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Entries in TRAVEL Asia: Hong Kong (4)

Friday
Oct112013

Hong Kong: Where to eat/drink

Below, you will find restaurants/specialty shops that have been categorized by their respective cuisines.  I have only included venues where I have personally either dined-in or ordered-out.  

~

Airport dining

British-style afternoon tea service

Chinese

Cocktails

Continental

Gelato

Portuguese

Thursday
Jan102013

(Asia 2012) Fourth - and final - stop: Hong Kong!

11/27:  My sister and I awoke early for our mid-morning flight to Hong Kong, out of Bangkok's other airport.  And, yes, thanks for asking, I was finally beginning to feel a bit better, though I noticed a couple of, what appeared to be, bites on my fingers and forearms.  I just brushed them off as heat rash...

Prior to leaving our hotel room, I was able to snap a few photos of the view from our 47th floor abode.  And, whether that's smog or just plain ol' fog hugging the tips of those skyscrapers in the distance, I thought that these were some pretty sweet shots.

Luckily, my sister and I arrived at Suvarnabhumi Airport with plenty of time to spare.  Aside from loading up on silk goods at Jim Thompson, we window-shopped at Chanel (we all know what a 'Chanel whore' I am) and indulged in a final Thai massage.  #heavenly 

Yet another AWESOME Asian airport!After a two-hour flight, we arrived in a rainy Hong Kong around 1pm. 

If you've never been to Asia, let me just say that many of their airports make ours look like dog shit, especially in terms of technology and logic.  I could spend hours on end at HKG, BKK, or SIN just shopping, eating, and people-watching.      

Now there's a concept: Let passengers know *when* bags are and have finished arriving.After we got our bags and went through immigration, my sister and I hopped on the Airport Express.  From Kowloon Station, we caught the free shuttle bus that transported us to our hotel, the Sheraton Hong Kong Hotel & Towers.

This ain't your typical, shitty 'NYC Transit' train, baby. Airport Express has comfy seats, huge windows, and television.

I chose this hotel property because:

  • The location:  It is on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong Island, which I did not get to explore very much during my previous visit. 
    • The hotel is *on* Nathan Road (aka Kowloon's "Gold Mile"), situated next door to The Peninsula Hong Kong and right across the street from Victoria Harbour. 
  • I wanted a room with a harbour view, namely for the nightly "Symphony of Lights" show.
  • I did not want to spend an arm and a leg at the neighboring Peninsula or Intercontinental (hotels).

Although smaller, our room had a fantastic view of Victoria Harbor and Hong Kong Island.  My sister and I could *not* have been happier...

Pretty damn good, no?

We took our time unpacking before heading outside to walk around.  Just before 8pm, we returned to our hotel room to watch the light show from our front-and-center window.

For dinner, we decided to stay within the hotel and eat at Celestial Court, an upscale Chinese restaurant.

Crispy, golden spring rollsBeef filetsPrawns with mushroomsFried rice with pork and scallions...

11/28:  This morning, we chose to sleep in.  Thank god.  But, don't you worry, I made it to the breakfast buffet prior to its 10:30am closing-time.  Hey, the meal was included with our room!  Though not as delicious as the spread at the Le Meridien Phuket or Shangri-La Chiang Mai, I still managed to fill myself up on an array of a.m. goodies.

Since my sis had never been to Hong Kong, I thought it would be a great idea to take her to the Tian Tan Buddha (aka Big Buddha).  After all, Ceci and I loved visiting this site during our trip here 2010.  From the cable car ride to the exhilarating climb up to the statue, this is a *must see* for any tourist.

Half of the excitement of visiting the "Big Buddha" is the 45-ish minute scenic cable car ride to the site.  On a super clear day, you can see planes landing and departing from the airport!  Here are a few pics from my previous visit:

Top: Cable car view. Middle: Strolling through village to reach statue. Bottom: Big Buddha/Tian Tan "I'm just a bit concerned about the weather, dude," I remarked, while standing under my umbrella.  "It's looking pretty foggy out there."

 And here are some pictures from this *very* wet, rainy visit.  As you can see (or not), visibility was a fcuking joke.

Best, most clear view from our cable car ride. And, yes, that black dot is a cable car.Strolling through the village to reach the statue.A very blurry shot of Big Buddha/Tian TanThe weather was really pissing me off.  Luckily, by the time we climbed all the way up to the top of the statue, I was able to snap *one* decent shot. 

