2 Days in Hong Kong
We embarked at 4 am for an early flight to Hong Kong. Our taxi to the airport sketched out Dave as it did not have working lights or seat belts. Upon landing in Hong Kong, we immediately noticed differences in regards to ease of travel, cleanliness and comfort compared to the Philippines. We hopped on the super-efficient Airport Express train and were checked into the Intercontinental Hong Kong before 10 am. We were upgraded to a deck room and were stunned looking out across Victoria Bay at the Central Hong Kong skyline. Despite being super tired, we immediately headed out to explore the city, knowing that 48 hours would not be enough time to satisfy us. We hopped on a ferry across the bay and walked to the famous Tim Ho Wan dim sum house for brunch. This famous restaurant has a Michelin star despite each dish costing only a few dollars, so we ordered about half the menu and sampled everything - pork buns, shrimp dumplings, steamed rice dishes, radish cakes and more. We had to wait in line nearly an hour before we ate, but the food was totally worth it. Thoroughly stuffed, we decided to walk it off by finding our way to Man Mo Temple, an incense filled Cantonese house of worship filled with lanterns, gongs and golden murals.
Cat Alley Shops
Next, we headed to Cat Alley for shopping, and Erin picked up a lacquer engraved case. In the afternoon, we took the ferry back to our hotel and swam in the infinity pools and hot tubs overlooking the skyline. Next, we enjoyed a bottle of wine on our deck while the sun set and the nightly skyscraper light show illuminated the night sky and surface of the bay.
Night Market Street Food
After sunset, we headed back out to check out the night market scene. On our way there, we enjoyed the warm night weather and neon signs in Chinese letters. Once we arrived we did souvenir shopping and Erin had her fortune told by a local palm-reader. The fortune teller told Erin that she was a stubborn but generous person who recently moved where she lives and advised her on lucky numbers, and proper directional alignment of her bed for maximum luck. We ate a late dinner sitting outside on plastic tables and chairs near the night market, feasting on classic Chinese rice and noodle dishes as well as local beer and wine. Dave noticed the table manners of the couple sitting next to us. When ready for the bill, the man simply yelled out into the air, "Mai Daan," which means get the bill. However, if you pronounce it just slightly off, it means, "get me an egg." This explaned why the waiter stared at Dave with a confused look when he tried to use the phrase to pay the bill at lunch the next day.
A Slice of Life
We noticed groups of women hanging out on the overpass bridge walkways all around Hong Kong. Seated on the concrete ground for hours. they were playing cards, painting each other's nails and generally just lounging. It turns out these are domestic workers from the Philippines. Most middle class families in Hong Kong employ a house woman who lives with them and cares for the children and house while the parents work. The women send money home to their families but rarely see them. On holidays, the house women have the day off and hang out together without spending money by gathering on the cool overpasses to enjoy the break.
Victoria Peak Hike
We woke again at sunrise and admired the skyline surrounded by mountains across the bay. We decided to boat across to hike the famous Victoria Peak for morning exercise. We navigated to the base of the Peak Tram, which most people take up to the top. But we opted for the hiking challenge. Hong Kong has a rainforest-like climate, so after a few minutes we were dripping sweat. As we began to gain elevation we were treated to epic views of the city below. After a 45 minute climb up switch-backs, we realized we were on an unofficial path reserved only for residents. We hopped in an Uber and headed to a vegan smoothie spot to cool down and clean up before our next activity, a small group food tasting tour in the back alleys of Hong Kong.
We met our small group inside an unremarkable office building in the Central District. We strode next door to a basement noodle shop for excellent home made wontons. Erin put a little too much chili peppers in her soup and in a coughing fit accidentally inhaled a noodle up her nose. Despite the social faux pas, she was pleased with the resulting reduction in sinus pressure from the chili snort. Our next restaurant specialized in roasted pig, roased duck and roasted goose over rice. We filed to the back room and watched as the chef roasted a suckling pig glazed with soy sauce over a crackling fire before tasting of the delicious delicacy. Our guide claimed that many restaurants will tell people they are getting the more expensive goose when it's actually duck, and that it takes a local sometimes to tell the difference. Dave challenged our guide to a blind taste test of duck v. goose - she did not understand but he got a good laugh from the rest of our tour participants.
Next, we headed to a traditional sugar cane shop, where a hundred-year-old machine is used to grind fresh sugar cane into a refreshing juice. The shop also sells turtle jelly soup which is a cure for all ills in traditional Chinese medicine. It didn't look so appetizing. After our juices we took a long walk through an outdoor food market. Due to health and space concerns, these traditional markets will all be moving indoors in the next few years so it was priceless to see this classic way of life before it modernizes. We watched as local butchers chopped the heads off of fish and displayed their still-beating hearts as signs of freshness. We stopped at a Chinese candy shop where we learned that Chinese sweets confuse sweetness with saltiness. Erin loved the spicy candied ginger.
For our last two stops we hit another famous dim sum joint for dumplings, buns, rolls and noodles and a traditional bakery for an oven-fresh egg tart. We thanked our guide and then took a long walk along the coast toward the pier where we hopped aboard a traditional Chinese junk boat with red sails.
Junk Boat Cruise
We watched the sunset and light show from the bay and then headed back to our hotel to get cleaned up before hopping on the super efficient train to the airport. In Hong Kong, you can check your bags at the train station, so we dropped our bags and then shopped at the sprawling Hong Kong Airport complex before boarding our flight back to Frankfurt. The flight home was nearly 13 hours. Because of our long and full day touring the city, we both slept the first 10. We landed in Frankfurt and drove the two hours back to Luxembourg, where we immediately passed out for the next 14 hours.