Friday, 18 October 2013

Cheap Stays In Expensive Hong Kong: JUST AS INN @ 81 Nathan Road

Hotel rooms in Hong Kong have sky-rocketed in past years, and it is now almost impossible to find cheap stays unless you want to slum it out at Chungking Mansions. Speaking of that infamous globalised cockroach residence, it too has received a massive face-lift and has guest-houses going at over SGD 100 per room per evening. What has the world come to?
Back in 2005 when I attended the 1st Hong Kong International Piano Competition, I set myself a limit of SGD 100 per evening and was able to get the very decent Century Novotel in the Western district with a view of Victoria Peak. As the years rolled on, that hundred dollars bought less and less comfort and luxury, yet I was still able to get serviceable accomodation in central Kowloon areas like Jordan and Temple Street. Come 2013, even those hotels charge rooms in excess of SGD 200.  

That is when I discovered the newly created Just As Inn  at 81 Nathan Road on the hotel website It is closely related to the better known and established Just Inn ( on Lock Road, which has been justly popular with backpackers for years.

I was able to secure a single room at under SGD 100 for four nights, and a double for just a bit more (as they had run out of single rooms for the period of booking). The photos on the website looked tasteful enough, with a touch of zen in its simple room designs and the conspicuous absence of tacky Chinese fittings common in low-priced HK accomodation.
One of its best draws is its location: Harilela Mansion is directly on top of the Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station,  next door to I-Square shopping centre, and the A21 Airport Bus Service stop is right at its doorstep.
Getting there is an experience in itself. The entrance is narrow and unprepossessing, wedged between a Cartier outlet and a strip-joint. Presently there is only one lift serving the 5th to 15th floors, and its full capacity is seven persons packed like sardines, or four with luggage. As you emerge at the 8th floor, a large banner for massage and other dubious services greets you. Just As Inn is just to the left of that.

Just As Inn does not advertise itself as a boutique hotel, which is merely a euphemism for new crummy. Instead, what you see is what you get. The reception area sits one person besides the young receptionist who greets you. There is a coffee machine, a stack of magazines and strangely enough, two images of Aung San Suu Kyi stencilled on a canvas.

For the first two evenings, I was assigned Room 1, a double room and one of few with a window (which overlooks an air-well). Thankfully, the room is spotlessly clean and uncluttered. The furniture is simple (a few boards here and there to make a bed and table) and the mattress firm and comfortable. The bathroom is tiny but its fittings are new. The problem with these ensuite bathrooms is that a single shower will get everything including the washbasin and WC completely wet. 
Did I say that every room has a different art concept, a flat-screen television (albeit with limited channels, no CNA or BBC) and the free wifi operates 24 hours a day?   

For the last four evenings, I moved into Room 7, a single room with no window, which is as basic as one can get. There are a total of 14 rooms in this establishment. This is what SGD 100 gets you these days in HK, but I was not complaining. At least I was not in Chungking Mansion.
Just As Inn has been booked solid for the period of the Hong Kong Arts Festival next year. So I'll have to push off to somewhere else, hopefully as reasonably priced.

N.B. Harilela Mansion does have a bit of a reputation. Its 4th storey is the Tsim Sha Tsui Sauna, and I noticed on occasion rough-looking men exiting on the 5th floor to enter a secretive looking boarded-up door with the word Galaxy on it. After returning to Singapore, an Internet search I did revealed that to be a gay sauna!

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