Hong Kong (most recent at top)
Today we said goodbye to Kowloon and changed hotels to Wan Chai, Hong Kong Island at Hotel Indigo. Relief…
I guess I should shave my legs so I can actually sit by the pool without being repulsive…
Today is my birthday so I began the celebration at midnight with sparkling wine and my newly bought kimono (?) that I found on Temple Street. I’m quite obsessed with wearing the kimono around. Today was fantastic. I started off with another round of high tea at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel which was astoundingly beautiful. Compared to the Peninsula, it was a lot more laid back and relaxing. The foods were superb, the tea was beautiful, and the setting was deliriously elegant. With full stomachs, we left the M.O. for Tsim Sha Tsui back on Kowloon for a decadent foot massage/reflexology paired with a head/shoulder/neck massage. It was perfection (notice the surprise on my face when I realized the obtrusive massager at the bottom of my seat….thats, new). We finished right in time to meet the other NYU students and our professor for dinner at a Chinese seafood restaurant. It was a great way to end our program together in Hong Kong – dinner even wrapped up with the dessert “Longevity Bun” (filled with lotus paste) because when it’s your birthday you obviously need longevity. My birthday concluded with drinks atop the Mira Hotel in TST at a rooftop bar called Vibes. Perfect way to end the night!
I finally found claypot rice with lup cheong that was of my liking! Talk about nostalgia! Growing up I would eat pounds (probably) of this sausage which would be cooked directly in rice. Its so fattylicious. My weakness in general, however, is claypot rice – be it Vietnamese hot rice (like that served at San Jose’s Khan’s restaurant), Korean bibimbap, or Hong Kong – style dai pai dong claypot rice like this … I LOVE IT. I don’t know if its that burnt rice, or the hot steaminess of the dish, but its definitely one of the foods I would like to have before I die. Following our dinner we took a stroll through Temple Street Market. Before, we had visited Ladies Market which sold textile goods such as purses, clothes, jewelry, trinkets and other knick-knacks. Temple Street was very similar, with even more electronics, purses, clothes, sourvenirs, sex toys, dolls, posters etc. and a lot more dai pai dong stands, tarot card/palm reading stands and karaoke stands (if thats your thing). Also, bargaining in Temple Street is an art (I suggest starting at 50% of the asking price and working your way up – also try the “Okay now I’m going to walk away” and make the vendors chase you… usually/hopefully they will). Best purchases: silk robes/Japanese kimonos and silk boxers (for myself). The lady was a hard sell and wouldn’t negotiate her prices very much – and I appreciate a strong minded woman like that! You go girl!
After searching for a Hakka-style clay pot rice joint for dinner, we some how ended up at Chan Kee – famous for their roasted goose. So of course I had to try it – and of course any Chinese BBQ was good in my book. Following dinner we decided to finally visit Ozone – the bar on top of the Ritz Carlton in Kowloon – the highest bar in the world. The view was breathtaking – as was the bar tab – but when in Rome …. right?
Having been recovering all day from the all nighter – it was a prime time to go out to dinner in the soho area. I wasn’t particularly in the mood for seafood – so we went to one of my favorite pizza joints in the East Village, NYC which also had a location in Hong Kong – Motorino. We had the brussel sprout pizza which was godly, obviously. This was followed by a night out in Lan Kwai Fong ….
Sorry for the lack of pictures here. Friday night was exhausting – and not in a good way. We had an organized all nighter from 8:30pm until 7:30 the next morning. It was actually really interesting – just quite time consuming and tiring. The night started with a drive out to a local fish farm where we were able to watch the harvesting of fish for a few hours. Basically, a giant net was dragged (manually – with 5-6 people) across the water, then they sorted through the fish which were onloaded onto their truck. After a few hours we followed the truck to the market where the freshwater fish were auctioned off to various restaurants, chefs, etc. It was quite the experience. At about 4am we drove out further into the New Territories near the China border to watch the saltwater fish be imported into Hong Kong. Around daybreak, the Hong Kong police officers would make the rounds to each fish boat to check the cargo and licenses while we watched from the dock. After that, the small fishboats (having to deal with low tide) loaded all of the fish onto land. Possibly more fascinating than watching this process was being able to see a city in mainland China – unobstructed by the smog which is so prevalent in Hong Kong. We arrived back at the hotel around 7:30am where I promptly passed out for a good while.
