Hong Kong by Night

Hong Kong isn’t quite as striking as Singapore at night, but still pretty impressive.  Views of the harbor make up for some of what they’re lacking in Singapore’s lighting finesse.  Not too shabby though, as you’ll see below:

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The one thing I regret was not getting to ride one of these double decker trams

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Literally cooking on the street

Hong Kong has a bunch of markets that thrive at night, so I went to check them out.  First up, the Goldfish Market.

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All sorts of options for decorating your fish tanks

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Some had true aquariums, but most fish were sold this way

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A whole street lined with everything aquatic

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Tiny turtles and tortoises

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There was a thriving food scene there as well, so I did my usual and got in the longest line, and ordered whatever they were having.

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I think these were fish balls and shu mai, which feels a little mean being so close to so many pet fish…

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Next I walked through to the Women’s Market, which while it did have a lot of women’s accessories (i.e. knock-off purses) had a full range of tchotkes for all genders

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Who wants an Old Big Finger?

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A massive chocolate cheese bun.  I promise I didn’t eat it all in one sitting, or even all of it.

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Also oversized…

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In case the Extra-Stretch Scrunchies weren’t good enough

I walked past a place called the Yee Shun Milk Company and the windows were filled with these bowls.  Of course, naturally I was curious so ducked in and bought one.

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Steamed milk with ginger

The milk shop had a sort of diner feel.  There were a lot of choices, with or without egg, chocolate, ginger, and others, each of them could be ordered hot or cold.  I went with the steamed milk with ginger served hot.  It was a texture unlike anything I’ve had before.  Much lighter than a creme brulee or pot de creme, and less gelatinous than flan.  It was really delicious, creamy and light and not too sweet, but sweet enough that the spice of fresh ginger juice was a nice contrast.  They also sold various types of toast and a couple of egg options too.  I’d be curious to learn how to make them at home.  It was like the perfect late night snack before I headed to the MTR to the ferry to the bus to home.

Hong Kong by Day

So I had a lot I wanted to see on Monday, and after relaxing all weekend I was ready to go.  So much to see that I’m going to break it into two posts, so you’re hopefully still awake at the end.  (Side note: I’ve been awake for nearly 24 hours at this point, with a lot more to go, prepping to get back onto New Orleans time, which is 14 hours behind without too much jet lag.  Keep your fingers crossed for me.)  So as you’ve seen in my previous posts, Hong Kong is mountainous.  Partially as a result of that, and partially as a result of the sheer quantity of people constantly in the city there are raised walkways.  They’re a couple floors above ground and connect all sorts of buildings, ferry terminals, MTR stations, etc.  They’re not always the most direct, sometimes you have to go up and over and back down when it would’ve been easier to just walk straight across the street, but they’ve got pretty decent signage so it’s not hard to find your way around.  Also, escalators.  I’ve never taken or even seen so many escalators in my life.  At almost all intersections there’s an up escalator.  I’ve been trying to take the stairs when I can (to burn off some of that delicious Hong Kong style tea with condensed milk) but I’m always the only one going up them.  There might be someone coming down them, but never up.

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To get from the Lantau ferry to the Star Ferry, I had to walk through a mall, surprise!

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Women’s bathroom in the mall, felt like a spaceship

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Hong Kong Observation Wheel, 5 meters smaller than the Singapore Flyer

The Star Ferry has been running since 1888, connecting Hong Kong Island with Kowloon.  It’s as much a tourist destination as a mode of transport, and I could see why.  Plus for 2HKD, it’s the cheapest attraction in town.

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The seats are reversible!!

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Another Star Ferry headed in opposite direction, passing Convention Center

After a beautiful weekend, Monday morning was kinda chilly, especially on the water.  I bought a hot rose tea at this little stall in the ferry terminal.

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Perfume shop in the second mall of the morning

I’m still astounded by all of the expensive shopping in Hong Kong (and Singapore!) The malls are filled with stores like Gucci, Prada, Miu Miu, etc.  But as soon as I walked out of the mall, I turned a corner and ended up in this “temporary market.”

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I thought about getting lunch but wasn’t quite hungry yet, and also, I was kinda intiimdated by the entirely Cantonese menus, and hustle and bustle.  I didn’t know where or how to jump in.

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Chinese New Year is huge, and besides all of the chickens adorning everything, I kept seeing red envelopes for sale.  Chinese people use them to give money for the holiday, and the envelopes themselves are obviously a popular and important item.  They were the only thing this store sold.

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Stairs to Kowloon Park

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Another set of stairs leading to Kowloon Park

While wandering around I found a place with a sign saying they were Michelin rated, and a line.  I was finally feeling a bit peckish and I figured whatever they were selling had to be good.

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Signature pan fried buns with shrimp

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Crispy on the bottom and sift on the top

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Interior view

They were incredible! The texture was just perfect, crispy and soft, all at once.  And the filling was the shrimp and dumpling meat (pork?) but also the most flavorful broth!  It was almost like this little soup inside.  An order was 36HKD, so about $4.75 US.  From there I just wandered and shopped a bit, checking out the neighborhood.

