It’s only been a few days into this year’s world trip and I am already behind on the note-taking…
Last time’s experience had been somewhat marred by my travel buddy screwing up with her flight, leaving me to go on my own at the last minute. This time around, I barely had enough time to get in touch with all the friends and acquaintances that happened to be there when I was.
I stayed with little brother #3, currently implementing the SE Asia part of our family world domination plot at HK University and proving a very competent guide despite only arriving 6 months before. Tending to his newfound Canadian roots, he was sharing with Chris, hockey-loving Vancouverite and all-around nice guy, a bachelor pad conveniently located in the middle of the dry market near the harbour on Hong Kong Island. The presence of the dry market meant a large population of cats, apparently living a symbiotic relation with the market people, wherein they’d leave the fish stalls alone and presumably keep other four-legged creatures away.
I awoke the first morning to the slightly noisier-than-average Hong Kong sound of construction work across the street, 10m from our window. My knowledge of civil engineering is admittedly very limited, but I still can’t get over the fact that these guys make 50+ storey scaffolding with nothing but bamboo stalks and some ribbon material to tie them together (possibly even more impressive: the couple hours it took them to dismantle the entire thing on the last day).
Having already done most of the common sights, required of little bro to rack his brain (and the internet) for suggestions out of the beaten path. Relying on MTR’s website suggestions, we headed north, first to Tai Po’s “old district” (rather underwhelming), then to the much more interesting Tsang Tai Uk well-preserved walled village.
At this point, local British-Hongkonger and life-saving human restaurant map Jon had met up with us and took us to the first of many, many explorations of local culinary establishments. Looking at the few pics I posted, one might get the wrong idea about the distribution of time during my short visit: while I generally abstain from taking pictures of food (because 1. my crappy phone camera can’t give it justice 2. I am busy salivating and eating), rest assured that my trip entirely consisted of one. long. delicious. meal, occasionally interrupted by digestive walks or tram rides to the next place that served food:
Saturday afternoon started with an assortment of traditional deserts (fruits, coconut, rice, beans, tofu… in many combinations) in a small covered market that I could not find back if my life depended on it. By evening, we were ready for “Hong Kong’s Crack Cocaine” (in Jon’s words): Cantonese BBQ meats. Plans to hit an intriguing hole in the wall BBQ joint were thwarted by some unfortunate day off (inordinately early closing time? anyway: place was closed for business) and we had to get our goose BBQ fix at a somewhat fancier (and probably more touristic) but no less delicious place nearby.
Sunday was a near-day-off, since we “only” had local dim sums at Fred’s neighbourhood food court, followed in the evening by the quintessential (if not utterly original) Temple street outdoor food stall experience: where washing your own dishes in the bucket of hot water they bring you, only mildly reassures you on future developments of your intestinal flora (but if even Saori and her other freshly-arrived Japanese colleague could put on a brave face in the absence of sterilised vacuum-wrapped chopsticks, so could we…).
Monday lunch, on the way to the airport, might have been the food apotheosis of the weekend (hard to decide… it probably wins by virtue of being the most recent tastebud memory): a visit to Tim Ho Wan‘s dim sum restaurant in Sham Sui Po. Yet another personal recommendation by Jon, effortlessly sold to us as “probably the cheapest 1-star Michelin in the world”. And indeed, it was quite awesome, and ridiculously cheap. Our thorough ravaging of their entire menu (from xiaolongbao to haam shui gok and steamed egg cake so fluffy it had to be made of cherub’s arse, complete with an extra 2 servings of their soul-damningly good BBQ pork buns) left us with a measly HK$150 bill for two (US$20).
On the few moments not spent eating or going to restaurants, we did manage to squeeze a rooftop party, occasion for an enlightening course on the politics of implicit rooftop usufruct in Hong Kong (basically: it comes with the last floor) and a nice chance to drink way more than one should, when surrounded only by nearby skyscrapers and a 12-storey drop. Somewhere between the first and second visit by the local popo, we hobbled our way to some generic expat bar in LKF (aka Roppongi-by-the-bay): not the highlight of the night, but I think I was too drunk to care beyond my early morning kebab on the way home at that point.
After a late start (go figure why), Sunday sights mainly consisted of a boat ride to and from the charming island of Cheung Chau: tiny, tiny streets (island is bike/pedestrian only), delicious food stalls and lots of cats lounging about everywhere (guess it’s not like they can swim back to the mainland).
Through the power of absolute happenstance and sheer synchronicity, our meeting place and time with Saori perfectly matched the daily 8pm light show illuminating HK Island’s main buildings in sync with the cheesiest synth music this side of Giorgio Moroder. A cool show, with or without music (one short, cheap, enjoyable ferry ride away from across the water).
One mildly-hellish China Eastern Airlines flight later (PVG is quickly ascending to a strong #3 on my list of least favourite airports in the world, or at least international zones. Mind you, SVO and CDG remain safely established at #1 and #2), and I had replaced HK’s lovely tropical Spring by Paris’ year-round cold rainy weather. Four meals, four decadently rich European dishes drowned in red wine. I think I’m sticking to salad and mineral water for the rest of the week.