As per Dani’s research on the globalization of Disney, we spent a day at Hong Kong Disneyland which was fantastic. She met with a few of her fantastic contacts at the Resort but we also went on most of the rides and tried the fantastic food! Also, my inner child came out to play when we stood in line to meet the characters. Mom & Dad, if youre reading this – Minnie hates me… the line to meet her was way too long by my standards. Speaking of which, I could NOT GET OVER the fact that Hong Kong Disneyland wasn’t crowded at all, and you literally could walk onto the rides. Like, I walked straight onto Space Mountain guys. Try that in Anaheim.
Today I worked on some of my research. It included having high tea at the Peninsula Hotel. Which was breathtakingly lovely. Of course I couldn’t afford to shop at Prada or Louis Vuitton surrounding the lobby, but I could afford tea time. It was the loveliest.
The morning started off with a visit to one of Kowloon’s many wet markets – where fresh produce, freshly caught fish and other meats are sold (and slaughtered/sliced and diced right in front of you). I even had the pleasure of having a live demonstration of a live fish being filleted in front of me – I even learned the fish fins/tails and heart still moves after being sliced and diced. Ummm cool? After our visit to the wet market we travelled to Lantau Island. After a delicious vegetarian-friendly meal (Buddhist monks- hollaa) we took terrifying cable cars to the Po Lin Monastery and to see Big Buddha.
We had an awesome presentation by Pizza Hut, Hong Kong about the marketing strategy they use specifically for Hong Kong. It was really insightful and interesting to learn about! We also heard from the food photographers / stylists as well. Afterwards, and after an amazing bowl of congee in Quarry Bay, we rode the trams around Hong Kong island.
[photo cred: Dani Labat]
1/5/14 – Day Trip to Macau
Macau has some serious identity issues. Like Hong Kong, being a providence(?) of China means a lot of little quirky things. Like the fact that they were administered by Portugal until 1999. Portuguese signage next to Chinese language was as cool as the European style architecture. Needless to say, the group of islands were very cool and a superbly interesting place to visit. The ferry ride took about an hour from Kowloon. After visiting Senado Square and the ruins of St. Paul, we stuffed our faces with the two famous staples of Macau – porkchop buns (literally a pork chop sandwich – with bone still intact) and Portuguese style egg tarts (I love egg tarts so much – my childhood memories of pink boxes from Chinatown filled with egg tarts = nostalgia). Both incredibly delicious and worth the calories. We burned off the calories in no time by checking out the Panda Park then making our way to another island for a fantastic Portuguese / Maccanese style lunch and a few pitchers of sangria. We were food coma’ed out and passed out on the beach shortly thereafter. We concluded our Macau visit with a visit to the shopping mall and The Venetian, which boasts the biggest casino in the world. So naturally we got our gamble on before heading back to the ferry. Sidenote – customs / immigration is like a walk in the park here, literally 10 seconds to walk through… what a concept.
Thank god we slept all day yesterday (blame it on being sick and the jetlag!) because we had an early day that started with a 7:30am dim sum breakfast. Safe to say I’ve never had to digest such copious amounts of food at such a godawful hour. It was worth it though! After our breakfast we rolled ourselves over to the Chinese University of Hong Kong where we had a symposium, The Family Meal: Dining in and Eating out in Global Cities, with some fantastic guest speakers. Later that night we watched the light show from Victoria Harbor (a bunch of buildings across the water in Hong Kong have a light/laser show choreographed to music every night), had a great dinner and drinks in the Soho area, and then more drinks in Lan Kwai Fong. I was amazed by the number of ex-pats in the area and the endless number of bars! BARS GALORE! Also, riding the longest escalator in the world/the Travelator was pretty cool too!
We walked around Mong Kok in the evening. We had dinner at a chain called Cafe de Coral which boasts both efficient service and delicious food. Afterwards we walked around the Ladies Market and down to the harbor.
Took the tram up to the Sky Tower / the highest vantage point in Hong Kong. It was a clear day with minimal smog so we had an optimal view of Hong Kong and Kowloon. The tram was frightening, but the view was breathtaking! We were briefly tempted to eat at Bubba Gumps in the Sky Tower solely for the view, but luckily the one hour wait saved us from that.
Dani and I arrived at our hotel in Kowloon, Hong Kong in the evening. Despite us both recovering from being sick / jetlag we attempted to partake in New Years Eve festivities. We ended up watching the countdown in our hotel’s lobby where there was a little parlay complete with bagpipes (?), balloon popping, a conga line, and free champagne. It was… interesting. Happy New Year!
Departed SFO for HKG! See you in 14 hours!