Why Asia is Baller

I’ve been reading Andrew’s blog on costs, and have decided to do a similar blog. However, apart from being highly derivative I thought I would advocate Asia as the best exchange destination.

I, like many, have dreams of living in Europe; a white Christmas, partying in Ibiza, sunbathing in the Greek islands, falling in love in Paris and generally being Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday. The ability to travel through 44+ countries is an tempting opportunity. But my heart is in Asia. It offers the same deep cultural experience with an exciting twist – constant challenges and surprises – at a much lower cost (and better weather!!)

This was a $3 30min ferry away.

Four Reasons Why Asia is Baller.

1. Costs

There’s no doubt about it, Asia is way cheaper as a destination; its both closer and day-to-day expenses are well below those of Europe or America.

To give an idea, I’ve constructed a list of usual costs I’ve experienced in Hong Kong, one of the more expensive cities. Many are much cheaper (Bangkok, Mumbai, Mainland China) while many, like Japan are very expensive.

*In (approximate) Australian dollars.*

Meals

Home Cooked Meal – $5.00
Home Cooked Chinese Meal – $2.00
Breakfast at a local diner – $3.00
Lunch/Dinner at a local diner – $6.00
Dinner with few friends and beers – $10.00
Expensive Lunch/Dinner at a western café/restaurant – $30.00-$40.00
Expensive Lunch/Dinner at a Chinese café/restaurant – $20.00-$30.00
All you can eat restaurant – $20.00
McDonalds Burger Meal (the universal cost measure!) – $4.00

Living Costs

Accommodation (whole) semester – $1000.00
Laundry – 0.70c
Two weeks worth of phone credit (assuming you’re moderate user) – $8.00

Shopping

Basic Tshirt at H&M/Cotton On/ Similar – $10 -$15
Tshirt local designer – less than $20
Branded tshirt – $50-100
Decent guys shoes (branded) – $100.00ish
Paperback Book – $20.00
Going to movies – $10.00
Bottle of water – $1.00
Can of coke – $1.00
Coffee – $3.00
Cake – $7.00

Getting Around

MTR to central – $1.60
MTR (student discount) – 0.80c
Taxi from night out – 15.00 (split between 5 people, $3)
Bus to and from airport – $3.50
Ferry to islands – $3.50

Drinking/Going Out

Bottle of Beer at Supermarket – $2.00
Bottle of Beer at 7/11 – $2.50
Bottle of Beer at bar – $10.00
Spirit at bar – $12.00
Entry to the races – $3.00
Entry to average bar/club – Free – $15.00
Entry to top nightclub – $50.00 (not a typo!)
Night at karaoke – $12.00
Entry to all you can drink bar (guys) – $30.00
Entry to all you can drink bar (girls) – Free

Travel

Return Flights to Bne – Hong Kong $1000.00
Return flight to nearby Philippines $200-300
Return train to Shanghai – $200.00
5 day trip to Vietnam – $600.00
Weekend in Macau – $200.00

To give perspective, I live in a very wealthy suburb (recent houses went for around AUD$500million which means really expensive shops and supermarkets) and have lived a fairly spendthrift lifestyle at times – but have spent no more than $7000-8000 total (including flights). Other friends have spent closer to $9-10k, and have done a little more travel.

As you can see, it’s so much cheaper to live; but if you want something western, you’ll have to pay for it. I know the local students are probably living on closer to AUD$10-$15.00 a day. I think its fine if you’re feeling homesick or want to relax with something from home to spend a bit more. For example, I love my coffee, like to eat really well and try to be out and about when I’m not at uni. So you might want to budget $20-30ish per day for safety.

The trick is to avoid living like western tourist and to learn to live like a local.

2. The Future

You only have to flick through a Time magazine to conclude that China, India and the ASEAN (South-East-Asia-Nations) are going to be the absolute future of the world. There is not doubt that your ability to navigate Asian customs and business will be a powerful tool for your career success. As is your ability to find common ground, rapport and friendship with someone who won’t share the same values, language and interests as you.

3. The culture

I won’t go over already covered ground, but the ability to explore cultures and experiences that, in some cases have existed continuously for thousands of years is an amazing prospect. You could look at Roman ruins, or you could go to a hindu temple that has been used every day since the fall of the Roman Empire. Fight tourists in the French Rivera or be the only person on a tropical island. Eat pizza in Florence or Ostrich, fish skin and abalone in Shanghai. Give it a go!

ps. Ostrich tastes kind of gamey.  More like venison, rather than chicken.

4. The weather

It’s winter in HK. Its 20 degrees outside, not a cloud in the sky.

Risks of Asia

1. Feeling Lost

No doubt that the unfamiliar will frustrate you. Big cities can make you feel lonely and isolated. Big changes in language and processes can leave you wondering what the hell is going on. Food may be unappetizing and badly cooked. Inflexible bureaucracy and hierarchy can make you angry. You’ll find your resilience being stretched. These will be common wherever you go, but if you’re the type of person who doesn’t adapt to ambiguity and change, Asia might not be for you.

