The face of someone midway through a SERIOUS amount of traveling.
I never wrote about Hong Kong! I meant to, but then ended up getting all distracted by the apparently massive controversy over whether or not filter-using is an acceptable life choice, or makes you actually literally the worst kind of human being there is (I can happily argue for both sides). And then the trip fell a bit into the distance, and I moved on to analyses of semi-obscure perfume oils and slime-making.
(Read about the Indonesia portion of our trip here.)
But Hong Kong deserves a post. It deserves many posts, in fact. But for brevity’s sake, we’ll stick to the highlight reel.
Looking out my hotel window, contemplating my frizz-burns (sideburns comprised entirely of frizz).
Having spent a total of 48 hours in Hong Kong, I can safely say that I continue to know absolutely nothing about its general layout, nor the *best* part of town to stay in, and I knew even less than that (if such a thing is possible) before we arrived. Dad and I tried to pick a hotel based on walking distance to cool stuff, but we didn’t know what stuff, exactly, was cool. Then we thought it’d be nice to stay somewhere with a great view of all those city lights Hong Kong is famous for, but then we thought we should probably stay somewhere boutique-y and “different.” But of course we had no idea what that might be.
And so we Yelped, and ended up at the Hotel Icon, which is (according to Yelp) basically a beautiful hotel in a solid location with a phenomenal view and a phenomenal-er (included) breakfast spread. Via some combo of magic and karma, we got upgraded to a SUPER fancy suite, and so it was kiiiiinda incredible.
A cool thing that the Hotel Icon offered that I wish more overseas hotels would think to include: A phone that we could take with us around the city and use to make local calls and a limited number of international calls. How great is that?!
Day 1: Humid With A Chance Of Fishballs
Remember how I said we had no idea where to go or what to do? We decided that the best way to attack Day 1 would be by taking a reader’s recommendation to go on a tour with Virginia from Humid With A Chance of Fishballs. And it turned out to be the best decision everrrr, especially given the limited time we had to explore the city.
We started out at Lin Heung Tea House with a group – and…I’m not quite sure how to describe this place.
This is how you get your food.
Let me set it up for you: You walk in to a deafeningly loud, unbelievably crowded room with cafeteria-style seating…and nobody tells you what to do. What you are apparently supposed to do is find someone who looks like they’re nearing the end of their meal, and stand right behind them – we’re talking uncomfortably close to them, essentially hovering – and then…stare at them. Until they leave.
Everybody seemed startlingly OK with this process, because I did some serious hovering and staring and nooooobody cared, or even deigned to drink their tea at a non-glacial pace.
Then, when you (finally? maybe?) sit down, nobody takes your order. You wait until a cart comes rolling out of a kitchen with tons of little baskets on it, and then – along with everyone else in the restaurant – run at full-tilt towards it, and hope that you end up with, say, shrimp dumplings, rather than chicken feet.
(I ended up with chicken feet.)
This, my friends, is why you take the Humid With A Chance of Fishballs tour. Because if I would have gone without a guide, I would have a) not sat down, b) not eaten, and c) left (not in that order). But Virginia explained the system to us, somehow managed to get us all seated at a table together (miracles), and did the bum-rushing of the cart for us, so in addition to my chicken feet I also ate the following:
- Shrimp dumpling (har gow)
- Pork and shrimp dumpling (shu mai)
- BBQ pork buns
- Chicken buns
- Malay cake (YUM)
- Beef dumplings with Worcestershire sauce
- Spare ribs steamed in black bean sauce
- Lotus seed paste with salted egg yolk buns
I also had a beer the size of your average baby. You know, to knock down my stress levels a little – because that place was cool, but it was also a LOT.
After the group Tea House tour was finished, the guide, Virginia (who was, as an aside, adooooorable and rocked a visor like nobody’s business), took us off for the private part of our tour. We started at Wong Tai Sin Temple, where I had one of the more beautiful experiences of my life.
Another example of a situation where I would have had no idea what to do, and having a guide with us made the whole thing not just “easier,” but extraordinary.
We bought incense from one of the vendors just outside, and then made our way slowly through the various shrines, offering prayers and a stick of incense at each one before each borrowing a box filled with chim – numbered bamboo ‘fortune sticks’ — and settling ourselves down on the ground. How chim work: You shake the box, and the first stick that falls to the ground reveals your fortune. You can consult with a fortune teller about their meaning, but our guide had a translation with her.
Here’s what my stick told me:
The ancient Goddess repaired the sky
It took hard work and diligence to build a mountain from grains of sand
Little by little, it required a lot of patience
Never fear of tiredness
The Goddess repaired the sky with colour stones
It was perfect. Just…exactly what I needed to read.
These were ridiculously good.
Next stop: Sham Shui Po for rice rolls sauced with peanut sesame, soy sauce, hoisin and toasted sesame seeds, eaten standing up in a kinda sludgy – but very atmospheric – alleyway.
Quick warning, before you go on: These next few shots – taken in the Wet Market – aren’t for the squeamish. Short story: If dismembered raw chicken feet are something you don’t feel like looking at, maybe stop now?
Our last stop of the night was the Wet Market, where locals shop for seafood, meats and produce. It reminded me a bit of Hell’s Kitchen back in the day, when it was all butchers and seafood shops with the offerings swimming in buckets outside the entrances (which were, as a bonus, located directly adjacent to the city’s major bus station, yum).
Quick tip for ya: Maybe don’t wear an all-white outfit to this place.
(I obviously wore an all-white outfit to this place.)
Ladies Market “Balenciaga” (spoiler: not Balenciaga) find
Day 2: On Our Owwwwwwwn
By Day 2, Dad and I felt ready to do some all-by-ourselves exploring, and hit up some of the major must-sees that we hadn’t already covered. We started at the Bird Market, which is completely magical – twisting alleyways filled with spectacular cages holding every bird you can possibly imagine. They’re available for sale, but we thought maybe we’d nix the bird and just pick up a couple of the cages.
I made friends with this guy.
Then we meandered around, eating things (I bought something called a Mexican Creme Bun, which was like a cross between a cream puff and a donut and made me get all weird and blissy) and drinking things and taking photos of little stands where you can buy a single fish in a bag and the Flower Market (goooorgeous).
Just Before We Left:
One last thing that Dad and I really wanted to do before we got on the plane was try one of Hong Kong’s famous foot reflexology parlors, so on our last morning in Hong Kong we stopped into Tai Pan Reflexology.
Questionable wall art (omg), but the experience was extraordinary. Mostly because in addition to the reflexology, I tried ear candling for the first time in my life.
Here’s how it works: You lay on first one side, then the other, while the technician sticks what amounts to a hollow candle in your ear. The heat and warmth (plus the very wonderful face massage the technician administers with her free hand) create a sort of vacuum allowing deep-seated earwax to be drawn up into the candle.
Would you like to see my results?
OF COURSE YOU WOULD.
Ewww. (Also amaaaaaaaazing.)
And so, happily reflexologied and fully de-waxed, we boarded the plane home.
It was overwhelming. Exhausting. Magical. Perfect.
I was so nervous to go. I’m so glad I went.