Oh, Hong Kong. How do I love thee? Let me go into way too much detail about it.
The flight from Taipei to Hong Kong is around two and a half hours long. Except for a small delay due to the rain(this whole trip seems to be themed on rain and sleep deprivation!), it was uneventful. Uneventful is always my preferred method of travel by airplane. Excitement on a plane means screaming babies and turbulence.
The rain was coming down hard and the sun had set by the time I set foot in the airport. Again, carrying the one bag made my life so easy here. I skipped luggage and went straight for the transportation card counter. Hong Kong uses the Octopus card for transportation, as well as pay for goods at many shops.
I should have mentioned it earlier, but Taiwan has a similar card. You can pick one up from any convenience store or within the subway stations. The Octopus card at the airport has a $50 HKD deposit. You can return it when you leave Hong Kong for the deposit fee.
At this point, I still hadn’t fallen in love with Hong Kong. I mean, it’s an airport. There isn’t an airport in the world that can make you love a city. I was meeting a friend, Michelle, which made this trip very exciting! We were staying at the same hostel,so I caught the bus over to Homy Inn North Point. For anyone visiting Hong Kong, I cannot recommend this place enough! You can get a two bed shared room with a bathroom for a reasonable rate. The location is awesome, being close to the subway, trams, and many great sights in Hong Kong.
Once I had my Octopus card, it was time to catch the bus to North Point. The buses are double decker, but I stayed on the lower deck to have a better view and in case I had to dash at my stop. There’s also a monitor to watch for how many stops are left on the route.
The ride to North Point was my first awe inspiring moment in Hong Kong. While it was raining, just like Taiwan, Hong Kong suits the rain. Anyone who plays the game Bioshock will understand that my first views reminded me of Rapture. Being a fan of the game, I was very happy to see its real life replica.
When I arrived at the hostel, Michelle was there waiting. It was so nice to see an old friend! We met at the airport on our first day in Korea. I hadn’t seen her in six months, so it was a wonderful reunion!
After I had dropped off my bags, Michelle and I met up with her Chinese friend, Jackie. The three of us headed to a vegetarian Chinese restaurant, which was a first for me. Michelle had been the night before, and had only good things to say about the food.
My expectations based on the rave review held up! The soup was amazing, as were the coconut steamed buns, and the fritters, which managed to taste just like meat! All of this was finished off by pot after pot of green tea.
From there, we rode the trams over to a famous bar street in Hong Kong. The trams themselves were fascinating! They’ve been in use for more than 110 years! They were first planned out in 1881, and the first single track system was put into use in 1903. Yes, I was geekishly excited about these things!
Basically, I’m going back to Hong Kong someday just to ride the trams again.
At first, I was calling them trolleys, which got a raised eyebrow from Michelle. In North America, I am totally validated; but not so much the rest of the world. It’s always the odd word that doesn’t match up.
Another weird moment which caught my fancy was passing an old cemetery . It ran right under a main road, hidden on a hill. That coexistence of the decaying tombstones and the busy road was perfect.
We arrived at the bar street and had some fun wandering around, just chatting and catching up. This lasted for a good few hours until the sleep deprivation hit again. Michelle and Jackie were still on South African time, so they were feeling perfectly fine. I was in a timezone of my own, which turned me into a zombie in the early morning. Poor Michelle and Jackie had to deal with the Walking Dead.
And while having a nice room and getting back late should have meant I slept in late, my internal clock had me wide awake at seven. Crazy body, learn your lesson! So again I went to the only place open at that hour-Starbucks. Not only was I picking up some breakfast and caffeine, I needed to buy more Starbucks mugs for my parents. Every new location I visit, I get them a mug. They now have a sizable collection, which is weird considering my family doesn’t drink coffee. It’s all tea for them.
Michelle woke up at a much more sane hour, and after she was ready, we headed out to a bookstore. Another souvenir I like to buy for my family is a children’s book from wherever I go. The beauty of Hong Kong is that about two thirds of the books are in Cantonese, and the others are in English! Lots of reading material for me as well. The subject matter is really varied as well. I can find English books in Korea, but they are generally the sort ESL learners would use to practice English-some classics and best sellers.
