I arrived very late on a Friday night at Hong Kong International Airport. I was in Hong Kong for business, so I stayed in the Sheung Wan area on Hong Kong Island (what used to be called Victoria Island.) The part of Sheung Wan I stayed in was very heavily industrial and residential. Even though I really loved the hotel – The Courtyard Marriott – I didn’t love the area so much. I found it challenging as a tourist to navigate in that area – cabs were hard to find, restaurants didn’t have English menus, etc… and the MTR station was just a tad too far a walk in the scorching Hong Kong summer heat. The plus was that the hotel did have a free shuttle that ran from around 8am to 10pm to the IFC Mall and from there you could get anywhere on public transportation.
Day 1 in Hong Kong was a blur. I spent the entire day recovering from a really bad case of “I drank the water in South Korea.” While the tap water in South Korea is safe to drink, many visitors – including me – are not used to the heavy mineral content in the water and can end up feeling pretty sick. I learned from a Dr in Hong Kong that many people who live in Korea actually drink bottled water, even though tap is safe, because they just don’t like the taste of the water due to the high mineral content. Lesson learned. I knew that drinking tap water in Hong Kong was a no-no, but the hotel reminded me when I checked in.
On Day 2 I ventured out into the city. One of the things I like to do on any trip is to take a city tour. I find it a great way to get familiar with the area and figure out what else I want to see and do. In Hong Kong, I joined the Big Bus Tours Hop On Hop Off tour. They had three routes for one price and it included a junk boat trip and Star Ferry round trip ticket. I started the tour at 10am (their first departure for the day) and by 1pm I was melting in the sun on the second level of the double deck bus. I would highly recommend dressing appropriately, wearing sun screen and bring a hat to block the sun.
During the week, I really didn’t do much sightseeing – since it was a business trip – but I did have a chance to eat some amazing food. At lunch, my client took me to some amazing local restaurants. One day we had delicious Beijing-style dumplings at a Queen Street Cooked Food Market. A cooked food market is like Hong Kongs answer to a local food court. There were tons of vendors offering all types of food and in the center were folding tables and chairs packed with diners.
Another day we had lunch at a traditional tea restaurant. This one was located on the 3rd floor of the Shun Tak center (the home to the Macau Ferry Terminal, offices and many shops. Lan Fong Yuen is a crowded little restaurant with small tables packed with hungry lunch crowds. I took the suggestion of the people I was with and had a combo of duck and chicken over rice. It came with an absolutely delicious ginger and green onion paste meant to be used on the rice. I loved that paste and learned that there were companies that specialized in making it. The menu had some very interesting food and drink choices. One of my colleagues ordered the Red Bean and Milk drink. Didn’t look too good to me, but it’s a local favorite.
Another great meal, and perhaps one of my single favorite dishes in Hong Kong, came from a Vietnamese restaurant called Nha Trang . No matter what time of day you go to the original location of Nha Trang, you should expect to stand in line. It’s well worth the wait. My favorite dish was the La Dua Bo Nuong – grilled beef marinated in pineapple and lemongrass and wrapped in Pandan Leaves. The flavor was absolutely amazing and the dish was worth having multiple times (which I did.)
I could probably go on and on about the food in Hong Kong, but there are other things to talk about too. I didn’t find myself shopping like I typically do in Thailand. The prices, as an American, seemed quite high. However, one of my colleagues from Australia thought things were reasonable. The cultural aspects of Hong Kong are quite interesting. There are a mix of people in Hong Kong and one thing that surprised me were the number of ex-patriots living in Hong Kong.
I loved the architecture – especially the tall skyscrapers. They were just stunning and and so unique and awe-inspiring sometimes. There are so many things to do and see, eat and experience in Hong Kong that it’s worth a trip. I probably wouldn’t suggest spending 3 weeks there – unless you’re on business – but a long weekend or 4 days would be a great amount of time in the city.