Category Archives: Hong Kong

I’ve Peaked

I finally made it to Victoria Peak.

Wow.  It is stunning!

I read about the best way to get there, and just opted for a taxi, because I didn’t want to be stuck in a huge line for an hour waiting for the tram.  It was a little confusing to find where the actual viewpoint is when the taxi drops you off under the shopping mall.  But I found the observation tower.  I didn’t go up it, as I could see from below that there was a long line just to stand at the railing to take a picture.  So I got some shots from the lower platform.  Time to go home?  Nope!  I had also read about the best way to see the Peak.  There is a road that was built in 1913, called “Lugard Road”, which circles right around the top of the peak.  As I walked along it, I was a bit confused because all I could see to my right was trees.  I just caught glimpses of the view through the thick forest.  Eventually the trees opened up, and, well, as I said before, stunning.

The other really nice thing about walking along Lugard road, is that it’s very much a paved nature trail.  The trees were beautiful, the sounds of birds pleasant, and it was uncrowded enough that at times I was the only person on my little curve of the road.  Surely want to go back, maybe next time for the night views!!

This Place Smells!

I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way.  There are so many smells in this city.  Tropical florals, usually only encountered in my body wash.  The familiar smell of exhaust of cars and buses, ingrained in my olfactory pathways from years of living in cities.  New weird smells that I have yet to identify–some fruity, some fishy, some downright stinky (I’d be happy never again encountering whatever that one was, grocery store).  But you know what smell I haven’t encountered?  Eau du Metro.  That pungent rotting piss smell that wafts over you when changing trains in the Paris metro.  …You might want to take care of that, Paris.

UPDATE:  So that smell I’d like to avoid forever is Durian.  The so-called “king of fruit”.  Well the king might want to change his socks, ’cause DAMN!  When you walk into a grocery store, you naturally enter through the produce section.  Which means you walk by, or rather, are assaulted by the pungent smell of rotting fresh Durian.  I sort of lose my appetite for shopping after that.  Although it certainly curbs any junk-food cravings I might have had before walking into the store.

Here be dragons. …in Aberdeen

I went with my HK buddy, Kim to Aberdeen.  Aberdeen is on the south side of Hong Kong island, and was where foreigners in the 19th century first arrived.  The name Hong Kong was actually just the name of this village, but foreigners mistook it for the name of the entire island, and well…that’s how these things go I suppose.  The reason this area was named “Hong Kong”–meaning “Fragrant Harbor”–is because it is here that the incense trees were sent for export to other parts of China.

Now Aberdeen is famous for it’s floating fishing village, and it’s HUGE floating restaurants.  We strolled along the promenade, fended off Sampan ride peddlers, and made our way past the many many boats and their inhabitants to the free ferry.  Really incredible to pass by the lives of people which are so much different than your own; fish hanging out to dry on your “front porch”, tending nets and dropping a line in the water off your boat.

We took the free ferry to Jumbo.  Fitting name for the huge boat, one of a group of boats which are floating restaurants in the harbor.  Maybe barge is a better word than boat.   Every inch of the outside was hyper-decorated.  And I loved it 🙂  Especially the dragons!!  We had a really good meal of lo mein and dim sum.  Super good food on this jumbo boat!  After taking the ferry back to the promenade, we looked for the fish market. Well, we smelled our way there, I suppose would be more accurate.  It was late though, so was already closed.  I can just imagine all the big tanks filled with the early morning catches, waiting for the restaurants to come purchase the day’s menu items.

After our Aberdeen experience, we decided chocolate was needed.  Kim had been to Mandarin Oriental and seen their beautiful pastries, so we headed there to finish off the afternoon.

All in all a well spent day!

Mid-Autumn Festival and Fire Dragons

This past week saw two holidays in Hong Kong.  Wednesday was National Day celebrating the founding of China.  I was too sick to go watch the fireworks that day, but Sunday was the Mid-Autumn Festival and it was a public holiday on Monday 🙂

The Mid-Autumn Festival also known as the Lantern Festival (and many other names) is well celebrated in Hong Kong.  Victoria Park, which is a 10 minute walk from my apartment, is decorated with lanterns and lights and it’s reminds me of a winter wonderland…in 90 degree heat.  The lanterns and lights strung above were really beautiful.  And more impressively, there are dozens of figurative lanterns around the park as well.  A colleague of mine invited me to join her and her family on Sunday for dinner, then a walk through the park.  I’ll let the pictures do the talking.  Also, here is a wikipedia article on the festival:

One of the special attractions in my area of Hong Kong is the “Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance”!!  This is not something everyone gets to see, as it’s local to the Tai Hang area of Hong Kong, south of Victoria Park.  You can read about the legend of the Fire Dragon Dance here:  I signed up for an Internations event to see this event on Monday. I wasn’t even sure what this was, and I didn’t realize it was a special thing, but I was eager to start meeting people, and hey, culture!  On Sunday, after parting ways with my colleague, I was winding back through the crowd heading home, and I saw a sign that the FDD would be in the park.  Not only that, it was starting in about 45 minutes!  So hey, why not see it twice!!  I found a spot near the barrier of where the dragon would perform.  It was definitely worth the wait and the crowd!!  It’s hard to get great pictures of it, but I managed to snap one or two keepers!

