Last year, we spent about 8 months in Asia to kick off our first leg of our RTW journey. We have now returned to the land of loose stools and have arrived in Hong Kong with the primary mission of gorging on as much Dim Sum, Noodles, Dumplings and Roasted meats as humanly possible. I was always a big fan of Dim Sum but found the quality back home in Chinatown, Las Vegas to be of inferior quality. When you bite into a Shu Mai and begin chewing on a tiny rubbery unrecognizable piece of ground pork then that usually is a sign that your dim sum is for shit and not made from quality ingredients. Prior to our arrival in Hong Kong, we did significant online research with the goal of hitting up all the highest rated, local, non touristy, Dim Sum joints spread across the city. In most cases, we were the only foreigners eating at these places and that was fine with us, as it actually added to the eating experience. It was also our cue we were at the right place. I can definitely say Hong Kong’s Dim Sum was first rate and lived up to its reputation. The other big food items hanging in the windows fogged with splattered greasy meat juice, are the famous roasted meat food stalls on almost every corner. These stalls are selling various roasted ducks and pigs. Roast pork, BBQ pork, and every other organ or body part that you can extract from a pig. This includes some unrecognizable shit like steaming pig stomach, beef stomach, pig intestines, tongues, livers, pork ears, pig snouts. If these succulent meat options do not wet your appetite, you can opt for curried fish balls, squid tentacles and some octopus.
Most of the fine dining tended to congregate at the top of impressive sky-scrapers but the places that made the biggest impression for us Flashpackers were the mom and pop dining places where you can see locals jammed in sitting at flimsy metal tables and stools, right off the street. There was no bullshiting around as the locals were all business filling their bellies. These were hardcore chowdown joints. In many cases, we were seated in tight quarters and at the same table as other Chinese diners. Usually, at a dining table, the social thing is to engage in conversation with people at your table. However, conversation comes a distant second to the concentration needed when inhaling your food. The fact that nobody at our table spoke a lick of English made the eating scene a real trip. I was in my little foodie haven with all table manners out the door. Everyone slurped their noddles and soup, smacked on their food and every so often you could hear the occasional burp and snort. In many cases, nothing is provided to wipe your hands/mouth so the bottom of your t-shirt would serve as your napkin. The meal is all followed up with the picking of your teeth with the toothpicks provided at the table. My kind of place because I could never normally get away with these down and dirty, animal like table manners around Barbie without getting the evil devil’s eye from her. I would look over to Barbie and simply smile. Without even speaking a single word, my eyes alone would tell her, “You are on my turf now!” Heaven was a place at these Chinese hole in the wall joints such as Lin Hueng Teahouse. If you prefer to utilize your table manners and overpay for your dim sum, then a visit to one of the famous upscale large chains, Tim Ho Wan and Din Tai Fung are your places.
We found Hong Kong’s atmosphere so exciting with nonstop action. HK really has a cool setting for a big city. It’s kind of like plopping New York City on the Southeast Asian coast. It has the edginess and chaos of a Southeast Asian metropolis coupled with the attitude of a happening Western city. As I wandered around the city, you can really see the mix of old and new. In many ways the city is ultra-modern but in other ways, big chunks of the city look and feel like it did 25 years ago when I last visited. The subways and buses are very clean and are overflowing with a very organized massive flow of human traffic. In addition, ferries can navigate you around the city all at a dirt cheap price. Hong Kong could go down as one of my favorite cities to utilize public transport, only second to Singapore. Not only is it clean and safe, it’s also fun. We loved to joyride aimlessly with no destination point in mind on top of the windowless double-decker tramways around the city.
We rented a real nice condo in a new high rise building called the J Residence complete with its own gym and rooftop pool in Wanchai. After a week basing on Hong Kong Island, we moved our tack across the Victoria Harbour onto Kowloon for a few days in order to get another perspective of Hong Kong. The day after we checked out of the J Residence, we were eating at one of our favorite Dim Sum places in Mongkok called One Dim Sum. We were seated at a shared table with a local. After telling her that we were bunking at the J Residence she stared down at her pork shu mei and became real quiet. She raised her head after some uncomfortable silence and informed us the condo building that we rented via Airbnb was home to one of Hong Kong’s most gruesome murders. A wealthy banker resident apparently brought home two prostitutes and killed them both viciously on separate nights. This was eerie to hear and really tripped Barbie out. Just glad we found all this out after we departed. The following is a link to this murder story and a story it is.
