My last few days of this trip were spent in Hong Kong. It is an absolutely terrific place so it was a very nice way to end my 3.5 months of travel abroad. I was afraid it would be too big a city but I suppose I worked my way up to it by starting in Kunming, going to Beijing, hitting Shanghai, and ending with Hong Kong. I liked Kunming, truly enjoyed Beijing, loved the faster paced and larger Shanghai, and really fell for Hong Kong – it is a large city with heart and soul.
The greater Hong Kong area is made up of islands and even though places like Hong Kong and Kowloon are composed of a dense concentration of concrete towers and glass sky scrapers there are green mountains and water all around. There is no lack of places to escape from the city sprawl. Hong Kong is clearly old. It was also a British colony so has somewhat of a western feel to it despite the old Chinese ambience, too – a nice balance of both, I think. There are certainly tourists in Hong Kong but the locals are out and about with a vengeance. Part of this, I suspect, is due to the fact that homes/apartments are small so people want to get out and enjoy the city that has so much to offer.
I ate wonderful food, starting the day with congee and shrimp rice rolls along with milk tea every morning for breakfast. I sometimes even ate a toasted bun with condensed milk as an add-on to my breakfast. Lunch was usually made up of noodle soup with fish balls and supper, and twice I had a supper of bbq pork, rice, and Chinese brocolli. I also went for dim sum multiple times and once went to a VERY nice Sunday afternoon high tea at the fancy Mandarin Oriental. Michelle’s friend Carina (I know Michelle from Boston) took me out for dinner one night. I was taken around Kowloon and introduced to the toasted bun with condensed milk by Michelle’s other, long time, friend Pauline; she later treated me to a contemporary dim sum place that had traditional Cantonese fare. Here, you order what you want, beforehand, and then have the food brought to you.
Pauline and I hit the jade, bird, and flower markets, in Kowloon. I got to experience an old-style department store, a walk along Temple Street – a street mall that sells imaginable every type of cheap “stuff” (apparently Temple Street used to be full of street women; now you only notice a few hanging around). We also went to Shanghai Street (the street has a number of stores which carry hardware and housewares) because I wanted to find chopstick holders that double as soup spoon holders (I had never seen this until I hit Hong Kong). When I commented on a terrible smell in the air Pauline said it was fermented tofu and that she has never tried it because the smell is so off putting. Of course I had to give it a whirl and found it (and its accompanying hot sauce) delicious!!! You can taste the fermentation, but just barely. I had tried cold fermented bean soup in Beijing (that you dip fried dough into) and that was truly horrible – to my taste buds, anyway.
The day I arrived in Hong Kong would have been perfect time for a trip to Victoria Peak (it was sunny without a cloud in the sky — unlike the other three days I had spent in the city) but I was up at 5 that morning and did not hit my hotel until 2pm. By the time I had showered and had a bowl of soup for lunch it was 3. So, instead, I just wandered my new neighbourhood, Sheung Wan, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The area is JUST outside the district called Central. Sheung Wan neighbourhood consists of all sorts of dry goods shops — shops selling dried fish bladders for $5000+HKD as well as other dried fish, tea, nuts, dried fruit, etc. There are also all sorts of cheap(ish) clothing stores, magazine shops, and an English language used book store.
Central includes the financial district as well as very high end shopping malls, both fancy and simple restaurants, and hotels that are interspersed with local and older Hong Kong shops. To get to the Central boat pier you have to go through this area. I had, here, the best rice and bbq pork I’d eaten in Asia and the best noodle soup, too. Neither cost more than $4USD! But, of course, being Central, this is also where I had my very civilized afternoon tea and where I spent much more than $4USD! Definitely worth it.
It was a cloudy the day I went up by tram to Victoria Peak to see the view of the city and islands from up high. I walked around the park and for a very short while the clouds cleared so I was able to get some good views, after all!!
Another day, I took a boat to Lamma Island and hiked for almost two hours around one section of this island. My intention was to do the two hikes the island has to offer but it was over 30C with 100% humidity; my body would not have been happy with more hiking. Part of travelling far and long is knowing when to take a break. Lamma Island is sparsely inhabited, has two small residential and tourist areas and otherwise is green with hiking/walking trails. So the hike, although cut short, was worthwhile.
Finally, one other Hong Kong outing consisted of a tram ride westbound, looking around and taking photos from the top and front of a double decker bus. There is so much more to do in Hong Kong but unfortunately I just did not have enough time. This was true for Beijing and Shanghai, too. I guess I’ll have to return to these places!
I had an absolutely marvellous 3.5 month trip, met mostly marvellous people, ate mostly marvellous food, enjoyed the mostly marvellous countryside, and feel that I gained greater insight into Asian culture, as a whole. And of course, how I love Hong Kong!