2. Health

A constant onslaught of bad food, smog, crowds of people, bad sleep and sometimes-unsanitary conditions are going to assault your immune system. You’re going to get sick. Really sick. Factor it in. Come to peace with it.

Feel free to ask me more questions, I’d be happy to offer help.

My friend Lorencio has put together a fantastic site which really helped me adapt to Hong Kong and has expanded costings – http://www.newtohongkong.info/

Hope that helps with sharing my feelings and experiences. No doubt, with one chance to go on exchange, you want to make the most of it. So wherever your heart is set; don’t hold back in going for it.

How on earth do I know what I’m going to spend?

Exchange is expensive. Whoever tells you otherwise either went to the middle of Asia, or has an insane level of self-control that I certainly don’t possess. Everyone who I spoke to before-hand told me this, and to some extend I listened, but I don’t think I fully understood what living in Europe would be like. So to help you guys plan I’ve included the budget I used. A word of warning, it’s quite complicated, with cells feeding into each other, based off exchange rates and alike. If you’re looking about going on exchange, and want to use it to help you plan how much you’ll need give it a try, but if you need some help figuring out where to put things please email me – andrewgeoffreymoore@gmail.com 🙂

There are a few links which you need:

  • Firstly a very important word document. This walks you through the process of adding information, and gives extra information. The link is here –http://db.tt/qhCtyTJ
  • Next the template budget. This links directly in with the word document, and will automatically convert most figures into Euros or visa versa, as well as update for the exchange rate. I’ve also added comments next to each of the figures which need updating (indicated by a green background). The link is here – http://db.tt/4gSrqC0
  • Finally my exchange budget. It’s just a guide, and please read the word document first (as well as the next paragraph) as it gives the background to the document, but it might help give an idea of expenses. The link is here –http://db.tt/mlCLevf

Before I start though, I do want to give a little word of caution about my story. What I have/am set to spend isn’t what most people spend. Looking at one of the other bloggers, Leonie, everything in Warsaw is a lot cheaper than what you’ll find in Western Europe! I remember, my trip to Budapest I spent more on the flights than I did the weekend so where you go has a big impact. Also what you do with your money is another thing. Friends of mine here use Libera for their mobile – it’s a low cost provider, but they don’t provide an internet service, and I ‘need’ (a relative word haha) internet for my iPhone. So I use Vodafone and spend about more. Similarly, in terms of food costs, there are a few supermarkets in the Netherlands. Of the ones close to me, there is Aldi (super-low cost), C1000 (mid-range) and the Albert Hein. Most people do a mixture of their shopping at Aldi and the C1000, where as I think I get better quality food at the Albert Hein. Another way I could be spending less, but I don’t.

Another big cost is travel. And by big I mean huge, and monstrous. I wouldn’t have it any other way, because seeing the world is simply incredible, but around half of what I’m spending on exchange is on travel, and that’s no small amount of money! If it wasn’t for the amount of travelling I’m doing, I’d probably have only spent about AUD$10,000-$15,000. Right now I have a friend on exchange at Leeds in the UK and he’s on track to spend about AUD$12,000. How I don’t know, but around that is what most exchange students I’ve spoken to tend to spend.

One of the big factors I think is where, and how much you travel. The tendency is for people who study in the UK to see the UK, and its also cheaper to do that through trains, and hostels. Part of my ‘problem’, is that I wanted to see Europe, and to do so from Maastricht usually requires flights, or expensive train trips. As I’ve included in the budget, generally a return flight (even with Ryanair) costs around the 100euros mark – quite good when you think about what you’re actually doing (flying to a completely different country!) but still expensive. I did manage to snag a flight to Porto, in Portugal for 35 euros return though, so the flights are there 🙂

Finally, and this is something I have and really want to stress – no amount of budgeting, or worrying about money can ever tell you one thing – what exchange will be worth for you. I’ve written about it heaps, and that’s because I strongly believe it. Exchange is without a doubt the best thing I’ve ever done, and will do for a long long time. I’m seeing the world, meeting amazing people and having a fantastic experience – all whilst getting credit to my degree. Without a doubt, I don’t regret anything about what I’ve done here, or will do, and wouldn’t have it any other way. That includes how much money I’m spending. Exchange is expensive, but what you get out of it is so immense, and really cant have a price tag on it. Please keep this in mind when going through the budget and figuring out what you can afford.

Anyway back to the budget – the documents I’ve provided should help with entering information, if you have any questions please send me an email (andrewgeoffreymoore@gmail.com) and best of luck! I really mean it when I say everyone should do exchange, it really is incredible, and if costs are an issue there are a variety of methods to do it. You won’t regret it!