I got ‘This is Hong Kong’ and ‘book’ for the family, plus a few goodies for myself as well.
On the third floor of the bookstore was a vegetarian cafe. Michelle and Jackie went to sit inside for a coffee while I continued to drool over books. After I had come back to reality, I joined them for a rose tea latte and oatmeal cake. Both were delicious, and we took the time to just relax. In the issue of Flow magazine, there was a list of odd questions to ask each other, such as ‘Do you believe people are good at heart?’ and ‘What is your first memory?’. We went through a few of these with cake and drinks to keep us happy.
It was time for an early dinner by the time we left. Michelin starred Tim Ho Wans was nearby, so we walked over. The soup dumplings were perfect, although some of the other dishes were even more amazing! Tim Ho Wans is also in Taiwan. If you’re ever in either country, I’d say it’s worth a trip!
We strolled around Victoria Park after the meal. The park is right by the water. Plenty of people watching, and beautiful sights to see.
Michelle had visited a dessert soup shop the previous day. Before we needed to say our goodbyes for the time being, we found the small shop again to cap off our day.
I chose the rose wine dumplings in ginger broth. This was very similar to the dessert I tried back at Sun Moon Lake. I wish these sweet dumplings were available in Korea! I found out later this is known as Tangyuan, and is a traditional Chinese dessert. The dumplings can have black sesame seed paste, red bean, green tea, and many other flavors.
As we finished up our soup, it was time to head back to the hostel. Michelle was flying to Korea that night. While it wasn’t goodbye for a very long time, it was still sad to see her go.
Afterwards, I explored a few grocery stores in the area and found plenty of foreign goodies. Hong Kong is a treasure trove for sweets!
The next day I had all to myself. Michelle had recommended I stop by Hollywood Road, or Antique Street, so I made that a goal. The night before, I had looked up a brunch place which served oatmeal, or porridge. If there’s one food I miss from home, it’s oatmeal (and fish tacos).
The problem was, I couldn’t find it! There was about an hour where I wandered around the area in search of porridge. Not a problem when your surroundings are so gorgeous.
Finally made it to Classified, and it was completely worth the confusion! Banana and toasted hazelnut oatmeal
After the meal, there was more walking and photo taking. Hong Kong is so beautiful on its own that I didn’t feel the need to check off any of the sights.
There was an old market building full of fabric. Such a temptation, but I had enough souvenirs as is!
For lunch, I wound up back at the vegetarian cafe in the bookstore. There were a few other options I had in mind, but it was a Sunday. Sunday’s in Hong Kong are mad. This is the one day when the Southeast Asian workers have off, and they really take advantage of it. Many go to Victoria Park, spread out blankets, and picnic and chat for the day. Others send packages home or shop for themselves. Either way, the city nearly doubles in foot traffic one day of the week.
Plus, I was happy to be surrounded by books. The atmosphere was so great, and the staff were wonderful to me. They let me sit in a nook to people watch, turned on some extra lights for me, and brought out some delicious avocado eggs benedict.
When my phone had charged up, I walked to the harbor for photos and a very special treat in mind.
Another trip to the grocery store for some more drinkable oatmeal. That stuff had me hooked!
Sweet potato ice cream wrapped up the day.
For my final day in Hong Kong, I headed back to Classified for more porridge. Why not? It’s also a nice place to read or work while you eat, which is just my sort of thing.
On Michelle’s recommendation, I went to the zoological gardens afterwards. The park is free, but was a little difficult to find. It’s a very nice set up though, and I can see they treat the animals well.
For another glorious indulgence, I headed to Twinnings for lunch. I won’t say much, since I have another blog post planned, but it was a perfect experience.
The cherry on top of my wonderful trip was a visit to the Hong Kong History Museum. This is one of the best museums I’ve ever visited! The exhibits are gorgeous, and really give you a sense of how this city developed. The museum tracks the history of the city from pre-historic times to modern day. I deeply regret that I didn’t go earlier, because I had to leave for my flight. Still, I came away with a fascination for puppet troupes, bread mountains, and the Opium Wars.
My flight to Taiwan was at 11:30, which meant a night in the Taiyuan Airport. More on Taiwan soon!