There are so many different neighborhoods to wander around and all of them kept us visually entertained as everywhere we turned we saw some wacky stuff taking place. You cannot walk more than 10 ft. without bumping into a place to eat. It was an absolute eating orgy. In the SOHO/CENTRAL district, tons of cool little restaurants line Wellington & Stanley Streets and the surrounding streets. In WANCHAI & CAUSEWAY BAY, you have an endless supply of Dim Sum, dumplings, roasted meat and noodle joints lining the streets.
For nightlife, SOHO & LAN KWAI FONG are the newer more vibrant hipster hangout areas popular with expats. This area is alive with quirky bars, cafes and boutique hotels. It was nice to see another style of hipster living in Hong Kong. However, I am far from being hip and preferred the more colorful and gritty crowds & neighborhoods away from the westerners. If you are looking to party and prefer to hang out with the ladies of the night, they can be located on Lockhart Rd. in Wanchai. Part red light district and part moneyed play ground. Girlie bars line the notorious Lockhart Road, while just down the street wealthy westerners sip expensive cocktails. All of this street action is just a stones throw away from traditional wonton noodle shops. Nearby the Temple Street Market in Kowloon, Barbie and I were entertained by a slew of young Chinese girls, plying their trade while we were sweating our asses off eating delicious Filipino lumpia @Foodtrip Bedana’s on rickety roadside tables. If you are looking for nightime action, Hong Kong delivers.
Another day, we took the subway and ventured into Mei Foo, a local neighborhood outside of the city center where we were the only non- Chinese people walking the streets. What brought us here was an offbeat activity called Dialogue in the Dark. It was a 1.5 hr. guided tour on what it’s like to experience life as if you were Stevie Wonder. We were given a walking stick and with only our sense of smell, hearing and touch we were led around by a blind guide in pure darkness to experience and navigate around various indoor and outdoor settings. It sure was a unique activity to partake in.
The racing gods have blessed Hong Kong with arguably the best quality of racing in all of Asia. Normally, a person is frowned upon and classified as a degenerate if they enjoy going to to the racetrack to wager on the ponies. I have been a degenerate for most of my life and I brought Barbie into the fold when we met. Similar to Saratoga, Del Mar and many racetracks in Australia, horse racing in Hong Kong is a real social event. Races are held two (2) days a week, Wednesday night at Happy Valley and Saturday, during the day at Shatin. Even if you hate the races, you will love the atmosphere here. Locals all come out to Happy Valley after work to drink, socialize, bet and enjoy the live music between races. The track is in the middle of the urban jungle, so the view is quite spectacular and was a real party scene.
A visit to one of the many ‘Wet Markets’ should be on any itinerary in order to get a glimpse of where the locals shop for food. It is sensory overload and a must see for it’s chaotic energy and mass amount of locals screaming their orders to the sales guy. Every type of consumable sea life creature is for sale here. These fish were all living until a customer would point to their one of interest. At that point, an old worn out looking Chinese man with a screeching voice yelling in Cantonese, blood all over his apron, was armed with the sharpest butcher knife on the planet. He would then proceed to decapitate the chosen fish on a wooden block and carve him up real nice for a green card. (click link). Even though these fish were carved in half, their hearts were still pumping blood through emptying arteries….some sick stuff going down here and we both stared in amazement at the bizarre scene in front of our eyes.
To temporarily escape the chaos in the urban sprawl of Hong Kong, there are some really good green parks to hangout in. Victoria Park, in Causeway Bay was a sight to be seen on a Sunday. In Hong Kong, there are roughly 350,000 live in maids from Indonesia and the Philippines. They survive on just $500 per month. The agencies that bring these young woman from Indonesia and the Philippines charge high fees and the nannies entire lives are basically dictated by their employer. Sunday is their day off and literally thousands set up shop, hanging out in the park, on the street floors, overpasses and alleyways surrounding Victoria Park. It was a surreal scene. A sprawling sea of humanity which I had been told happens every single Sunday. Hong Kong Park had a more sedate urban park setting and was real nice to walk around. This park can be tied into a visit to the popular Victoria Peak as they are right next to each other. The other big park on the other side of Victoria Harbour is Kowloon Park.