The next night I met up with the event group in a restaurant in Tai Hang.  We had a nice meet and greet before heading out to the street to see the Dragon.  This setting was much more what I pictured.  We were packed into the sidewalk of a little street among the older buildings of HK.  We ended up standing just near the stage, which meant that the dragon would be performing right in front of us for a while!  …however we were slightly behind it.  It was totally ok to see the dragon, but to our complete surprise, Hugh Jackman was the special guest and he was on that stage!!  Craziness!!  I saw him a few times as he popped around to wave to the crowd, but sadly didn’t catch a photo.  Anyway, I was able to get some video of the dragon dance this time! Right at the 1:27 mark, you can catch a glimpse of Hugh 😉

What I’m working with

I really thought in Paris, that I had a small kitchen.  I mean, it was the smallest I’ve ever cooked/baked/washed dishes in!  But then I came to Hong Kong…

It was requested that I show my actual kitchen so you can see the long and short of it.   Well, just the short of it!

To say this kitchen is an “efficiency” kitchen would be putting it mildly.  Without an oven (or any pans) I most likely won’t be baking anything.  Although I could look up some of those mug-in-the-microwave recipes.  …hmmm…

But at least I have two “burners” so I can cook some stuff.  And since I’m in Asia, that stuff should be Asian, right?   I’ve just started to scratch the surface of Chinese veggies and how to prepare them.  So far I’ve done two soups.  One is an all-time favorite of mine:  egg-drop soup.  To this I added some chicken, portobello mushrooms, choi sum and ginger.  The second soup was just a catch-all.  Potato, mushroom, choi sum, ginger, shrimp and some noodles (I don’t know what they’re made of, but they looked interesting).  Not to toot my own horn, but these were yummy!!   I could get used to this.   🙂

Repulse Bay; quite attractive!

There’s nothing replusive about Repulse Bay! Apparently some Brits named it that after “repulsing” a pirate encampment there…or something equally obscure.

Today was my first day with no colleague interaction.   That’s right, the training wheels have come off, all Paris colleagues have gone home, and I’m on my own in Hong Kong.  So what better thing to do than head to the beach!!  It was 32°C / 90°F with a “feels like” temp of 41/106!  I took the metro to the “Exchange Square Bus Terminal”.  Let me explain that “Exchange Square” is not so much a square, as a hard to locate and quite confusing to navigate around parking lot located on the ground floor of a building in the very busy Central area.  After a walk around a couple of blocks, an elevated walkway, self lost guided tour of a random parking lot, I managed to find my bus (only because the bus was sitting there.  I never would have seen the sign!)  The  bus went through the city, over the mountaintops and down through the forest to the beach.  Beautiful panoramic views on this bus route, I must say!  I also must say that this is the bus to “Stanley Prison”…which I found a bit strange, but whatever.  I got off long before the prison!

This beach is the most well-known, apparently most-frequented beach in HK.  But in mid-September, it’s not crowded at all, and really very lovely.  There was a tour bus of Chinese Mainland tourists a few meters down the beach, all wearing tennis shoes, matching shirts and hats, carrying umbrellas, taking pictures, but not really doing the whole “beach”-thing.  As I looked at them I literally said out loud “you’re doing it wrong”.  No one was close enough to hear me, but even if they were, they were probably thinking the same thing.

The beach and the water were both very clean, (cleaner than Barcelona is!) and once there was even an announcement that littering and smoking were illegal, and please don’t do things that would annoy or disturb other beach-goers.  I shit you not, this was on a loudspeaker in Cantonese, Mandarin and English!  Let me take this opportunity to say that I love the anti-smoking laws in this country 😉  As I mentioned above, it was hot.  But actually not as hot as in the city.  There was a pleasant breeze…for a bit…then I felt like I was melting.  Time to take a dip.  Wow.  PERFECT water temp.  I spent 45 minutes just floating there.  I had read that the water on this side of the island was-not surprisingly-much cleaner than on the harbor side.  But I was surprised that it was clearer than in the south of France, or in Lake Erie.  Standing up to my chin, I could still see my feet, there was no seaweed, no floating detritus, no nothing.  Just warm water and gentle waves.  A girl could get used to life in Hong Kong…

Get me outta here!

