|Hong Kong Skyline from Victoria Peak|
It was hot and humid when we landed at 10am in the morning from our flight from Taiwan to Hong Kong. Going through immigration and security was pretty quick. As a US citizen, I did not need a visa since I would be staying for less than 90 days. If I wanted to go to Mainland China, I would need a tourist visa.
We took the Airport Express train that would take us to the heart of Hong Kong Island in the Central District. One way tickets were $115 HKD (about $15 USD). It was a comfortable 24-minute train ride and it conveniently stopped at Hong Kong Station which is under the upscale IFC Mall. We dropped off our belongings at the left luggage facility to get a bite to eat.
Our first meal was at a restaurant called Tasty Congee & Noodle Wunton Shop at level 3F of the IFC Mall. We ordered seafood congee, braised beef wonton noodles, sauteed Chinese broccoli, and pork buns. The wonton noodles exceeded my expectations as the meat was tender and flavorful. Whenever I had wonton noodles in the US, I’ve always thought they just tasted bland. I know now that I’ve just never had a good bowl of wonton noodles. The meal was a lot pricier since it was inside an upscale mall but I was satisfied.
The first thing that came to mind after lunch were egg waffles. A friend recommended a popular place called Oddies located in the Central District, which is about a 15-minute walk from the IFC Mall. The Central District has an extensive covered elevated walkway system that connects many downtown buildings. The IFC Mall is one of those buildings so outside we went to begin or egg puff hunt.
We leisurely strolled along the walkway sheltered from the glaring sun. I took some quick snaps of the scenery but paused when I saw one street corner with women stuffing balikbayan boxes. The Philippines is known for it’s Overseas Filipino Workers who send back billions of dollars worth of remittances. I’ve always known that there were many Filipinas that work as maids in Hong Kong but boy was I was surprised to see how many there actually were in person. Inside the building’s second floor were a number of small stalls selling clothes, and random Filipino snacks reminiscent of sari sari stores that you could find on any street in the Philippines. Around the corner were more Filipino establishments and a few steps away outside was a Jollibee. I could hear Tagalog being spoken all around me.
We finally made it to Oddies after zigzagging our way through narrow streets and finally up some back alleyway stairs. The shop looked Western-friendly with everything written in English. We ordered the Nightwolf (chocolate chip brown egg waffle with soft serve and a bunch of other toppings) and plain red velvet egg waffle. The Nightwolf was artfully presented in a plastic cup which I was afraid of knocking over.
After satisfying our sweet tooth, we picked up our luggage and took the MTR to Wan Chai Station. The Airbnb was about a 10-minute walk away from the station as well as having several bus and tram stops within walking distance. One thing I will mention and recommend to any visitor is to get an Octopus card. It’s a smart card that you can load with money to pay for fares when using the mass transit system and many retail shops also accept them as a form of payment. You can purchase them at any station and they can be returned for a refund on the remaining balance. It was so convenient not to have to count change and buy a ticket for each ride.
After an hour, the rain had died down. We wandered the streets taking in the environment. It reminded me of Tokyo in a sense that there were tons of shops and so many people wandering the streets.
|Tsi Sha Tsui Street in Hong Kong|
|Tsi Sha Tsui Street in Hong Kong|
We tried a dim sum restaurant called Yum Cha located in the Tsim Tsa Tsui District. It had the typical dishes as well as modern variations of the traditional dim sum. We ordered a bit too much but everything was delicious.
Before returning on the Star Ferry, we had to see the view of the Hong Kong skyline lit up at night! It reminded me of Shanghai where you can view the Pudong skyscrapers from across the river on the side of The Bund. However, it felt more crowded in Hong Kong. Everywhere on the waterfront, there were people trying to get a snapshot. We rode the Star Ferry back and it actually had an equally impressive view of the skyline. It was just harder to get a picture that wasn’t blurry.
We relaxed at the Starbucks in the Hopewell Centre near our Airbnb. I like going to Starbucks shops when I’m abroad to see what kind of local drinks they offer as well as the reliable wifi. Luckily, they were selling special Mid-Autumn Festival Mooncakes! The box was about $30 USD and comes with six small mooncakes: two earl grey, two vanilla, and two coffee caramel. I also received a gift card for a free drink. The box came with three small lights that you can stick into three boxes with cutouts. Turn on the lights and your little mooncake box turns into a festive decoration.