This week I’m off to Paris

Before I left Australia I had all sorts of questions and normally when you go on exchange, you’re given the details of the last student(s) who went to the uni you’re going to, to help with those questions. Sadly that wasn’t the case with me.

See I’m the first exchange student to visit Maastricht University (as its a new partner) and there was no-one to really ask – so when I was talking with the exchange staff, and I was told that at Maastricht I wouldn’t be getting much travel done (see my last post about studying here :$). When I heard that, a little part of me died inside. The reason I chose to study (cough cough) at Maastricht was so that I could see Europe as a (semi- but not really) European. My belief is that you go on exchange to have a life experience, and studying is just one part of that. It costs a heap of money to go too, so I wanted to make the most of it and travel was the key part of that for me! I wanted to see places like Paris, Rome and London, and in my head uni wasn’t going to get in the way of that… much. Thankfully now that I’m actually here , I’m very happy to say that they were wrong! Don’t get me wrong – Maastricht is tough. The courses are intense, and mandatory participation/attendance is incredibly annoying, but I think you make time for the things you want to do.

So far I’ve been to a heap of places. I’ve seen London (where I actually saw blue sky :O), Dublin (experienced first hand why the Irish drink so much, the weather!), Munich (for Oktoberfest!!), a fair bit of Holland (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, Den Bosch, The Hague, Volendam & Scheveningen) as well as Budapest (simply amazing, without a doubt, amazing. Everyone should go!). That was in just 10 weeks! In the next ‘block’ (think school term, as I said Maastricht is weird!) I’m visiting Paris, Amsterdam again, Barcelona, possibly Stockholm and Porto in Portugal. Then I’ve got my Contiki Tour haha.

The point I’m making is that people will say what they want when you’re thinking of going somewhere. The advice is mostly really helpful (the best I was given was to 1) bring over an Australian powerboard, and attach it using a European adapter – it means instead of having 7 adapters, you can use one for the same purpose. And 2) also bring space bags, when packing backpacks to take on Ryanair, it makes putting your clothes in so! much easier!) but take some things with a grain of salt. I’ve had people tell me they didn’t like places that I ended up travelling to on the weekends, and instead of hating the place I loved loved it! Exchange is what you make it, I’m really enjoying myself (and majorly wishing I could be here for the whole year) but technically, based off what I was told I wouldn’t be going to any of the above places and instead I’d be stuck in my room studying. I know people here who are here doing that, but they’ve made the choice to place one thing as more important than another.

As I’m writing this I’m on the Thalys train to Paris, about 20minutes away from spending 5 days in a city I’ve always dreamed about. Exchange is the experience you make it – and I’m set on enjoying mine 🙂


Dim Sum Yum

It would be impossible to cram everything about Hong Kong into a single day – it’s a diverse city, crammed with culture, lights sounds and experiences. But I finally found the time to explore some of the more tourist sights with my girlfriend Bek.

It’s a tough, fast paced city, no time to stop.

We packed in a whirlwind mission to explore some of the culture sites of Hong Kong fueled on a diet of delicious dim sum.

For those wondering chicken feet are delicious – its like extra fatty marinated chicken wings.

Once you get over the fact you’re sucking on a chicken toe.

Here we go!

I can’t say enough how delicious dim sum is. I want some right now! Its a raucous dinner with dumplings and tea flowing everywhere.  Even with a booking, you have to fight for a seat! A little tip I was told (not sure if I have the guts to do it.) – look for people who look like they are nearly done and hover over their table until they get uncomfortable and leave! I told you it was a tough city.

Ten Thousand Buddhas - number 167

One of the monks on the way to the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery. Before you ask, there really is Ten Thousand of them. They don’t all look like this though. We made the mistake of climbing the hill the wrong way and walked into what we thought was the temple. It was infact a columbarium  for peoples ashes and paying respect to ancestors. Easy mistake to make, but those paying respect must have been wondering why we were sight seeing through a funeral home!

Fish, freshly wacked.

Hong Kong-ers have a close connection with their food. While westerners are bizarrely squemish about knowing where our food comes from – locals have no qualms with watching tonights fish be beaten to death in the super market. Oh, and the cage the bottom is full of ‘edible frogs’ – tea anyone?

Nunnery

Bring me... a nunnery

Feeling very gwelio (foreigner) in Sheung Wan

Watching over

The connection to religion and spirituality continues to run through the city. It provides welcome relief from the stress of daily life. The thing I enjoy most is leaving the rampant commercial life and getting lost in a totally foreign atmosphere

The World Below

View from the Peak

You can’t help but finish the day with a stunning sight. The Peak remains home to the rich and famous (actually with HK real estate you need more than fame, you need Incan treasure) and one of the worlds greatest views. Its surreal being so far above the buildings and seeing the world run below you.

My friends

Ps. This is one of my favourite photos – two local characters – a 70 year old drag queen, and a man with a Pomeranian on his head – dancing to 60s Cantopop. Brilliant.