We paid for an inside tour of the statue and a snack, but I was in such a sour mood that I barely remember anything of substance besides the vegetarian "Singapore noodles" that I ate at the monastery.

MonasteryCold and wet, we headed back towards the cable car station and returned to the city.  I wanted to visit Milan Station and my sister was looking forward to checking out the Central-Mid-levels escalators and area boutiques.

Central-Mid-levels escalatorsOutdoor produce marketUm, ok."I need a drink," I exclaimed, before my sister and I bumped in to this age-appropriate Australian business man.  He introduced himself as "Clancy," and asked if he could join us.  We grabbed seats at La Piola, an Italian restaurant/wine bar and were surprised to receive a free platter of Italian tapas with our wine.  "Now this," I said, "is my kinda' place!"  When Clancy excused himself to the restroom, I told my sister that I did NOT want to get stuck with his red-headed ass all night.  "One more drink," I said, "and then we peace the fcuk out."

Well, one drink turned in to two, as it so often does, and we got talked in to grabbing another at some dumpy hookah lounge.  After announcing that I was "over drinking beer," we found a fantabulous tiki lounge, Honi Honi, where we knocked back a couple of tropical drinks served in coconuts. 

Pina Colada at Honi HoniFor a late-night dinner, we grabbed dim sum at Loyal Dining.

...

11/29:  We slept in.  Again.  But, just like any other occasion where there's a *free* meal, I made it downstairs in time for the breakfast buffet.  Despite the shiteous, wet forecast, my sister and I decided to pound the pavement and figure out our day as we went.  Not having an agenda is sometimes the best plan.

Instead of the subway, we took the Star Ferry over to Hong Kong Island and, while snapping some scenic photos, thought that it could be fun/funny/cool to pay my local colleagues at the bank a visit.

The fellas were pleasantly surprised to see me and my sister and suggested that we go to Victoria Peak.  "But, if the visibility is anything like how it was at Big Buddha," I said, "it could just be a huge waste of our time."  My sister wanted to go, regardless.  So, we went.

Unfortunately, we were met with similar weather and visibility conditions from the top of the Peak.  "Well, we can always eat," I suggested.  We grabbed a table (that would have been a fabulous on a lovely day) at The Peak Lookout, a restaurant overlooking the island.

Gorgeous, almost medieval, space

SamosasAfter a leisurely lunch, my sis and I headed back down the mountain and returned to the Mid-Levels area.  We chose to split up so that she could continue browsing local boutiques, and my snobby ass could price Birkin bags at Milan Station

Alas, I found myself back in Kowloon, licking a ridiculously delicious XTC Gelato cone - topped with a scoop each of salted caramel and black sesame - all while gazing at the harbour.

Just before I returned to the room to meet my sister at 8pm, I walked over to Van Cleef & Arpels to price and try on the necklace that I have dreamt about since 2006:  Lucky Alhambra Butterfly Pendant.  

While beginning to pack our bags for our long journey home, and reminiscing about our incredible journey, my sister and I ordered room service for our final dinner in Hong Kong.  #fail

...

11/30:  After we completely finished packing, my sis and I went downstairs to enjoy our last breakfast buffet, then headed back to Van Cleef & Arpels.  I bought my necklace!!

Ain't she a beauty?Did you know that, if you take the Airport Express to the airport, you can *check in to your flight* and *check your luggage* from Kowloon or Central Station 90-minutes to one day in advance?  How fcuking cool is that?  

After we cleared security, my sis and I shopped for a bit before having our final meal of the trip together:  Lunch at Cafe Deco where, believe it or not, I had an awesome version of Malaysian Nasi Goreng.

Since she was headed back to LA and I was NYC-bound, we were on different flights.  Saying goodbye to each other was hard, but I felt better once I realized that I'd see her again in less than 4-weeks in California. 

...

To conclude:  Whenever I travel, especially somewhere so distant, I always return home a different person.  I mean, how can I not?  For two-weeks, I immersed myself in various cultures, three different countries, two different time zones, and at least three different languages.  Dialects?  Well, that's a whole other story.  Travel makes you realize that there is a world beyond what you call your own.  And a very big one, at that. 

For those of you who think that you cannot afford to travel out of the country, I challenge you.  Did you know that you can buy a round trip ticket to Hong Kong or Thailand for under $1000?  Or that, once you're in Asia, you can country-hop on "cheapo" airlines for less than $100/ticket?  Four Seasons out of your league?  There are hotels, motels, rental apartments, villas, and hostels for every budget under the rainbow.  All you have to do is a little bit of research.  Besides yourself, all you need is a passport and an open mind.