In front of the Hopewell Center is Lee Tung Avenue, a Western inspired pedestrian walkway filled with hip shops and restaurants. It was a nice place to take a stroll around before heading back for the night to our Airbnb.
|Lee Tung Avenue in Wan Chai|
|Egg and Custard Mooncakes from Kee Wah Bakery|
A trip to Hong Kong wouldn’t be complete without a ride up the Peak Tram to Victoria Peak to see the best skyline in the world! There were no dreaded lines at 7:00am in the morning when we arrived. As a tip, you can use an Octopus Card to pay so you don’t have to wait in line to buy a ticket. The ride is approximately 5-minutes long and passes by some luxury residential areas. The tram ride ends at the multilevel Peak Tower which is home to dozens of retail shops and restaurants. For an extra $48HKD ($6.15 USD) you can go up the top floor to the Sky Terrace 468 to see 360 views of Hong Kong Island. The view from outside the Peak Tower was already spectacular so we decided not to go up. There is a Pacific Coffee inside the Peak Tower which has a great view as well so I recommend grabbing a drink and just lounging by a window seat.
|Inside the Peak Tram|
|View from Victoria Peak|
On our way back from the Victoria Peak, we passed by some grand looking buildings that make up the beautiful skyline.
For lunch, we tried the Michelin starred Kam’s Roast Goose. A line already formed 20-minute before they opened so come early. The staff was efficient at seating us and taking everyone’s orders. Everything came out quickly and was delicious. But, I’m not sure if I’d go back considering the wait and that there were other local BBQ restaurant that I could try.
|Line Outside Kam’s Roast Goose|
|Roasted Duck and Sucking Pig|
|Char Siu Pork and Roasted Pork|
In the afternoon, we rode the MTR line to the very crowded Mong Kok Station. Wandering around, I noticed that there were a lot more Filipinas and other Southeast Asians. One particular sight that stuck out was when I saw one Filipina woman sobbing hopelessly while her friend was desperately trying to console her. They were sitting on the station floor, in one corner, with their backs against the wall in an embrace. It made me wonder what she has had to endure being so far away from home.
|Elevated walkway where Southeast Asian maids
were relaxing on their free day off.
Mong Kok feels a lot like those busy neon lit streets you would see in a sci-fi movie a la Blade Runner. It was a jumbled maze of bodies and cars stuck in the worst traffic. A lot of the cars were luxury Mercedes’, BMW and Tesla’s. All these wealthy people rather be in their cars going at a snails pace than take public transport.
We walked along one street that had many vendors selling pets. Little fishes in water filled plastic bags hung on the exterior of many shops. There were also food stalls that dotted the street corners selling skewered fish balls, fish cakes, and intestines in curry sauce.
We had to try some milk tea and egg puffs! I ordered oolong with tapioca balls and some taro egg puffs from two separate vendors.
On our last day, we took an early morning boat ride to Macau, which I’ll dedicate a separate post for in the near future. After trying some Portuguese egg tarts in Macau, we wanted to try more at a local chain called Tai Cheong Bakery. These were some of the best eggs tarts I’ve had. The crust wasn’t the typical flaky type but more of a buttery biscuit.
In the evening, we rode a tram to the 16 story Times Square Shopping Mall located in Causeway Bay.
We decided on a restaurant called Budaoweng Hotpot Cuisine located on the 11th floor. There were lots of options for the type of sauce you can have but we opted for the pork broth and a spicy broth. The waitress placed a wooden tray full of ingredients for making a dipping sauce. The food came out one by one with the vegetables first, then the tofu, and then the dumplings and meats. It was a fun experience trying hot pot in Hong Kong regardless if the weather was so warm outside.
|Sauce Making Ingredients|
Hong Kong is a great mix of old and new with towering skyscrapers mingled in with hole in the wall restaurants and narrow alleyways lined with stalls. The efficient public transport system as well as the local populations English proficiency made it easy to get around. In terms of prices, Hong Kong is actually pretty expensive and almost comparable to San Francisco prices when it comes to food at least. Four days was sufficient enough time to see the main tourist spots but I felt like there was so many things to eat and places to shop that I would definitely return.