One of my favorite perks of life in Hong Kong is ease with which I can jet off for a weekend to all sorts of exotic places that before moving here I couldn’t locate on a map, let alone dream of visiting. However, the costs of all that travel can add up, and to be honest, after a few years of living in Asia, I’ve found myself thinking it might be nice to deviate from the standard vacation plans, which usually involve international hotels or beach villas that (as fantastic as they are) all begin to blur together after awhile. Enter Wimdu, a new-to-Hong-Kong service that matches hosts with an extra room (or sometimes an entire extra flat/home) to rent with guests who want to experience the city “like a local”.
I have to admit that before meeting the girls behind Wimdu Hong Kong, I had heard a bit about a similar concept (“couch surfing”), but thought that it was something party-seeking backpackers and students on gap year did strictly because of lack of finances for a trip, and had not really considered it as a vacation option for families or working professionals. After browsing the Wimdu website, I quickly realized that I was very wrong – stylish flats in Central, rooms in luxurious country houses in the New Territories, and even entire luxury junk boats, are all available in Hong Kong, many at fraction of what a night in a hotel room would cost.
Wimdu invited the Sassy girls to one of these properties for a little getaway from Central that we dubbed the “Sassy Staycation”. For our Staycation, we visited “Aux Delices”, a lovely house and gourmet private kitchen in Yuen Long (located along the West Rail line in the New Territories). The hostess of Aux Delices was present during our stay to chat, get us acquainted with the house, give us tips about getting around the area, and even prepared a delicious meal for our group. In spite of the rainy weather, we had a wonderful time on our little girls’ trip. After a little walk around the village, we enjoyed chatting and flipping through magazines poolside over a glass of wine before sitting down to a home cooked meal. Although we had planned for a bit more girl-talk and manicures in the private upstairs living space shared by our three rooms, with our bellies full and cushy beds awaiting, we all called it an early night and reconvened over breakfast in the garden the next morning. There is something so relaxing about being somewhere quiet, surrounded by lush green mountains…all of us returned to our “real lives” the following morning feeling refreshed as if we had been somewhere far away for several days (in reality, we were less than an hour from Central and gone for under 24 hours).
Our Sassy Staycation definitely has opened my eyes to the fact that there is a great big world of travel options out there beyond the standard, which is without a doubt worth exploring. Aside from a quick, local, getaway like we enjoyed, Wimdu’s international properties (across Asia, Europe, and the US) sound like a great way to get a more unique or authentic experience in a foreign country than would typically be offered by a hotel – how fun would it be to stay in an over-water bungalow built from bamboo in Boracay, hang out in a traditional Japanese house with locals in Tokyo, or, if money were no object, spend the night being treated like royalty in a real castle in the UK? Hester commented that Wimdu’s full-flat rental properties are a wonderful solution for families, as they alieviate the need to coordinate multiple hotel room bookings and provide access to a kitchen. Anyone who has ever racked up a giant hotel mini-bar tab while trying to re-shuffle things to make space for their own goodies – yes, I’m guilty of this– can appreciate what a money saver a fridge can be. And for those of us who have turned our spare bedroom into a walk in closet, wouldn’t it be great to be able to refer visitors to an apartment just down the street, rather than having them cooped up on your sofa during their trip to see you in Hong Kong? I love my friends and family, but there are times when I would gladly contribute to the nightly cost of a little apartment on Caine Road to have them jet lagged and making a 3 AM snack in their own space!
On the flip side of things, Wimdu is also always looking for people who want to open their homes to guests from around the world, and we’ve heard talk that a few Sassy members have already signed up to make rooms in their apartments available for visitors. If you are one of these girls, we’d love to hear how it worked out for you!