Well, I’ve been in Hong Kong for a whole 4 days. So let’s escacpe! I had the opportunity to go to Macau with some colleagues who are here for a short time, so I jumped at the chance.  Glad I did.  I’ll be honest, there were some highlights and some lowlights.

There were 5 of us who went: A German colleague and her German friend, and two colleagues from the Paris office, and me.  It became apparent that we had different views on what would be the “must-see” places in Macau.  The German friend thought hiking/walking/seeing gardens and parks would be the best idea.   My French colleague and I thought differently.  CASINOS BABY!!  …well.  One Casino, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

From Hong Kong we took a ferry at 9am.  So we arrived in Macau, through customs, potty breaks, etc. around 10:30 and took a city bus to…the end of the line.  Woops.  Missed our stop.  So we took it back to where we wanted to start. We saw a nice Buddhist temple, but along the bus route I was quite shocked at how dirty and run-down the apartment buildings were. I now further appreciate Paris and its ever-cycling cleaning of the buildings!

Noon, time for lunch, right?  No.  Apparently our self-appointed tourguide decided she wasn’t hungry (from the looks of her she has forgotten what food is, so “lunch” is a foreign concept for her).  So we would instead go to the large park in the center of Macau.  At this point it became apparent who was not so good at map reading (tourguide), and who was much better at map reading (me!).  Well, we found the garden and took a gondola up to the top of the mount, and then further climbed and climbed up to the old lighthouse built by the Portuguese.   Quick note:  Just as Hong Kong was a colony of England until 1997 leading English to be an official language, Macau was a colony of Portugal until 1999, leading Portuguese to be the second official language of Macau.  And this of course also led to many buildings with Portuguese style architecture, and an influence in the cuisine and local delicacies too!  There is a small church (of course what lighthouse wouldn’t be complete without a church…right?) and the view from there is incredible.  You could probably see Hong Kong from there!  …except, you know, pollution.  Anyway, it was very cool to see, and it would have been a really nice hike…if I wasn’t sweating my ass off.  Then our trailguide led us back down the hill to another garden.  It was 2pm at this point.  Did I mention lunch?  So my friend and I decided this was completely uncivilized, and we must nourish ourselves, and besides, there’s Portuguese pastry to be found!!  Time to split the group.

After lunch with my friend we took a bus to the island off the south of Macau, called Taipa.  Bet ya didn’t know there was a separate island, huh?  😉  Neither did I.  The best description for Taipa that I can give is “Little Vegas”.  Casino after Casino, and huge newly constructed, beautiful hotels.  The most advertised of these is the Venetian.  Just like in Vegas, they have a “Grand Canal” lined with shops, and you can take a gondola ride, under the painted sky.  What they also have is Portuguese “Pastel de nata”–> egg tarts!  Mission accomplished!  We walked along the “canal” and did some window shopping (we’ll call it market research), and took a stroll through the casino.  No gambling though.  Minimum bets of 300HKD?  Too rich for my blood!  Another quick note: Hong Kong and Macau each have their own currency, separate from mainland China.  Luckily when you go to Macau with your HKD, you can pretty much use them interchangeably with the Macau Patacas.  Convenient! 😉

The nice thing about the Venetian is that they provide a free shuttle to each of the ferry terminals (Taipa island has their own ferry terminal, but it’s much smaller than Macau).  How convenient, they bus their gamblers straight from the boat docks to the bacarat tables!  On the way out of the Venetian we happened to run into another place selling egg tarts.  Well, you can’t just pass it up!  It was a sign.  We needed another 😉  We took the shuttle to the Taipa ferry terminal.  No seats on the ferries until 9pm.  woops….  So take a taxi back to Macau?  Nah, we took the free shuttle back to the Venetian, then another freebee to Macau terminal.  We’re smart.  And we almost had another egg tart…almost.

So all in all, a cool day trip!  I’ll call it recon for a later more organized trip to Macau, hopefully in the near future!

Landed in Hong Kong

Well, between sometime Monday evening and what is now apparently Wednesday morning, I managed to take my flight, get the transport to my hotel and check in…then crash.  It was difficult to keep my eyes open in the taxi from the airport.  But what I remember seeing is lots of beautiful mountainous islands, green with vegetation, juxtaposed with cranes and skyscrappers everywhere.  The latter becoming more and more condensed before passing over a large bridge onto Hong Kong Island proper.  There it was all tall buildings with fast roads weaving in and out of them.  It reminded me a lot of New York mixed with Dubai, and then throw in the heat and humidity of Savannah.

Welcome to Hong Kong.