if there is a really good copy they'll carry that too! Robin should be related to them. Now we had thought HK is where we would find such things, the good ones, not the case, Petaling Street in KL if you ask the right questions is where it's at. Stall after stall of watches and bags and watches and more bags and wallets!!! Now the good stuff is not in the booth you have to ask the all important question : Do you have better?" And they ALL do! I had a list of styles and colors but limited mom and sis and my one aunt to one each. I was not going to be bringing a bunch of copies back through customs! It was 4:45 we exactly 1: 45 to shop I had an appt. with Vincent the hairdresser at 7.

Not sure why we stopped at the booth we did and to be honest I can't tell if something is a good copy or not. Robin on the other hand is a pro. Checks stitching and hardware and linings and I just sit and watch. So she asks the guy the question and he says come with me. I hate come with me, it always means some deserted building in an alley, this was no exception. Into the elevator with him and another guy. I looked at Robin and whispered are you scared (I am such a chicken-shit) and she was like are you kidding? I'm bigger than these two put together, I can take them. I believed her. We were taken to a door and when it opened there must have been 20 white women smushed into a walk- in closet of fake designer bags shelved to the ceiling. Australians, Brits, French,Japanese, We were the American reps. I wished I could take a picture , it was a funny sight! I had given Robin the list of 2 wallets and one bag, took a seat and watched her go to town for the next hour. Originally quotes on the bags around 400 US, Robin said they looked so real she thought maybe they fell off a truck. It felt just like that episode of Sex in the City when Carrie buys her fake Fendi in LA. They came down to about 225.I thought that was high, Robin couldn't decide, I had a hair appointment, we said we would come back on Tuesday and when we did things got interesting.

We caught a cab back to Pavillion and I had my hair cut. Thing is I had a bad cut 2 cuts ago and women know it takes about 4 good cuts to right a bad one. This was better but I hate it, too many layers, frizzier , I have a feathered fro circa 1984! Not my best look! We ate at the Greek restaraunt that night. Not great , not terrible. Around 10 called it a night.

Mondays plan was to work on our mock ups all day. That was OUR plan, however I was the one who ended up working! Robin spent the day at the hellish Air Asia office getting credits for our BKK to KL legs wich we now didn't need. She still needed a ticket from Bali back to Singapore for the next Sunday so she spent 5 hours there getting her ticket changed and getting me a credit. The place was a madhouse because all flight KL to London were cancelled due to Volcano and people were changing their BKK tickets, it was such a mess that day their website crashed! I actually had the easier day working in an airconditioned room with 2 1/2 men on in the background thanks to sky satallite at the Novatel. Monday night we ate Mexican food and had margheritas.

Tuesday morning bright and early in the rain we took a driver for about 30 bucks round trip to the Batu Caves. About a 30 minute drive or so. Limestone caves that is one of the most visited Hindu Shrines outside of India. It wsa kind of funny first arriving but at least the rain was now a drizzle. I expected it to be in a countryside setting but it felt more like it was plopped off an exit on the highway ( I know they were there first) not unlike Disneyland off a main drag in Annaheim. Just seemed strange to me.They were very cool though. A HUMOUNGI Gold Statue followed by 270 stairs up to the caves. Along the way monkies and lots of bare footed worshippers. took lots of pix and as soon as I get more space on my picasa online I will upload. I bought some cool rosary kind of beads as a necklace made of nuts which I now know were dyed and bled all over my white shirt in the rain!! We spent about 1.5-2 hours just tooling around and then headed back to town. We grabbed lunch on the lowest level of Pavillion which has one kick-ass GOURMET food market!! And cheap!! We couldn't believe it was there. We wondered where all the people were taking the escalators down to the days before, well that's where. We had a great lunch and headed back to Petaling Street. Let the bargaining games begin!!!

laartista May 8th, 2010 05:46 AM

Thanks Kristina!!! Just saw your post :)

rhkkmk May 8th, 2010 08:18 AM

loving the you have a web site where we can see some of your creations or your lines??

laartista May 8th, 2010 05:29 PM

Thanks RHK ! I adhere to the strict guidelines of no advertising on Fodors so I don't post the site. Facebook is however another story. Off to a Sunday morning Balinese painting class will continue later.

rhkkmk May 8th, 2010 07:26 PM

thanks for following the rules....maybe you could send it to me at: [email protected]

we would love to see your work

landineen May 9th, 2010 08:10 PM

Hey laartista,
I see that you started a NEW trip report which is always a treat. I know your new accessories line will be successful. Glad your having a great time. Keep typing...

J & K

laartista May 9th, 2010 10:39 PM

thanks you guys! how are things landineen?

Ok. so we were heading back to Petaling street in KL it was around 1:30. When we got there it seemed different, less congested as if some aisles/booths were missing. Well, they were, all the middle booths set up at around 4-5 pm. We decided to go back to the booth where the guy originally took us to the deserted building. My throat was a bit sore and was feeling really tired and as much as I wanted to fight it I knew what was coming. A really bad cold! I swear I get sick EVERYTIME I travel! Every time! Which is why I travel with a pharmacy including a course of Cipro.

