after 2 long weeks of winter english camps at school, we finally got some long-overdue vacation! and so we decided on a trip to hong kong, mostly for food and shopping. we found cheap tickets which went through beijing, and in good ol’ air china style, our flight was delayed by 3 hours…this caused us to miss our connection in beijing, but we were fortunately put on a later flight. we ended up arriving at our hostel in hong kong around midnight, after leaving our home in korea aroun 5am that morning. but we made it!
the first morning we decided to sleep in. after having to go to work all of december and the first week of january, plus the fairly arduous trip the previous day, it was fantastic waking up at 11am. after a somewhat difficult shower in our shoilet (asian style shower-over-the-toilet), we picked up a few egg tarts from the little bakery on the corner and took the subway to the harbour. the british history of hong kong makes it rather unique compared to korea (which is very american influenced) and mainland china, which is, well, china. so people drink tea with milk, read the newspaper, eat toast, and drive on the left. felt like i was home. kind of.
the legendary hong kong egg tarts
we hopped on the ferry on hong kong island and went over to the kowloon side. it only takes about 5 minutes, so very short. the views are kind of hazy, but the skyline was still impressive, lots of tall building bearing the names of every major electronics company in the world. we walked around the kowloon area, which is mostly high-end shopping and tons of fake watches, bags and cameras. and then, twas lunch time. and little did we know what we were in for.
victoria harbour from the ferry
our good friends pete and sarah suggested we try and find a place called din tai fung, which they had eaten at in seoul in korea. we sat down and ordered a few things – pork dim sum, shrimp spring rolls, green beans with pork mince, and some beef brisket noodles. the food was beyond phenomenal. i wish we could have stayed there all day and tried everything on the menu. we had only heard good things about coconut desserts in hong kong, so we ordered a melon and coconut sago dessert, which began an addiction. it’s hard to explain how good coconut and sago with ANYTHING is. so good. we walked out satisfied and amazed. that night we stayed around the harbour area for the laser display, and to see the skyline come alive after dark. the laser show was far from spectacular, but the skyline was pretty cool at night.
pork dumplings, green beans with ground pork, and shrimp spring rolls
beef brisket noodles
coconut-melon-sago dessert. phenomenal.
night time skyline
day two was one we’d both been looking forward to – DISNEYLAND! we got there early and waited in the queue for about 40 minutes…after scouring the map we thought space mountain would be a good ride to go on first, seeing as most people would probably be riding it. or at least we thought. as the gates opened, we booked it to space mountain…and rode it alone. nobody. pretty cool. we the rode another super lame ride, autopia, which is marked as one of their ‘adrenaline’ rides…i drove a car around a track at 5km/h while doing self-portraits the whole time. we also did buzz lightyear’s space blasters or something, which was super cool. nothing like zapping emperor zurg. and then, toy story land.
gabi in main street USA before the crowds
it seriously felt like we were in andy’s world, and that we’d been shrunk to the size of ants. it was epic. we started out on andy’s racer, kind of like the ship that goes back and forth. i rode it 3 times in a row, definitely the best ride there. we then rode the toy soldier parachutes, which fall down quite slowly but give you a good view of the park, and our last ride in toy story land was slinkydog. pretty lame, but looks really cool. the detail of the place is just phenomenal, down to benches made of giant used lollipop sticks. after that, it was off to fantasyland, where we got some hotdogs and corn on the cob, and took the disney express, a train that goes all around the park. the rest of the time we walked around main street USA, saw a 3D show and went on the winnie the pooh ride. obviously.
entrance to toy story land
the one and only - t rex
we felt like bugs in andy's room!
not being ones to just put our feet up on vacation, we decided to head to an outlet mall, which was super disappointing. we then decided to take the NP360 cable car. it is an amazing 25 minute ride over a river and plenty of mountains, with great views all around. we hopped out at the end and strolled around the top, there is a buddha (which we skipped, coz we’ve seen enough of those in korea), but all really pretty and worth the trip. that night we walked around the central area of town before heading to bed.
cable car ride, only about a third of the way
buddha at the top of the hill
day three was made for shopping. we met jorike for lunch, a south african living in hong kong and a friend of a friend. she took us to an all-you-can-eat sushi place for R48 each (around $6USD). BOOYAH. it was sooooooooooo good. she then took gabi to all the craft shops in the area (sham sui po). it was pretty incredible, even for me, being a male person and all. fabric, ribbon, buttons, lace, and anything you could imagine, entire streets full of stores stacked to the teeth with it all. needless to say gabi was freaking out, and we promised to make a trip back there later in the week. we then took a walk to the goldfish market and sneaker street. but before we got there, we discovered the drug. a chain store selling coconut-based drinks. and the mango, coconut and sago one was possibly the greatest drink i’ve ever had. and definitely the best drink that gabi has ever had. because she had two. per day.