When not eating, other activities include:
– Bus to Stanley Market and Beach
– Hike on Dragon’s Back
– Gambling Mecca of Macau can be reached by ferry in an hour.
– Outer Island: Cheung Chau & Lantau Island (Buddha, Tai-O Fishing Village, Disneyland)
– City Parks (Hong Kong Park, Kowloon Park, Victoria Park)
– Street Markets: Temple St. Mkt, Ladies Mkt, Flower Mkt, Sneaker St.
– Temple Visits (Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai, Man Mo, Chi Lin Nunnery & Nan Lian Garden)
LOOSE STOOLS INDEX – 8
Many readers of this blog have claimed they could not sleep at night after I discontinued the loose stools index following our departure from Southeast Asia last year. Back by popular demand, I am happy to report the index is back with our return to Asia! You would figure following our five months in Australia and New Zealand mostly eating Lamb, Meat Pies and Fish N Chips that I would get handled as soon as I landed in Hong Kong. The thing to do in Hong Kong everyday is wake up, eat your ass off and then following eating your ass off, eat some more. The daily diet in Hong Kong is strictly the consumption of an inordinate amount of Dim Sum, Dumplings, Noodles and Roasted Meats. Shockingly, the stools index has held up quite nicely but that is sure to change as the next stop is Vietnam.
THRU THE BINOCS –
Hong Kong really impressed me. It has developed into quite a thriving metropolis from when I last visited 20 years ago. The most shocking is the wealth. Out with the poor of yesteryear and in with the wealthy as the Chinese economy is apparently doing gangbusters. Wealth is everywhere here in Hong Kong and many appear to be living the high life. New luxury condos sprouting up everywhere, shiny new iPhones in the hands of every local, upscale indoor malls with designer shops and Chinese customers purchasing like it was X-Mas in May. On the roads in Hong Kong, it appeared as though every single car on the road was a luxury vehicle. Tesla taking top honors for being the most prevalent and those bad boys aint cheap. We took the ferry to the casinos in Macau for the day and it appeared the local Chinese were all gambling like drunken sailors. BTW, Macau was interesting to check out for a daytrip and see first hand what all the hype is about, but I can report it’s basically a sprawling smoggy shithole. Other than gambling and inhaling an inordinate amount of thick China smog outdoors, the best thing Macau has to offer is their tasty Portuguese Egg Tarts and a visit to the Queenpin of egg tarts at Margaret’s Cafe e Nata should be a mandatory stop.
I wondered to myself how the majority in Hong Kong got so rich over the years. Where did all this newly minted Chinese wealth come from? Was it because of all the stuff they manufacture and sell to us Americans who have this unquenchable desire to accumulate and consume as much useless shit as humanly possible? Are the Chinese getting so filthy rich on the heals of American consumers purchasing all their crap from Wal-Mart? They could not possibly be accumulating massive fortunes hawking Dim Sum. Whatever it is, these Chinese people clearly have it going on. They have apparently figured out the money making system and are true bad mamma jammas.
Another thing I took notice of here in Hong Kong is that the local Chinese were not pushy at all. They would go about their daily business in an orderly way. No pushing and shoving on the trains, buses or on lines. No rude behavior. I was a bit surprised after encountering gangs of mainland Chinese during our travels in other countries who I found to be inconsiderate and generally rude as hell. So, why the difference between Chinese residents of Hong Kong and Chinese residents of Mainland China. I could not come up with a logical explanation.
Dim Sum – One Dim Sum, Ho Hung Kee, Dim Sum Square, Hay Dim Sum, Lin Hueng Teahouse, Dim Dim Sum, Din Tai Fung, Relax Sichuan Spicy, Toby’s Inn (Stanley), Wong Chi Kei (Macau)
Noodles/Soups/Dumplings/Roast Meats – Wang Fu, Yat Loc, More & More Cafe, Lam Kee Siu Mei, Bowington Food Centre.
Other – Kasa, Food Trip Bedana’s