We found the booth and the guy once again escorted us to the big closet/ storage space. I decided I was not paying more than 100US for my mom's bag. about 330 ringet. I picked it out and sat myself on a stool while Robin made her decision. After about a half hour I was getting a bit impatient as I started to get a headache and the sniffles. Finally Robin made her choice a large Louie tote, my mom's was a smaller louie patent bag. He told Robin 450 ringet she got him to 400. He would not budge on mine, said 450 ringet. I was not paying more than around 300. I held my ground but he wouldn't budge. I told him her bag was twice the size and that mine was patent leather. Still he would not budge. I didn't get it. I said fine no sale and walked out of the room and he let me which means 450 was his lowest price. Still I didn't understand why he would not budge on that bag. It was weird.

While standing in the hall I heard him tell Robin her credit card was not working, she said it just did earlier in the day. He said cannot , need cash and told her where there was an ATM. She didn't want to go to the ATM. Hmmm, there may be a window here for further negotiation. I walked back in and asked what's up. Robin explained to me then situation in front of the guy at which point I said, " I have the cash". Robin said you do? I said, yeah I do and she said can you front me and I'll pay you back and then I said NO, cannot. ( she knew I would and she also knew where this was going) I told the guy I will give you 700 for both. 400 for hers and 300 for the one for my mom. He glared at me and said no and he turned to Robin telling her again about the ATM. I said, she's not going to the ATM and since I'm the one who has money it's either 700 for both or you lose both sales and we both walk out of here. I could hear him cursing me under his breath (luckily I was wearing my evil eye) and after a 10 minute stare down he begrudgingly said fine! He was NOT happy about it. I however was, and my mom now had her mothers day gift. We jumped in a cab and headed back to the hotel I was feeling like crap and had to lie down. I slept for 4 hours!

When I got up around 8 pm I was so congested I could not breath, my throat felt raw, I was miserable. We went across the street to the food court so I could have some soup and got some cepacol type throat spray and afrin. We were flying the next day and that with a head cold and my normal ear problems was not going to be good. As crappy as I felt we had not yet seen the petrone towers up close and I really wanted to so I sucked it up and we walked over there. They are really something, must have taken 50 pictures. I passed out that night and when I woke up Wednesday a.m. I had somehow lost 3 hours.

I thought it was 8 am and had 5 hours til we had to leave for the airport, flight around 3:45. Still had to pack and I was feeling even worse, I just wanted to lay in bed. But it wasn't 8 it was 11 and I couldn't figure out why my mental clock was so off. I never wear a watch and always know what time it is within 5-10 minutes. Call it my stupid human trick or talent :).

Anyway we got a taxi to KL little airport that services Air Asia for the 2+ hour flight to Denpasar. We checked our luggage and good thing we purchased super size we needed it. Robin's carry on is standard issue but on the larger end. She uses it for work all the time. Had flown a few times on Air Asia with it but for some reason they would not let her through, Told her to check it. I had already passed through, so there I was waiting on the other side. As hard as she try explaining she was a flight attendant and that it def fit in overhead compartment they were having no part of it and made her check it back at the counter. I was afraid we would miss our flight. Her cc still wasn't working, I gave her mine said I'd put ot on her tab. 100 bucks later she finally makes it thru customs and we OJ simpson Hertz commercial 1977 hightail it to the gate.

I couldn't breathe and worse couldn't find my earplanes. These little tubes you put in your ears when you have ear tubes problems. During ascent my ears were popping like crazy, I was a misery but it was the descent that brought me to tears. I could not believe the ear pain. It took almost 10 days for my left ear to pop and clear. It was awful!!!

What was not awful is that I was back in Bali!!! And I so love it here! I really do. Each time more than the last. Since first coming Jan. 09 about 16 months ago this is my third trip staying for a month each. I was here in Nov. & Dec. and did not write a report but will probably throw some tidbits in from then here. I could live here part of the year, maybe 3 months at a time. I may get island fever longer than that but 1 month never seems long enough.

simpsonc510 May 10th, 2010 02:49 PM

La... just looked for you on facebook, using your same fodors name, but not sure 'which one' you are. I'm curious, like rhkkmk (Bob) about your design work! Can you post a link, at least?

mebe May 10th, 2010 05:52 PM

laartista, I always love your trip reports. So glad I randomly popped over here to find this one.

Rhkkmk & Carol -- google "Rane Jewelry" That's not breaking any rules, right? ;)


rhkkmk May 10th, 2010 07:27 PM

no problem...its not advertising because it was asked for...

btw, its a damn good thing the seller did not pull a knife on you and take your $700+ and give you an empty paper bag...

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 03:12 AM.