Ive had a fascination with Hong Kong ever since I was a kid. I’ll not blame one of my favourite cartoons ‘Hong Kong Phooey’ and I’ll not even blame one of the greatest marketing exercises of all time with every cheap plastic toy known to man being branded as ‘Made in Hong Kong’ but rather that two of my aunts lived there for for a couple of years in the mid to late 70s.
One of my aunts sent us some chinese style pyjamas – all black with embroidered dragon on the back and her house when she returned to the UK was full of beautifully carved dark chinese rosewood furniture.
I first got the chance to go to Hong Kong back just before it was handed back to the Chinese. It was an interesting trip as I went with an ex-girlfriend who wasnt ex when we booked it. Interesting is certainly one way to describe it. As a result I thought I had unfinished business there and went back just after the handover with a couple of mates. The rest is a bit hazy and although I did buy a lot of furniture and had it shipped home I still dont think I did the place justice.
Cut to last year and at some point in the year the wee voice in my head said ‘you should get yourself back to Hong Kong’. So when a gap in the schedule opened up in November I thought – why not, good to go and see how the place has changed in the last 14 years and update some stock photos. Oh and not to spend any money on ‘stuff’. Saying that though I did go out with a half empty bag just in case. Well not so much just in case but to bring back some tacky dragon embroidered pyjamas for every kid I know!
Chinese embroidered childrens clothing
There was probably a greater likelihood of being detained at heathrow but either way passing through immigration in both places would be squeeky bum time.
biometric security stamp in eu passport
It was my first time at the new Hong Kong airport, the last trips were to the old Kai Tak airport where you flew between the skyscrapers and then banked heavily and hoped you landed on the runway. I’d always heard stories about looking out the window and seeing people on balconies above you. Id put this down to exaggeration but I can honestly say it was a sight to behold and one of the truly remarkable sights I’ve ever seen.
The rain had followed me all the way and although it was ‘cold’ by local standards, standing waiting for the bus to the island I couldnt get rid of the jumpers and coats quick enough. The bus was straight to the hotel door and then it was changed, showered and out down to the star ferry. Its here the changes became noticeable. A couple of extra skyscrapers but the old shoreline is now well inland, something that would sting me later on when I recognised some places from my previous trip and thought ‘sure its only just down there…’. Yeah, maybe 14 years ago but the ferry crossing is now about 1/2 the time it used to be and the boats havent got any quicker!
Hong Kong was as manic as I ever remembered it with the added complication with people stopping or slowing down to reading texts, websites, facebook etc on their phones and tablets.
The last trips I didnt really get the chance to eat some true chinese food as one person refused to eat anything that looked dodgy and on another trip travelling with a mate who thought a spring roll was a bread roll with salad in it!
Off I went to the temple st night market and to temple spice crab cafe. I of course ordered the spicy crabs without actually knowing what I was getting. At 30 quid for a street cafe meal I really should have had my head read but was glad when this arrived….
chinese spicy crab street cafe hong kong
…of course never having eaten crab before I really didnt have a clue. I was also out of practice with chopsticks and no-one around me was eating crab so I didnt have a guide. Firstly let me warn you, when they say spicy crab, they mean spicy! As I enjoy chinese food I have a cupboard full of chinese ingredients so you would think I would recognise spicy rice full of dried chillis. Well you would think so, wouldnt you. It burned on the way in and it burned on the way out. Finally a couple of New Zealand tourists took pity on me. They recognised I came from a cold place in the Northern Hemisphere and that we need to use tools to crack crab legs because the shells are thick! Down here its warm water and the shells are so thin you can crack them with your teeth. They obviously havent seen my dental bills! When Id stopped eating bits of shell and putting out the fire in my mouth I really started to enjoy the spicy crabs, but it had taken me so long to get round to it that the place was closing with that famous chinese way of letting you know your time is up by taking your table away and turning off the lights.
I had a quick look round the market then went back on the ferry. By this time the trams had stopped and public transport was winding down, so instead of getting one of the cheap taxis I thought Id walk back to the hotel. It was a lovely warm balmy night, leg was fine and sure it wasnt that far from what I remember….
Hong Kong taxi and international finance centre
Since my last visit almost all of the transport and some of the small shops and restaurant chains (7eleven, mcdonalds etc) use the octopus card. This is a smart car payment system which makes the whole transport thing so easy which calls into question last nights exploring! Just touch it to the payment terminal and away you go. No fumbling for change on the tram! Probably one of the more useful things I bought in hong kong, particularly as it is soo cheap to get around. I think I spent about 25 quid in total for all the travelling, some breakfasts and supplies from the 7-11. Compare that to over 40 quid in London a month later for half the time and far less travel….
using hong kong octopus card
I was up reasonably early for a couple of reasons, one being jetlagged, two being the jcb dismantling the building next to the hotel and the dynamiting going on beneath the hotel in extending the MTR. The view from the hotel window wasnt exactly scenic and for me at least is one of those views you only get in Hong Kong. Not a view of the harbour but a road on stilts snaking through the high rise apartment buildings and one of those buildings being dismantled from the top down by a JCB. How the hell do they get up there in the first place? Heavy lift helicopter?
hong kong hotel room view road and jcb on building
packed rush hour hong kong ding ding tram
The tram may be cheap but it is slow and crowded so although I was head and shoulders above everyone else on the tram it meant my head was touching the ceiling for the whole journey. About half way there I cracked, got off and went for a walk down the dried seafood street. Id seen a programme about shark fin fishing a few weeks previously and this seemed to be the place where they were all sold along with every sort of dried ‘thing’ you would think it was possible to eat and an awful lot of stuff you wouldnt think of eating in a million years! Maybe starbucks for breakfast isnt such a bad idea after all! Although very weird to get a christmas latte and cranberry danish with piped festive tunes in 21 degree heat in the middle of china.
shark fin and dried seafood shop hong kong
One Dim Sum Tim Ho Wan – waiting outside
One tip is not to go in a group, split up into groups of 2 and just go an enjoy the food and talk about it later. It is a very small restaurant so if you go singly you will be put at the table with someone else. Luckily I was put with a chinese man who was interested in where I was from, what I was doing and why I had ordered enough food to feed a family of 4. I thought he was joking. He wasnt and my doggy backpack was testament to that. It was still less than a tenner and michelin starred! My about an hour was really about an hour so I’d went for a wander, came back filled in what I wanted and then crammed into my spot right in front of the serving area. This is what Hong Kong is all about, ordered chaos but with a superb result.
I had read people saying that the pork buns were to die for and again thats no exaggeration. I hardly touched the congee and if I knew what it was in advance I’d probably have not bothered. The chicken feet were ‘interesting’ and I can say Ive been there and done that and the sticky rice would indeed have filled me as it was. So if you want something to fill you up, takeaway from a michelin starred restaurant without waiting then I recommend ordering the sticky rice and pork buns then finding one of the small local parks to sit and eat in.
If you only eat in one place in hong kong make it one dim dum ( Tim Ho Wan) on Kwong Wa Street Mong Kok. It is worth the wait.
One Dim Sum Tim Ho Wan – pork buns
One Dim Sum Tim Ho Wan – chicken feet
One Dim Sum Tim Ho Wan -
Hong Kong temple street night market
Hong Kong flower market
Hong Kong bird garden market
Hong Kong goldfish market
cheap chinese toy helicopter
Tags: asia, bird, card, china, chinese, dim, flower, goldfish, hksar, hong kong, hongkong, international, kowloon, market, markets, night, octopus, one dim sum, shopping, sum, temple street, tim ho wan, travel, traveling