When we first moved to HK, we were in Olympic Station and while it is a great place to live for convenience and amenities, my wife and I did not think that it was a good place for our young (at that time 6 months old) baby daughter as it's extremely crowded, quite noisy (even though we were pretty high up), there's hardly any green space and the pollution there was pretty awful. Yes, it's bad everywhere in HK but some places are worse than others. Yes there are a couple of decent playgrounds for kids in Olympic and Kowloon Station but there aren't many and they're always extremely crowded.
When we had decided to move, we looked at lots of places such as DB, Kowloon Station, HK Island and other places around Olympic Station and then decided to take a look at Tung Chung because it was so much cheaper than everywhere else. We went to TC convinced that there was no way we would move there due to it being so 'far away', however, we were really pleasantly surprised at the facilities available, the bang for buck you get and how cosmopolitan it was. We decided that we would move to Tung Chung and we really like it. For families with young children, the only place that is probably better that I have seen is Discovery Bay but we ruled DB out because of how expensive and isolated it is. We just couldn't justify the extra expense of living there vs Tung Chung which is only 15 mins away by bus.
I agree that the OP needs to come here first and go look at these places before deciding but from what she's asking, I think the best choices for her are either Tung Chung or DB. Here's my take....
Pros - Very convenient to get everywhere, Some nice modern apartments with very good facilities, lots of kindergartens and schools close by.
Cons - Expensive, crowded and noisy, lack of green space, not a great environment for young kids (in my opinion), not too many westerners and not much of a community spirit.
Pros - Fantastic for families with young kids, lots of parks and green space, has a beach, good selection of shops and restaurants (although expensive), good community spirit, good pre-schools, resort like feel, gets you away from the craziness of HK (which is good at times!), cleaner air than in central / kowloon, fairly close to the airport (about 30 mins by bus).
Cons - Very isolated (can't get a taxi there, not on the MTR and you are stuck with the buses and ferries), everything is expensive (rents, food, getting stuff delivered, schools...everything), very stepford wives-ish (as others have said)
Tung Chung -
Pros - Lots of parks and green space, comparatively cheap rent, excellent facilities in most apartment buildings which give a resort like feel, great for young families, very cosmopolitan with a good mix of expats and locals, good community spirit, well connected to most parts of HK via MTR, bus and taxi, 15 mins cab or bus ride to Cheung Sha Beach, cleaner air than Central / Kowloon, some decent pre-school options, brand new hospital just opened, close to the airport (about 10-15 mins by cab or bus - most airline crew live in Tung Chung for this reason), great for hiking and cycling.
Cons - Citygate mall is hell at the weekend, not many decent restaurants or bars, doesn't have great school options for primary and above, on some days in winter the pollution can be bad when the wind comes down from China (but for most of the year Tung Chung has among the lowest pollution in Hong Kong according to the readings on the Hedley Environment Index) and.....the mainlanders drive you crazy at times!!!
These are just my opinions and I don't pretend to know everywhere in HK........
Speaking as a trailing wife, and having been there a few times, DB is the last place I would want to live. It strikes me as Desperate housewives meets Stepford Wives on the Prisoner location set. I'm sure lots of expat families find it a nice place to live, just not my scene.
But then I'm not a coffee mornings kind of person. Maybe the OP is. I like my car and the freedom it gives me to get things done efficiently, especially child activities ferrying.
I do kind of wonder why hubby needing to go to the airport once or twice a week dictates that you need to live close to it. We live Clearwater Bay side and can get to the airport in 40 - 50 minutes in car or by taxi.
OP's opinions about Olympic = just about what I think of it.
One difference in opinion- not sure if Olympic's more expensive than DB- after visiting DB, wanted to move there, did my research, and figured out it could cost more and make me feel isolated, so gave up.
dining out in DB was a lot more pricey- maybe as visitor, I didn't know better value for money places? fish & chips for 160HKD + 10%! (Rogan Josh curry, Chicken tandoori & almost every dish- priced 150-160+. Thought I could have dined in Soho, Central on paying bill) In Olympic, u can get authentic indian curry, tandoori, etc. for 50-70HKD each (just from local indian restaurants that indians run)
Olympic anyway was not recommended as much as DB or Kowloon area in this post, so it's good to give insight to VBraddon28.
+ Regarding Tung Chung, I think OP is fairly objective. (Of course, regarding Olympic as well) I have been considering moving to TC over the past week myself. To me, the biggest cons are (1) TC has very limited choice for restaurants and (2) air pollution can be bad + (3) it could be noisy due to airport express & the Airport (planes flying in and out constantly) though u can find a flat avoiding both.
Personally find potential savings from far lower rents in TC large, so it's very tempting to try to live in TC :-)
Btw, some expats from DB hate Tung Chung.
For Tung Chung, you honestly don't notice the noise of the planes. Actually, I find it quite soothing to look out of my window and see the planes taking off and landing and my daughter loves it too. The noise of them soon becomes a background noise that you don't even notice. We found the noise of buses, ships and other traffic much worse in Olympic and never had our windows open because of it whereas in Tung Chung, you can leave your window open no problem. As for the airport express...you never even hear this as there are sound barriers installed along the line. Even when you're in the children's playgrounds beside the airport express line, you barely hear anything.
With regards to pollution, I honestly do not see any discernible difference between TC and DB in this regard. Remember that they are both extremely close to each other and if anything, the large number of buses on the roads and the ferries in DB, together with the golf carts may even mean it's worse there. Where I am in TC, you barely see any buses or cars on the road so don't have the problem of roadside pollution to worry about. If you're living in Tung Chung Crescent though then this might be different.
As I mentioned earlier, for most of the year, the air quality in Tung Chung is far better than most other places in Hong Kong but at times in winter, when the winds come over from the mainland, you can get some days when it is bad. I wouldn't imagine it's any different in DB though to be honest but the difference in TC is that you can very clearly see it as I have a view over the airport, Shenzhen and Zhuhai.
I know that there are a lot of people in DB that don't like TC but from what we've seen, some (but by no means the majority) of people who live in DB can be quite stuck up and feel that they are better than others. They live in DB because they want to live in an almost expat exclusive bubble and do not want to integrate into the local community. Obviously not all are like this and a lot live there because they genuinely prefer it. They probably hate TC because of the Citygate mall at the weekends which is basically full of mainland tourists and, as I mentioned, can be hell. If there's actually one big reason why I would prefer DB over TC then it is because of this. If you avoid Citygate at the weekend then TC is actually really nice. You can walk along the seafront to the MTR station and it is really nice and relaxing with birds singing and a beautiful view of the sea, airport and mountains.
To be honest with you, my wife would prefer to live in DB than TC because of the way it's geared towards families but we do not think it's worth paying the premium to live there. If the cost of DB was comparable to TC then we would most likely move there as, for my commute to the office, it doesn't really make a lot of difference to me whether it's DB or TC. I would just live where my wife wanted to and she decided that for the price, TC is better than DB. Others may have different priorities though and choose accordingly.
Thanks guys, it seems it really is a hot topic of debate! We will be visiting for a long weekend very soon so will hopefully get a chance to visit all of the areas we are considering. There is so much to consider and think about it is a touch overwhelming. Are there any agents anyone would recommend we speak to whilst we are there? Thanks