Prepaid Phone SIM Card in Hong Kong

This is part of the on-the-way-to-Shanghai Hong Kong series: 

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If you are going to spend time in Hong Kong, it make sense to get a local phone card. Everyone in Hong Kong operates on phone, SMS and whatsApps chat. Most importantly, with a data enabled smartphone (you did bring your unlocked iPhone with you, right?) you can google map every step of your way. 

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Currently (November 2013) the two good mobile carriers to use are One2Free and three.com.hk. Both have reasonable plans. The sales rep should help you get a reasonable plan without over paying. Make sure you get a prepaid SIM card plan that has 3G service. When I got to the shops the one2free shop were out of nano size SIM card so I bought a "3" SIM card for $188.

I recommend you buy the card once you arrive at the Hong Kong airport. You do have to lug your bags upstairs, to the departure lounge. But that is easily done with the elevator service:

  • once you are out of the restricted area, find the elevator or escalator or the ramp and go to the departure floor, upstairs
  • find the F aisle , head to the end
  • turn around -- now you should see some shops at the end of both the G and the F aisle/check in counters. There should be a 1010 shop, which is the name for one2free shops, and a "three" shop. 
  • Pick one and ask for a prepaid SIM card. 

 

Note that the image is distorted because it is a panorama image! 

Note that the image is distorted because it is a panorama image! 

Multi-currency Bank Account in an Hour

This is part of the on-the-way-to-shanghai Hong Kong series: 

Only in Hong Kong.  Walked into a small citibank branch at Tsim Sha Tsui at 3:45pm. A greeter/triage rep chatting with me about my needs of having an Hong Kong based bank account that can hold USD, Hong Kong Dollars, and RMB. Without a proof of address in Hong Kong, I need an account that is based in HK but with a US home address. Can it be done?

The rep was extremely knowledgable. Soon I am sitting down with a second rep -- he gathered all the documentation and started the account opening process.  Once the account is ready, I was directed to a third rep -- a branch manager to complete the paperwork. A operations manager came and checked the signed documents, a fifth staff prepared a laminated reminder/information card for me. 4:45pm, one hour later, I walk out of the branch with a simple account that can hold multiple currencies, internet access with SMS based authentication to manage transfers, and a RFID ATM card.

I told the manager that I was very impressed with the team approach and speed of processing. She replied: "This is typical Hong Kong -- everyone expects speed."

That's why I like this place so much. 

 

Lock Smith and Key Cutting, a lost art

This is part of the on my way to Shanghai Hong Kong series: 

 
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While in Hong Kong, a friend offered his spare office for me to work in. I need to make a copy of the keys and return the origin to him. Walking around familiar Tsim Sha Tsui area I know there are quiet a few small hardware store around. I asked one of them and they directed me to a "shop" under a stairway. These little store spaces at the entrance of old buildings are typical old Hong Kong. At this place at the end of the street, at 73 Granville Rd I found Alan.

I like locks. I even took a lock picking workshop from Schuyler Towne (yes I learn from the best) not too long ago. I also like these old craftsmen that I know are slowly going extinct. I asked the shop owner about it. He confirmed my observation. He said that the new trend is to either work with a lock service center, or even just call away with the key's code, which with the key type define exactly how the key should be, and have a new key mailed to you in a few days. We both lamented about this trend.  When I asked him if I can take some pictures of him and his shop he was glad to pose for action.

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Alan said that, for other countries, the variation of lock types are small. So a centralized, code based key reproduction system will work. However for Hong Kong, there are way too many types of keys. The centralized system will not work well.

I had similar conversation with two other locksmiths in the Boston area. They all said that it is hard to get an apprentice now. Typically these are family businesses, and young adults these days are just not interested in this kind of repetitive, seemingly boring work. However, if you know locks, it is a very interesting world. I can imagine the vast amount of lock knowledge safely kept in Alan's head. I hope that does not get lost.