48 Hours in Hong Kong - A Multi-Part Series (Repost)

In November of 2015; I made a “weekend” trip to Hong Kong – spending slightly over 48 hours on the ground there.  An absurdly short amount of time, for sure, given that each leg of the trip involves 15 hours of flying and a 4 hour layover in fairly spartan section of Beijing Capital International Airport.  I’d like to take this opportunity to share with some of you my travel experiences.

Air Koryo - North Korea's national carrier.  Now that's a sign you don't see every day.  (Beijing International Airport, Terminal 2)


As we have now revealed, dealing with Tully Gehan's Factory For All had been nothing short of a big giant train wreck.  Determined not to get screwed again, I've decided to start looking at taking back over control of my sourcing operations.

The primary objective of this trip was to renew my Home Return Permit.  This is a special travel document issued to Hong Kongers – and prior to the availability of the new 10 year Chinese entry permit, was worth its weight in gold for me, as it allowed me to travel to China at the drop of a hat. 

Yep, this is the last time I'll let this permit expire on me.  Oops.

Even with the availability of 10 year entry visas, Home Return Permits are still great for getting through immigration faster – all major ports of entry are equipped with biometric based automated passenger screening systems and a home return permit meant not having to wait in the slow line with all the visitors on foreign passports).  Unfortunately, I had stupidly let my Home Return Permit lapse, and failed to account for the nightmare that can be Chinese government bureaucracy.  These permits are issued by the Guangdong Province Public Safety Bureau and can only be applied for in person in authorized offices in Hong Kong, or in the case of a loss during travel in China, a special office in Huang Guan in Shenzhen.   So after some debate, I decided to make the trip and make the best of it, cramming as many meetings with potential partners and current suppliers as possible, and doing as much as we can to unjam the current logistics mess and prevent it from happening in the future.

Above:  Roadside cell phone repair stand.  Apliu St, Shumshuipo, Hong Kong.  It is estimated that 1/5 of sub-Sahara African cell phones passes through Hong Kong

Above:  This roadside stand specializes in CCTV cameras and automation gadgets

In this mini-series on our blog, I’d like to share with our readers the whirlwind 48 hours that I’ve just spent in Hong Kong.  We’ll touch on what the next steps for OpenBeam will be as we step our our international market presence, and why we chose Hong Kong as our remote base of operations.  I’ll take our readers through the electronics shopping district in Shumshuipo, and go over how we are building out a relatively inexpensive photo and video studio for doing better documentation for our product line.

(Tools, tools tools!  This store specializes in measuring equipment; scales, dial indicators, even low end inspection microscopes).

Trip Planning:  Flight planning, Where To Stay, etc

My primary requirement for flights is that Seattle is my port of entry into the US; since I will be carrying commercial merchandise back to the US, I expect to be fully searched by customs.  Put it to you this way:  I’ve never made my connecting flight flying through SFO and I’ve missed my share of connecting flights flying through LAX.  Nowadays, the only other port of entry that I would consider is YVR (where you could clear US customs on the way in); this way if I missed the connecting flight I have the option of hoping onto a bus and getting home without much delay.  There are also other advantages of picking this route, we'll touch on that later.

Tight quarters aboard the Hainan 787 enroute to Beijing.  A few more trips like this though and we'd have multi-material support for the Kossel figured out.

Delta has a new SEA <-> HKG nonstop flight, but unfortunately it doesn’t fly every day (and my vacation / sick days have already been wiped clean, no thanks to Thermo Fisher screwing me on my unpaid paternity leave).  Eventually I settled on Hainan Airlines; as a huge bonus, I’d earn half the flown miles as elite qualifying miles on Alaska.  Sure, there are a few oddities with the inflight entertainment selection, but for $800.00 round trip, there’s a power outlet in every seat (which meant I could actually get some serious design work done), the food was decent and it was on a very comfortable Boeing 787. 

A civilized way to fly.  City Check-In allows you to cart your luggage and check in for your flight 24 hours ahead of departure, so on the day of departure you just have to show up with the boarding pass and breeze through immigration and security.  Not available for US bound flights due to "security" concerns

There’s another bonus with this route selection as well:  Hong Kong Railways offers a city check-in service where up to 24 hours in advance, you can take your luggage to the Airport Express rail station and check your luggage in, obtain your boarding pass, etc.  The plan was to carry back, at the allowable weight limit, 2x 23kg of fastener packs, and two robotic screw dispensers in my checked luggage. 

This is why Seattle is my port of entry into the US.  Customs is going to have fun with me...

My flight’s boarding time was at 07:00, and I was in no mood trying to schlep over 100lbs of cargo in one trip with public transportation.  Thus, City Check-In is quite invaluable – but unfortunately due to security concerns, it’s not available on US bound flights.  So, on the day before my departure between trips to visit vendors, I carted my two bags to the Airport Express rail terminal and checked in for a flight to Beijing – with the bags checked through to Seattle.

Dad and I having a celebratory bowl of beef brisket noodles in soup, with a bowl of fish-skin dumplings, right before visiting the local hackerspace, aptly named "Dim Sum Labs", night before departure.  Traditional wonton noodles are made by repeated pressing of a dough with a bamboo stick in an up-and-down motion to develop the gluten and gives the noodle a very springy texture - reasonable substitutes exists in the US, but the real thing is impossible to find.  The fish skin dumpling hails from Chiuzhou - the skin is made by mixing minced fish meat with tapioca starch, while the filling is actually pork.  Also impossible to find in the US

Because of the tight schedule and all with meetings all over the map, I decided to stay somewhere centralized.  I quite like the Mong Kok / Prince Edward area, and the MetroPark Mong Kok had decent rates (~$100/night) and for that price you get a decent sized room.  I’ve seen the closet-like rooms of $80.00 budget motels (where you literally had to put the luggage in the toilet in order to close the main door).  The hotel’s seen better days – the signage wasn’t lit, the wallpapers are peeling, the carpet is lumpy and uneven, and it was where they quarantined people from the last SARS outbreak 10 years ago, but the bed is clean and $100/night for a decent sized room is pretty hard to beat.  The MTR station is 3 minute walk away and from there I can hop onto both the green and red lines, which covers all my meetings.

With flight and lodging taken care of, I'll go over some of the goodies I picked up at Shum Shui Po, as well as a visit to some of our vendors, in the upcoming blog entries.  Stay tuned.

Hong Kong's only Stratasys Fortus MC900 - big enough to print a car seat in one go, out of Ultem, no less

A cargo consolidation complex, near the Kwai Chung Container Terminal.  Lacking real estate, Hong Kong builds upwards, even cargo storage facilities