What do you think of when you hear “Hong Kong”? Perhaps you think of the tiny plastic emblem on the bottom of your childhood toys, Made in Hong Kong. Maybe you think of steaming platters of dim sum. Maybe you think, well, “Somewhere in Asia”. I don’t blame you.
Before I was sent there for a workshop, I suppose I imagined all of the above, and that’s pretty much it. I had no idea Hong Kong is a heaving metropolis of buildings, a salt-shaker of islands, cerulean water lapping against the steamy tropics of national parks, which shadow the perfectly paved roads with sleek BMW’s hugging the yellow line as they curve around jagged peaks heading towards the latest night club for smooth jazz and artisanal cocktails. You can walk down the Avenue of Stars and marvel at Jackie Chan’s handprint, shop for Armani Exchange, Calvin Klein, or Victoria’s Secret in the sky-scrapping shopping malls, hike to the peak of a national park while keeping an eye out for venomous snakes, or chopstick dumplings in a bustling dimly lit alley way. All in an hour.
See what I did there? Hong Kong.
Even though I was only there for five days, my mantra become, “Eat, walk, eat, walk, repeat.” If you don’t enjoy walking, you better love taxis, as Hong Kong is a city of staircases, sloping hills, and sidewalks, all begging to be traversed. In my opinion, there was an old-city feel to it, almost like New York City. It didn’t feel ultra-modern; instead there was a dance between the old and the new, the West and the East.
This is Pottinger Street, in the Central district of Hong Kong. Famous for their costume shops, Pottinger is a street full of staircases, vendors, and throngs of people huffing and puffing their way to the next destination.
I picked up a few key elements of our Halloween costumes on Pottinger. In Hong Kong, you have to bargain hard; what starts off at 300 Hong Kong Dollars quickly drops to 120, but only if you ask.
Every afternoon our workshop finished, we had time to explore the city. And what better way to explore than on foot? Can you tell what this kitschy red shop specializes in? Hair cuts! Try and peek through the door to the barber—you can see him if you squint. With the candy cane barber’s pole, it was like something out of a mid-century magazine.
If you know me, you haven’t truly visited a country unless you explore their culinary landscape. In Hong Kong, it’s dumplings, noodle soup, and dim sum. And my goodness, is it divine. I know those dumplings don’t look appetizing, but, trust me, there’s nothing better than a savory bowl of Hong Kong noodles and tender, seasoned dumplings. And don’t forget the chili oil, which this restaurant, Sam Tor, is famous for.
Our workshop was held on the southern part of Hong Kong island in the Aberdeen district. Can you imagine having this view from the window of your classroom?
After we got off work, we headed up to The Peak, which is the highest mountain on Hong Kong island. It has an elevation of 1,818 feet. The view from the top, as you can see, is absolutely stunning.
After the peak, we headed to yet another noodle shop. I loved all the chaos and color. Another thing about Hong Kong, which I think happens in all major cities and may just be new to me, is that when you get to a packed restaurant, they sit you at a table with a total stranger. It was a bit of a novelty to me—to be sitting directly across from someone you don’t know—slurping your noodles in peaceful silence. Luckily, that stranger always spoke English and helped me navigate the menu and place my order. 9 times out of 10 I said, “I’ll just have what you’re having.”
I had gone out with a friend I met at the workshop on this day, and we decided to check out a restaurant famous for pudding and scrambled eggs. It was called the “Australia Dairy Company”, and is apparently pretty historic. Trust me, it sounds just as weird to me as it does to you. And guess what? The almond vanilla pudding was the best I ever had. Honest. The whole place had a kind of 1950’s diner feel to it. Just look at those plates, and how artificially fluffy that white bread is!
Again, you’ve not been to Asia if you haven’t eaten street food. And for me, it’s stinky tofu. Or really, fermented tofu that smells kind of like a sewer. I love it—kind of in the way that Germans love sauerkraut. Must be in my genes.
And when I got to my hotel, I had a message on my television that all of a sudden made the Hong Kong protests very real. All transportation had been shut down to Central, Admiralty, and Wan Chai. I was visiting Hong Kong during their largest week of protests. However, the next morning I had to hop in a taxi to get to the airport by 6:30am, so I was not able to witness the history. But I do have this photograph of my hotel tv!