I enjoyed a really lovely home exchange in Hong Kong for a recent trip. This home swap was done using points on the HomeExchange platform. There aren’t a lot of people in Asia participating in home exchange networks. I think this is a cultural challenge. Even when I’ve found swap partners in that region they’ve been mostly expats. So I felt quite lucky that my request was accepted by one of the first people I contacted.
I did a points-based stay because I was traveling alone, so my home wasn’t empty. To me this is a big use case of the points system. And we have hosted a lot of people over the past few years so I’ve got plenty of points to use.
About a week before my trip I reached out to my host to work out the details of arrival. And I had a moment of concern when he didn’t respond to my message. But fortunately I also had his personal email address and when I contacted him that way I got a quick response. It turns out, Home Exchange is no longer accessible from Hong Kong. It stopped working a few weeks ago (it can still be accessed, but you have to use a VPN). No one knows why. I didn’t realize this at the time, my host just told me he was having problems with his account. But he was happy to share his home details via WhatsApp so we didn’t need the platform.
This is a reminder, however, that it’s important to exchange personal contact info once you finalize an exchange. Make sure you have email addresses and phone numbers. Sometimes swaps are finalized months in advance, and you don’t want to rely on a home swap platform as your only means of contact.
Housing in Hong Kong is in short supply. People live in very small apartments. Last time I visited I rented an Airbnb, and the place was big enough to fit a bed and a tiny bathroom. You had to crawl over the bed to get to the sink. It was basically a small walk in closet. So I was surprised to see that my host listed a three bedroom apartment. I have to say, this was the most efficient use of space for three bedrooms and two bathrooms that I’ve ever seen! I hope to someday emulate some of the design features. For one person it was a lovely and spacious place. It was also convenient to public transit and even within walking distance of a few restaurants I wanted to try.
I never actually met my exchange partner, but over the course of my stay we communicated via WhatsApp as much as I would with any reciprocal swap. I wouldn’t hesitate to swap with him again, or host him in my home. And I would be interested to hear if anyone has thoughts on how to bring more folks in Asia into the home exchange community.