jorike and gabi in the craft area
the addict. the drug. mango-coconut-sago delight.
the goldfish market is really a pet fish market, with tons and tons of fish in plastic bags hanging outside the shops. it looks really cool but it’s hard not to feel bad for the little guys…lots of them seemed like rare tropical fish which were no doubt plucked from their homes and bagged for sale. sneaker street was epic. it was overwhelming how many shoe stores there were, but also how many shoes were in one store. i could have easily bought 20 pairs of shoes. but i only bought one pair. okay, two pairs. after all that walking, it was time to eat again, and so we had some dinner. gabi had some duck and pork over rice, and i ventured on a beef brisket and tripe soup with noodles. it was surprisingly really good. after that, we strolled around the mong kok area, supposedly the most densely populated place in the world. and it was easy to see why. people EVERYWHERE. after one more mango-coconut-sago hit, it was time to head home.
mong kok area
day four was a day for the outdoors. we had been wanting to do a hike called ‘dragon’s back’ all week, but the weather hadn’t been great and the forecast had been predicting rain. we decided that it was now or never, and it was a great call. we took the subway to the end of the line, and then a little public bus up a super steep hill. after another steep climb, we found the trail signs. the walk meanders through a forest on the side of the hill, and eventually comes out on top of the dragon’s back, a a series of ups and downs before reaching the highest point, shek o’ peak. the views were great, a little windy, but clear skies. as we reached the top, we heard a brass band playing in the town down below, and were again reminded of the britishness of hong kong as we gazed over the seaside golf course with the band playing. we saw the little town of stanley on the other side of the bay, and decided to try and get there by bus.
walking along the dragon's back
we made it to the top!
we managed to question a few locals at the bus stop to find out exactly which bus to take. the trip was beautiful, the road meandering along cliffs overlooking the bay, before crossing a dam wall and then winding down into the town. very different from downtown hong kong. we’d heard from sarah and pete about a man who sold some legendary hong kong toast in stanley, and so we scoured the town for it. for hours. probably two hours, but it seemed like days. in the end, we sat down and had lunch and asked around. no one had heard of him. we decided to head into a little local place and ask for hong kong toast…well. we got two perfectly toasted slices of white bread with a little condensed milk in between them. i guess i let the whole day of searching get to me, but i struggled to see the funny side of it all. gabi thought it was hilarious. and so, we headed back home.
gabi at stanley harbour
the non-hong kong toast...
day five we headed up the famous victoria peak, despite the weather going from bad to worse. it was really cool riding up the hill at about 40 degrees in a really old tram car, and seeing the (hazy) views of hong kong, as well as the ridiculously huge summer homes which the british built on top of the peak back in the day. apparently they were carried up the hill on sedan chairs by servants…i got tired just thinking about it. the wind was howling up there, so we took a few photos and headed down. we then went back to the craft area, so gabi could have one last look at it all. and get another couple of mango-coconut-sago drinks no doubt. we also hit food republic, a food court selling any and all kinds of asian foods. mmmmmmmmm.
view from the top of the peak
we also decided to make one final effort to find the legendary hong kong toast and milk tea. we had seen an old guy eating it at a dodgy-looking street-side establishment, and so we pulled in. gabi had a photo of the toast on her ipod, so we showed it to the cook and asked for two. he nodded. we sat down.
and then it came.
and it was gloriously terrifying. pretty much a deep-fried peanut butter sandwich covered in condensed milk and butter. and the tea was great too. we felt our hearts slowing down with every bite of the toast, but it was great. i was somewhat relieved when we finished it, thinking that that was surely two portions, when the second one arrived. deep breath. blood thickening. heart slowing. but we finished it too. i’m sure you are only allowed to eat two of those in a lifetime.
heart-stopping toast and milk tea
we spent the rest of the night wandering through the ladies market, a place made for tourists. they sell anything and everything you could think of, and are always willing to bargain to give you the best price on their ‘authentic’ goods. dr dre beats headphones were going for around $20. authentic i tell you.
day six was rainy, and we’d pretty much done all we’d wanted to do, apart from ride the tram. and so we hopped on outside our hostel with no destination in mind. it’s a great experience, sitting upstairs and watching the people on the streets and the tram following the tracks down the main roads of hong kong. we got out near a mall and decided to watch the new sherlock holmes movie, which was FANTASTIC. after that we hopped back on the tram and rode it to the end of the line, and dodged in and out of the rain just checking out shops and little alley markets. after a bowl of legendary japanese ramen, it was time to head home and pack our backs for the 5:30am bus to the airport…
riding the tram around town
fortunately on the way home, none of our flights were delayed and we got back to our home in korea around 11pm. we went to bed dreaming of all the amazing food we’d eaten that week, and i’m sure that gabi had nightmares about not being able to have another mango-coconut-sago drink for a while.
hong to the kong!