From this trip, I took away the following:

  • I would move to Hong Kong in a New York minute.
  • *If* I ever get married, I'd like to do it on a beach in Thailand.
  • It's a nice break not to be surrounded by a bunch of fellow American tourists.  The other countries are right:  We are loud, obnoxious, fat, and rude.
  • I've caught the travel bug and want to plan my next far-away excursion ASAP.
  • I revel in "me" time while traveling with others.
  • The people who think I'm some kind of baller because I travel to kick ass places are, typically, the ones who are married with kids.  If y'all didn't have responsibilities other than yourselves, you'd be traveling, too!  So shut the fcuk up.
  • The economy "accordion" seats on Cathay Pacific SUCK ASS.  Horrible.  Uncomfortable.  Ridiculous.
  • Asian hospitality is second to none.  Period.
  • US-based airlines SUCK.  Many Asian airlines *still serve* free snacks/drinks.
  • More cocktails should be served in coconuts.
  • Gangnam Style unites all and has the power to end world wars.

Oh, and more thing:  Curious as to what illness I came down with with traveling?  Well, to be honest, I didn't think twice of it until my sister called me about a week after we returned home and said that she had contracted hand, foot, and mouth disease.  "What the fcuk is that?"  I asked.   

"Hand, foot, and mouth disease usually starts with a fever, poor appetite, a vague feeling of being unwell (malaise), and sore throat. One or 2 days after fever starts, painful sores usually develop in the mouth (herpangina). They begin as small red spots that blister and that often become ulcers. The sores are often in the back of the mouth. A skin rash develops over 1 to 2 days. The rash has flat or raised red spots, sometimes with blisters."

"Oh, sweet Jesus!" I gasped, "That's what I had, too!!"  While my "flu like" symptoms were worse than my sister's, her rash was worse than mine.  She had blisters all over the palms of her hands and the soles of her feet.  We can only conclude that I contracted this illness from the "fish spa" in Thailand, before passing it on to her.  ***Blech*** 

On that note...

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Tuesday
Nov232010

The Lunch Belle's Pearl of the Orient

Sometimes - after returning from holiday - you need a good, solid week to collect all of your thoughts, recount new adventures, and, in my case, recover from a serious bout of jet lag.  I've been home from Hong Kong now for about 11 days and, supposedly, I should be feeling fully rejuvenated by tomorrow.  They (Who knows who "they" are, anyways - "travel experts," I suppose?) say that for each hour of time difference, it takes one day to recover.  So, with twelve-hours of separation between New York and Hong Kong, I'm only one-day away from normalcy.  Let's see how I feel tomorrow, shall we?

~

Hong Kong was everything - and nothing - that I had expected or anticipated.  From its efficiency, infrastructure, and sophistication - to its people, culture, and regional cuisine - my first experience in Asia was an abundant feast for each of my five senses.  I fell in love with, and left a small piece of my heart in, the glamorous Pearl of the Orient.

Here are some tidbits that I learned along the way, plus a couple of tips for any of you future travelers:

  • The good ol' U.S. of A. is hardly the center of the universe.  In many aspects, America is falling rapidly and dramatically behind.
  • Not once did I see a single cigarette butt, wad of chewing gum, or item of trash on the busy streets of Hong Kong proper or Macao.  Visitors, take note and follow suit.
  • Subway stations and the trains, themselves, are spotless.
    • With digital time tables, riders know when the next subway is approaching the station - in every station.
    • At the Airport Express train station - in the middle of Hong Kong's Central District - travelers can check-in for outbound flights and drop their luggage at assigned airline counters before ever arriving at the airport!  Trust me when I say that this is so much cheaper and more efficient than hopping in to a cab.
  • I know that I'm going to get crap for this, but Portuguese food really sucks.
  • ...however, the Macao Ferry Terminal has better Portuguese egg tarts (the only Portuguese food worth eating) than any free-standing restaurant in Macao.
  • Speaking of Macao: if you plan to visit, bring your passport.
  • At meals, tea - not water - is served.  If you want water, you have to order it.
  • If you don't know how to use chopsticks, you're screwed - unless, of course, you bring your own silverware.
  • Shopping malls abound, literally.  You can get your shop-on everywhere from subway stations, tourist attractions, and bank buildings.
  • I have never seen so many 7-11 convenience stores in my life
  • ....nor have I seen so many apartment building masses - outside of the Bronx - ever. Row after row - mass after mass - of apartment buildings in Lantau (near the HK airport)
  • Burping and loogey-hocking is perfectly acceptable in public.  Men, you will be in heaven.
  • On that note: while I love Purell just as much as the next guy, hand-sanitizer towlettes are great for many things beyond just hand cleansing: use them to wipe down tray tables, hotel room remote controls, toilet seats, etc.
  • Hong Kong has quite the expat singles scene.  Ladies, if you're in to the investment banker set, this is your city!
  • Prior to your departure, find out which bank's ATMs are compatible/won't charge service fees to the debit card that you plan to use overseas. 

