As we were leaving New Zealand on the first really rainy day since the beginning of the summer, we were glad it was raining – it was hard to leave as it is, without the sun shining on the Owhiro Bay and reminding us what we were leaving behind. But as sad as we were to leave behind this gorgeous country and all the wonderful people we met, we were also looking forward to seeing Hong Kong and reuniting with family, friends and students back in Russia
Our ridiculously big pile of stuff on Rebecca’s deck.
We flew from Wellington to Auckland, and after a short wait, from Auckland to Hong Kong. Long-haul flights are never easy, and even less so at night time – I can never get comfortable enough to sleep and spend agonizing hours almost falling asleep. Yet this was the best long-haul flight we ever experienced! The air crew were courteous and helpful, the food tasty (and the Pinot Noir even more so), but the best thing were the screens in the back of the seats in front of us with an enormous selection of movies and TV shows. I toyed with the idea of watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Hobbit which would have lasted me the entire flight, but in the end opted for the Sapphires, Grease, Argo, and yes, a bit of the first Lord of the Rings
We arrived early in the morning, around 7 am and headed for our hostel.Now, hostel is a term that is being used loosely – the more appropriate name is a guest house. This type of guest houses is probably unique to Hong Kong, where one high-rise building can contain dozens of aforementioned guest houses which are basically tiny rooms with even tinier bathrooms where a shower is hanging above the toilet and the water drains into a small hole in the wall.
It took us several days of combing through descriptions and reviews on Agoda.com to find this little gem – Panda’s hostel. There are actually two Panda’s hostels – Panda’s Hostel Cosy and Panda’s Hostel Stylish. We booked Cosy and ended up in Stylish. It seems to have been recently refurbished, everything looked new and clean. The bed, which took up the entire room was surprisingly comfortable, the WiFi was free as promised and quite fast and the AC was efficient. The only downside (and this was completely expected) was the size of the room – there was only one bit of floor between the bed and the shower/toilet stall and only one person could stand there at any one time – so we took turns getting dressed.
The best two things about the hostel were it’s price and location – the former being low and the latter central and convenient. It was minutes away from the MRT station called Tsim Sha Tsui in a building called Comfort Building, right opposite a mosque and Kowloon Park. Tsim Sha Tsui is an urban area in southern Kowloon, Hong Kong, China. Tsim Sha Tsui East is a piece of land reclaimed from the Hung Hom Bay now east of Tsim Sha Tsui. Geographically, Tsim Sha Tsui is a cape on the tip of the Kowloon Peninsula pointing towards Victoria Harbour, opposite Central. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsim_Sha_Tsui). So while it’s a part of Hong Kong, it’s not on the Hong Kong island by on the mainland.
The official check-in time for the hostel was 2 pm, so we were asked to leave our things and go out until then. Gluttons that we are, we were looking forward to trying local food so we eagerly followed the suggestion and set off to find some breakfast.
There are numerous sites with ideas on what to do, see and eat in Hong Kong. We decided to follow one of the suggestions and headed to the Haiphong Road Temporary Market – which is temporary in name only as it’s been open for more than 30 years to try some noodles. We walked past flower, vegetable and meat stall to find a kind of food court where locals were eating breakfast. As far as we could see, everyone was eating noodles. Was made tjhem breakfast was addition of sausages, ham and eggs.
Mike had his noodles, but I decided to hold out for something else, which turned out to be pork dumplings in a food court.
Choosing those dumpling was by no means easy. The food court had at least 20 restaurants, all displaying plastic prototypes of their dishes – something I`ve only seen done in Hong Kong.
As we walked around in the humid streets of Hong Kong, we couldn`t help marveling at how seamlessly Asia blended with West, old with new. I kept pointing out designer stores, not having seen such a concentration in one place before
Our leisurely walk took us to Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront and the famous Star Avenue
When we were buying water in a nearby supermarket, we got stuck by a shelf with fruit and bought some cumquats to snack on. We decided to sit down in Kowloon Park, expecting a quiet city park, where instead we found a whole host of tropical birds and quite a few tortoises.
Another quick meal (a shared bowl of soup)
Having seen so much, the time flew and we found that it was finally time to go and check in. While we were showering and changing, we heard the first rumbles of thunder, and very soon we were looking at a proper tropical thunder storm. We tried to wait it out, but didn`t want to waste the evening, so we went out into the rain and bought tiny compact umbrellas.
The city seemed to get more awake with every passing second – the darker it got, the more people were in the streets – walking under umbrellas, eating, shopping.
We were looking for Gold Fish Street, but found it hard to follow our written directions while holding umbrellas and dodging passer byes and hawkers trying to sell us fake watches, bags and tailor services on every corner. So instead we decided… that’s right, to have a snack. Before you think that we can`t possibly be hungry after eating three times, the food in Hong Kong is a far cry from Chinese food you get in the USA, UK or New Zealand – it’s very light, the tastes are subtle and there are actually very few ingredients: a typical soup has noodles, delicious fragrant broth, a few strips of cabbage and a few pieces of meat.
This time we opted for Dim Sum – a Chinese traditional meal where small portions of various dishes such as dumplings are served
A few pieces of Dim Sum each, and we were ready to go out and try more food! Right outside the restaurant, we found a street vendor (they seem to come out after dark) selling different foods on sticks and I immediately bought some octopus on a stick – a delicious and cheap treat at only $16 HK (1,5 NZ$/1 USD$)
Our next stop was Temple Street night market – just to walk around, as neither our wallets nor our bulging suitcases would allow us to do much shopping.
In the middle of the market, we came across 2 very busy street cafes, both serving the local delicacy – spicy crab. This was one of the things we read we should eat, and after deliberating between the crab and heaps of other seafood, we went for the crab. It was indeed spicy, with more chilly peppers than actual meat but still worth trying.
We walked around the market some more, and after a while the lack of sleep, the humidity and the whole day spent walking around combined into a sleep-inducing concoction which had me rubbing my eyes and almost nodding off on my feet. I barely remember walking back to the hostel and falling asleep.