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Lunch stall near Jordan St

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Some of their offerings

My original intention had been to go to Victoria Peak, but since the weather was so gray and hazy, I had been headed towards the Hong Kong History museum instead.  Just after lunch though the sun started to burn through so I changed plans again, and headed to the tram station.  When I got there, it seemed like everyone else had been thinking the same thing.  The Peak Tram is a big draw in and of itself, it’s been open since 1888, and was quite the feat of engineering at the time.  The line was long and there was a lot of jostling but I eventually made it on to a tram without having to stab anyone.

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While it still wasn’t totally clear, the view was pretty spectacular.  There’s a building at the top with a rooftop that allows you 360 degree views.

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One of the things I’ve been loving about Hong Kong is the Octopus card.  You buy them in the MTR stations, and it’s similar to a Metrocard, you preload it with money and use it for transportation, but it does much more.  In addition to being able to use it on the bus and MTR and ferries, lots of stores, 7-11, Starbucks, some groceries, pastry shops, etc. all take it.  And not only can you use it all over, but it’s a proximity card, so no need to swipe or insert or sign.  And you can top it up at 7-11s or at MTR stations or link it to a credit card so it auto refills.  Plus, it means I don’t need to deal with change or trying to figure out the tiny unmarked coins in a foreign currency.  Just wave it in front of the reader and go!  Brilliant!!  I wish we had them at home.  I love them so much I thought about making an entire post just about them.  Maybe I’ll write a poem instead. I’ll call it Ode to the Octopus.

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Viewer with Octopus card reader

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It was really windy.  I swear.

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Hong Kong – Lantau Island

I’m feeling totally spoiled.  These are my Hong Kong digs:

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My cozy cave below deck; I’ve been sleeping like a rock

Hong Kong is made up of a number of islands, and I’m staying with my cousin Jack on his boat in Discovery Bay on Lantau Island.  I was expecting Hong Kong to be a crazy and crowded city, but I’ve been surprised by how calm and rural feeling it is on Lantau.

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The places where there are apartments are really densely packed though.  If you look closely you can see that each of these are windows.  The sheer mass is kind of overwhelming.

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My first day I decided to check out Tian Tan aka the Big Buddha, which is on Lantau.  There are no privately owned cars on Lantau, or even private taxis!  So I took the bus to another bus to the MTR station to catch a cable car.  At the MTR station they had a take out sushi stand where you could make up your own box of individually wrapped pieces.

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Of course I had to try some, so made up a little box of the oddest ones I could find.

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My sushi selection, 3HKD each, for a grand total of $2.70 US

There are two ways to get to the buddha, gondola or bus.  I was torn because the bus was much cheaper but decided to spring for the gondola.  I’m so glad I did.  The views were totally breathtaking.

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First view of the Big Buddha

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View from Ngong Ping

The gondola brought me to Ngong Ping, a little town next to the Po Lin Monastery and the buddha.  There were 268 steps leading up to the Buddha, and once you climbed them, bronze statues surrounding his base each representing one of the six perfections required to achieve enlightenment.

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One of the Six Perfections

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Big Buddha

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It was hard to get a decent picture of the Buddha, and even harder to get a good Big Buddha selfie, so just imagine my grinning face way too close to you with Buddha in the background.  The view from the raised platform was really pretty though, and you could look down on the monastery.  After the buddha I decided to explore the area a bit, and headed towards the Wisdom Path.  I figured I can use all the wisdom I can get.

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Wisdom Path

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Po Lin Monastery

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Po Lin Monastery had a building called the Grand Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas.  Photography was not allowed in the hall, but it was really stunning.  Glowing with lots of gold, but yet somehow so peaceful too.  You can google it for some images, or I like this one here: 10,000 Buddhas.  I spent a long time there, just taking it all in before heading back to the gondola.

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Afterward, I took the MTR and met Jack on Hong Kong island for a drink.  To get to the bar we had to walk through a mall.  Apparently Hong Kong’s mall scene is just as ridiculous as Singapore’s, but this was our view once we got there.

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Victoria Harbour as seen from IFC Tower

 

I found a yoga studio on Lantau and took a hot class the next morning.  Then I spent $20 on liquids at the nearby supermarket .  Pro tip: you shouldn’t shop thirsty in a place where you haven’t mastered the exchange rate yet.

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View while rehydrating

Jack and I took a ferry to Mui Wo, another town on Lantau.img_2279

I was surprised by the lack of bicycles in Singapore, but apparently they’re rather popular in Mui Wo.  Not only did we find this bike parking lot, but four bike shops and a bike repair stall.

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Jack managed to catch me falling off a rock

 

There wasn’t a whole lot to see or do in Mui Wo so we headed back to the marina to have  a drink while we waited for the ferry.

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Jack and cider

Sunday we took a bus to the Stanley market which is on the southern part of Hong Kong Island.  Again I was surprised by how everything is so pretty and green.

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Repulse Bay (what a strange name for such a pretty place…)

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We had a nice, long, late lunch at a restaurant on the Stanley Promenade.  We took a leisurely wander through the market and plaza and I picked up a couple little souvenirs.  After this relaxing weekend of wining, dining and wandering I’m well rested and ready tackle the craziness of downtown Hong Kong tomorrow.