~

And these, dear readers, were a few of my most favorite Hong Kong/Macao things:

  • The view of Hong Kong & Kowloon's twinkling, urban landscape - as seen from Victoria Harbour  
  • Street food/drink, namely bubble tea and warm waffles lathered with margarine, sugar, and peanut butter 
  • All of the glorious, life-changing meals that I ate at Din Tai Fung
  • Chinese architecture
  • The people of China
  • Macao: truly, the anti-Vegas "Las Vegas of Asia."  Imagine a gaming town free of Nascar t-shirts, mullet hair cuts, tattoos, and really bad blonde die jobs. Salvador Dali sculpture adorning the entrance to the MGM Grand Macao (hotel)The Venetian Hotel, MacaoThe grand hall inside of The Venetian Hotel, MacaoThe plaza at the MGM Grand Macao
  • (Doctor) fish spas: the very fact that this is allowed/considered hygenic blows my mind.  But hey, when in Rome!  

~

Read it & eat,

The Lunch Belle 

Tuesday
Nov162010

Sensory overload: eating my way through Hong Kong (in pictures)

Please enjoy this photographic "food porn" collage that accurately - and chronologically - depicts my culinary journey through Hong Kong and Macao.  Each picture is captioned with pertinent information and a description.

A more detailed re-cap of my vacation will be coming very soon!  Until then...Read it & eat!

~

Pre-flight meal at Wolfgang Puck's joint in the food court at JFK: breakfast pizza with scrambled egg, cheese, bacon, and red pepper~

Cathay Pacific: outbound meal #1Cathay Pacific: outbound meal #2Cathay Pacific: snack time = ramen noodles!~

First street snack in Hong Kong: homemade waffle topped with margarine, peanut butter, and sugar~

Dinner at Din Tai Fung: watching the dumpling-making-magic through the window at Din Tai FungDinner at Din Tai Fung: le menuDinner at Din Tai Fung: world's best soup dumplingsDinner at Din Tai Fung: shrimp & pork dumplingsDinner at Din Tai Fung: steamed pork bunsDinner at Din Tai Fung: handmade noodles topped minced pork & tofuDinner at Din Tai Fung: dessert bun w/ sesame paste~

Breakfast fruit plate: note the dragon fruit (white flesh w/ black seeds)~

Snack at Victoria Peak: sesame gelato~

Lunch in Mong Kok: sweetened, iced milk-teaLunch in Mong Kok: Portuguese egg tart (dessert)~

Dinner at West Villa: spicy beef with noodles and curryDinner at West Villa: the infamous "hairy crab" (note the hair on his legs) that was NOT all-that~

Fresh produce stand: Mui Wo Cooked Foods MarketFresh tofu: Mui Wo Cooked Foods Market~

Dinner at Crystal Jade: cucumber saladDinner at Crystal Jade: soup dumplingDinner at Crystal Jade: steamed pork bunDinner at Crystal Jade: prawns with spicy tomato sauceDinner at Crystal Jade: red bean pancake (dessert)~

High-tea at The Peninsula Hotel: le menuHigh-tea at The Peninsula Hotel: sweets/petit foursHigh-tea at The Peninsula Hotel: savories~

Breakfast served aboard the "Turbo Jet" ferry to Macao~

Lunch at "Red 8," Wynn Macao: dan-dan noodlesLunch at "Red 8," Wynn Macao: soup dumplingsLunch at "Red 8," Wynn Macao: fried noodles with pork~

Dinner at Fernando's, Macao: Portuguese breadDinner at Fernando's, Macao: garlic shrimp~

Dinner at Peking Garden: note "sea blubber" and "ice cold jelly fish"Dinner at Peking Garden: tablescapeDinner at Peking Garden: "Peking Duck" - note the charred beakDinner at Peking Garden: sliced Peking Duck~

One final lunch at Din Tai Fung: sliced cucumber with chili oil and garlicOne final lunch at Din Tai Fung: fried rice topped with fried, sliced pork chop