The bustling metropolis of Hong Kong beckoned me for the second time, but not for the culinary delights or shopping sprees you might be thinking of. No, this time, it was for the sobering task of obtaining a China Visa. Apparently, I couldn’t get a China Visa in Taiwan, and making a pit stop in Malaysia to sort out the paperwork was just too troublesome. Hong Kong was the strategic choice that would also allow me to hop right into ShenZhen after that.
As my plane touched down on this island of infinite possibilities, little did I know that this trip would turn into a financial revelation of sorts—on spending, saving, and realising the true value of a Ringgit. Buckle up, dear Malaysians, as I share my adventures and insights from this financial rollercoaster of a journey.
First Meal: A Michelin Misadventure
Let’s talk about my first meal there — Mak’s Noodle, a Michelin-star restaurant. The mere mention of “Michelin star” conjures images of exquisite plating, intricate flavours, and a dining experience to remember. Imagine my shock when I was served a plate of plain noodles seasoned with a modest drizzle of oyster sauce—all for the princely sum of HK$38 (RM23). The noodles were decent, but for that price, I could have feasted on a plate of wonton mee (which taste better indeed back home), milo ais, and still have some change left for a round of char kway teow back in Malaysia.
The Street Food Saga
For our second meal, we decided to descend from the Michelin heavens and try the street food. Eager to taste the local flavours, we heeded the waitress’s advice and ordered their bestsellers: roasted goose and pork. But lo and behold, the slices came loaded with fat so thick, you’d think they were auditioning for a cholesterol-based reality show. I couldn’t even finish it.
Instantly, I was consumed with the kind of guilt that makes you calculate how many hours you’d have to toil at the gym just to break even on the calorie scale. To rub salt into the proverbial wound, this “street food” experience costs three times more than what a hearty meal would back in Malaysia. It was like cruising on a highway, expecting a small toll, only to be slapped with a surcharge that felt like you were paying to build the road yourself.
Now, if you know me, you’d know I adore coffee. So, I grabbed a Starbucks venti latte for HK$48. If you’re doing the conversion to Ringgit, your calculator will probably need a minute to catch its breath. It was a whopping RM29. It’s like paying a highway toll, but instead of heading to Penang, you’ve been detoured to Mars. So, while sipping on that latte, every gulp felt like I was drinking liquid gold, only less metallic and more frothy.
The Real Estate Rollercoaster
Why so expensive, you ask? A significant factor is Hong Kong’s sky-high real estate prices. With rents that would make even a palm oil plantation owner gasp, it’s no wonder most businesses pass on the cost to the consumer. The rentals are so expensive that even a humble bowl of wonton noodles or a cup of coffee has to contribute its share to the landlord’s ever-growing coffers. The government has even imposed a 30% tax on property transactions to curb speculation (reduced to 15% recently). It’s like the government placing a toll booth on a highway to slow down speedsters, but the toll fee is so high, you might as well sell your car and walk. So, why are properties in Hong Kong so absurdly expensive? It’s a cocktail of limited land, high demand, and speculative investments—a perfect storm.
Now let’s talk about where I laid my head at night: a hotel in Causeway Bay, a bit like the Bukit Bintang of Hong Kong, only on financial steroids. The nightly rate? Brace yourselves—a whooping sum of over RM1300. That’s easily three times what a nice hotel in Kuala Lumpur would charge. And oh, did I mention that breakfast isn’t included? That’ll be another HK$150 (RM91) per person. However, after experiencing the general cost of living by eating at local markets where everyday Hongkies dine, I began to think the hotel prices weren’t that outrageous. They were merely keeping up with the Joneses, or should I say, the Chans and the Wongs.
Investment Ideas in a Concrete Jungle
But don’t get me wrong, there’s a reason why Hong Kong is Asia’s Wall Street. If you want to invest in China, this is your gateway. This concrete jungle is teeming not with exotic animals, but with skyscrapers housing financial institutions, stock exchanges, and endless investment opportunities, especially if you’re looking to tap into the colossal Chinese market. There are over 2,500 companies listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, a buffet of investment options that would make even the most indecisive trader salivate.
Walking through the city’s financial district feels like navigating a palm oil plantation, only the trees are steel towers and the fruits are financial opportunities dangling just out of reach.
High Risk, High Reward
Malaysians spending money here might feel like a crying baby who’s just lost its pacifier. But the experience is priceless, quite literally. On the flip side, salaries in Hong Kong are as high as their skyscrapers, with an average monthly salary that hovers around HK$36,583 (RM22,278) a month for a full-time worker. You could say, making money in Hong Kong and retiring in Malaysia is like earning in dollars but spending in Ringgit—a financially savvy move, if ever there was one!
Take my friend for example. He worked in Hong Kong for a few years, took two years off to travel the world and pen a book about his escapades. Then he went back to Malaysia and started a school. Now, how’s that for a rags-to-(even more)-riches story?
Hong Kong is expensive, but it’s also an eye-opener. If you can navigate the financial labyrinth of this city, you’ll find the ‘yin’ to its ‘yang’—incredible opportunities for work, investment, and, yes, even a good meal that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. But until then, keep counting those Ringgits and make sure you have a robust investment portfolio, perhaps in properties and stocks, to afford your next Hong Kong adventure.
So, if you’re planning a trip to Hong Kong anytime soon, don’t forget to pack your financial acumen along with your luggage. You’re going to need it as much as your passport.
Till then, my financially savvy Malaysians, save smartly, invest wisely, and remember, a Ringgit saved is a nasi lemak earned.