I knew I had to visit HK when my sister bluntly told me she was not that impressed with New York. It turned out her New York was actually Hong Kong, where she had worked as a French teacher.
At first, I thought HK was like a tropical version of New York. The same vibrant atmosphere, full of light, movement and with surprising details at every step. Like when we bumped into a flock of flamingos quietly relaxing in the middle of a park in Kowloon. Or when we stumbled upon run-down food stalls, selling the most delicious street goodies right next to shiny glass skyscrapers and shopping malls.
Food is one of the greatest things in HK. It’s so delicious and cheap, and you never seem to get enough of it. All kinds of strange sea creatures (the only one we were able to identify was octopus), deep fried tofu and peppers, caramelized potatoes. I’d prefer thus stuff to a fancy restaurant any day. Oh well, unless you’re talking about the delicious pork buns at Tim Ho Wan. This is one of the cheapest Michelin starred restaurant in the world, selling dim sum in the shopping mall at Central Station. The buns really are to die for. Crispy, yet fluffy, and they melt to perfection in your mouth. It’s like the Ferrari of all the pork buns in the Universe, except for the price tag.
Soon after our New York-esque experience, we arrived in a completely different milieu. We stayed at a very funny guesthouse (Peace Hostel) in a huge maze of a building, inhabited mostly by Indian immigrants. So ten feet away from the cosmopolitan Nathan Street, there we were, back in India. The same persistent smell of curry mixed with paan, peddlers offering you all kinds of unusual things (like tailored suits?!), bowls of palak paneer and sugar loaded sweets. So many memories and sensations from our trip to India came back like a boomerang.
A few things I loved most in Hong Kong:
- Hiking through the forest to the Giant Buddha statue on Lantau Island
- Scrumptious bakeries everywhere. I am now a lifelong fan of green tea pastries and puffy sponge cakes. There was a bakery on Mody Road where people would queue up for hours before opening time. We never had the patience to stay in line, though.
- Wandering through the many open markets, bargaining for every trifle. We bought a few small kitschy Buddha carvings, and when I asked about what their various facial expressions meant, the lady kept pointing at them and shouting: ‘Happy’, ‘Lucky’, ‘Money’, ‘Happy’, ‘Lucky’…
- Strolling through the lush parks ( Hong Kong park, Kowloon Walled City park, Botanical Garden)
- The magical Dundas & Temple Streets near Mong Kok, where just looking at the throngs of passers-by is a show in itself. Oh, and the Dai-Pai-Dong which is an open-air stall, serving delicious food. There are only 28 such stalls left in Hong Kong.
- Going up through a misty cemetery and down to Big Wave Beach, the most peculiar hike I’ve done in a long time. It ends in a tranquil surfing village, so disconnected from the rest of HK.
- Of course, the view from Victoria Peak, which I guess is on every tourist’s to-do list
And also, pies, buns, fluffy sponge cakes, mochi, bubble tea. I know I said this before, but the sweets are stronger than me.
Happy Hong Kong-ing!