Friends & Food in Hong Kong

It’s the last night of our short stint in Hong Kong (only 3 days). When I reflect on our time here two words quickly come to mind: friends and food! We’ve experience great hospitality in Hong Kong and I’ve personally been eating the foods of my childhood. So I must warn you before you move continue on this post- there are a lot of photos of me just eating. This will be quickly balanced with many photos of us hiking soon as we are heading off to Nepal tomorrow for our Annapurna Base Camp trek.

First Night in Hong Kong (11/5)
After landing and settling into our AirBnb, we met up with Tommy, one of my sister’s friends we had met at her wedding in September. Tommy has been living in HK for about two years and prior to us getting here had already sent us some local tips with dos and don’ts. It was a bit of a muggy night but he decided to take us on a city hike up The Peak to see the Hong Kong views. Matt might argue this was a small hike but since I could feel the sweat through my shirt, I would say it was a moderate one. 🙂 Nonetheless, the views were worth the trip up. The route was a little tricky to find so we were so grateful that Tommy showed us the way.

After the hike, we took a tram to the Wan Chai area for dinner. The tram is one of the oldest forms of commuting in Hong Kong and are fun as they offer top-deck seating and open air. We went to a local place for dinner where we ordered Cantonese food to my heart’s content. We ordered cha-gai fan (BBQ pork, chicken and rice), goose, spare ribs casserole, salty eggs, gai lan (Chinese broccoli) and a red bean milk drink. We didn’t take a photo of all the foods  (probably because I quickly ate it all up*) but I did manage to get one with our host!

*But seriously, I was incredibly rude at dinner as I barely spoke (I was too busy stuffing my face) and hogged the food to myself (as I reverted to the eating style we employed growing up in a house with 3 kids – YOU SNOOZE, YOU LOSE OUT ON FOODS).

First Full Day in Hong Kong (11/6)
Matt and I started our Sunday morning like any Cantonese person would: yum cha! This literally translates to “drink tea” and also means to go to dim sum. Dim sum in Hong Kong is like brunch in the US. We went to Lin Heung Tea House, one of Tommy’s recommendations and one of the oldest dim sum places around. To give you a feel for the place, below is Tommy’s description, which I think is very fitting:

“I love this one for it’s history and and authenticity and atmosphere. It’s a really old school joint, that is mostly frequented by elders and the odd completely overwhelmed tourist. It is not for the faint hearted though…It’s basically survival of the strongest. There’s no real table service, you have to outrun the elders on the way to the push carts whenever they come out of the kitchen to get to the best treats.”

So we went with our game faces on. To get a table, we had to walk circles around the place until someone got up to leave and then quickly sit down. And in order for us to get food it was the same drill. I followed these old ladies pushing carts of food around and waited by the kitchen door for carts to come out (Tommy tip). I wish I got a photo of this experience. I kid you not when I say that whenever a cart came out, a swarm of people literally surrounded it grabbing at baskets while an old lady swatted their hands away. It’s like watching Walking Dead in Hong Kong. I quickly learned the rules:

  1. Don’t grab the baskets off the cart unless you want your hand slapped by the cart lady. And then you leave with a empty (and slapped) hand.
  2.  Instead, kindly but assertively shove your ticket to the cart woman and ask for the treat you want. Do this while elbowing other people away. Otherwise, you will leave empty handed.
  3. This is no time to be polite- there is a limited number of each snack. If you don’t push your way forward, someone else will get the last basket of dim sum and you will leave empty handed.
  4. Speaking Cantonese is actually an advantage as those who don’t speak it have to point to baskets and this annoys the cart lady. And if you annoy her, you may leave empty handed.

Before we got our food, we were too busy trying to get it and didn’t get many photos of the experience. But here’s what we do have to document this:

Let’s just say that I learned a whole new level of polite assertiveness that day. There’s one more amazing thing to highlight about this dim sum experience. See that man in the white shirt in the photo above? Neither Matt or I would know it at the time of this photo being taken, but he would end up being our hero of the day.

That time we wanted shrimp dumplings
So we were near the end of our meal, and we still were unable to get a basket of har gow (shrimp dumplings). No matter how many carts I chased, they were always just sold out or not available.

We were sharing a table with four others (communal seating is very common in dim sum) and I noticed that the man seemed to be a frequent diner. He not only knew all of the servers names but the servers actually would come and check in on him and re-fill his party’s tea cups. (This was big as most of my interaction with the staff was them telling me to get out of the way during my circling around the restaurant to chase snack carts). I figured he knew the inside scoop so I asked him how frequently har gow came out  on the carts.

He replied back saying that they came out very infrequently and were hard to get because when they do come out, they are quickly swooped up as they are the most popular item.

“Oh,” I said. And to be honest, I probably looked a bit deflated. I turned over to tell Matt and then we noticed that the man got up and walked straight into the kitchen!! He then came back with a basket of har gow for us and then told his wife that they only had one basket left and thought we should have it!!!

DID SOMEONE SAY HAR GOW HERO?!?!  So of course, we had to get some photos with him.

After that, we spent about an hour talking to him and his family. We found out he was formerly a marine detective and his wife owns a flower shop. And then we all took photos of each other/with each other.

All in all, it was a great experience and we were happy to make new friends and for the kindness they showed us.

After dim sum, Matt and I went to Repulse Bay Beach to spend the afternoon walking around the beach area and getting into the water. This was our first time on the trip swimming and the water is definitely warmer here than it was in Seattle. I then ended the day nostalgically with some Vitasoy, one of my favorite drinks growing up!


Last Day in Hong Kong (11/7)

We spent the morning at the Vietnamese Embassy in Hong Kong in attempt to get Visas to go to Vietnam.  The process overall has been super unclear and tricky. The visa fees have changed twice over the past few months and despite many emails sent and research done, I was still not sure what the best course of action was. Long story short, after many trips to the counter, a trip to the ATM and many forms filled out (and re-filled), WE GOT OUR VIETNAMESE VISAS!!

Afterwards, we went to celebrate with dim sum at Tim Ho Wan, who is famous for being the cheapest Michelin stared meal in the world. (Yes, that was also from Tommy!) The food was good but we enjoyed Lin Heung much better.

We decided to close out the day with another trip back to Repulse Bay Beach. Matt went for a run  and I decided to sit on the beach and journal. I enjoyed some moments of quiet and then buses of tourists came, all of who surrounded the beach and start taking “my scarf is blowing in the wind” photos.

All in all, it was a great and relatively low-key last day.

Tomorrow, we will fly out to Nepal where we will hike the ABC. Most likely we won’t have much internet connect out in the Himalayas, so we’ll be off the grid for a couple of weeks. And then we’ll come back with TONS of updates about our trip.

I’m feeling a bit indulgent after all the yummy foods we had here in Hong Kong and I’m getting the sense that I’m going to pay for that during our trek in Nepal. To be quite honest, I’m a bit nervous going into this given my previous bout of altitude sickness when we hiked the Inca Trail in Peru. But I’m optimistic and hopefully that I will make it out in one piece. If nothing else, I’ll think back to that time I had all the foods in Hong Kong when I start struggling on the hike.

img_1425
Forget the feels, I want all the HK foods, thanks.
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