We spent four nights in Hong Kong at the Harbour Grand Hotel, this was our fourth trip but we had not been since 1994. We found a new airport, many new buildings and the disappearance of red, British, post boxes (presumably due to the hand over to China). Not much else had changed.
We used the MTR (mass transit railway) to Central and then the Star Ferry across Hong Kong Bay to Hong Kong Mainland - Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry. The main shopping area is known as Kowloon and most places of interest are on or near Jordan and Nathan Roads.
We took a nostalgia trip to Chunking Mansions on Nathan Road. According to Wikepedia over 4,000 people live in this block and it is 'nearly the cheapest accommodation in Hong Kong'. This tower block is somewhere you would either steer clear of or go out of your way to find depending on whether you like small, crowded spaces that smell strongly of curry and spice! We expected to find it had been demolished but were ecstatic to see it looming in all its shabbiness as we love exploring in there and have enjoyed curries there on previous trips.
It is a hive of activity. The upper floors have a variety of rooms/rentals, middle floors are restaurants and lower/ground are a warren of small Chinese/Asian shops and booths selling fast food, electronics, household, haircuts, toiletries, shoes, clothes, anything and everything in a very compact environment. The traders, predominantly Asian, call out and do their best to engage, asking what you are looking for and assuring you they or someone they know can provide it.
From here we had forgotten the way to the Bird Market and had heard from some locals that it may have closed down due to bird flu scares so walked up to the police station for reassurance and directions. Just one stop on the MTR to Mongkok and we were there. It had been modernised slightly with new seating and hanging space for cages.
Some of the older local men take great pride in their birds and bring them along to compete in their birdsong, hanging the little wicker cages up in a row and sitting down to admire and socialise. This is also where song birds are sold and tiny newly hatched birds can be seen hand feeding from vendors. The cages and pretty china feeding bowls are also sold here and the live food for the birds.
Next is the flower market, very close to the bird market, where wholesale and retail shops take over a whole road, crammed with every kind of floral bouquet, display and houseplant you can imagine. Orchids are very cheap here and I saw varieties that were new to me. In particular, tiny little yellow ones. Elderly street vendors sell ribbons and gift cards.
The Ladies Market is just off here and is full of cheap clothes and trinkets, visited by a large mix of locals and tourists. About a mile walk from here is the Night Market which is similar but much bigger and also has fast/live food (frogs, fish, etc) and small street cafes with communal tables outside where we drank beer and observed what the locals were eating (noodles,meat and vegetables in a clear broth).
Back in Kowloon we found the famous Sam's tailors (suits made for royalty and stars) and then sought out what is locally known as 'Bhuddist Food', vegetarian restuarants that offer meat substitute dishes made from taro which is similar in texture to soya or quorn protein and shaped/flavoured to look like just about anything. Meat eaters could be confused as the menu will state the dish the taro resembles and it is very authentic : i.e. chicken, fish, liver, beef, pork.
We had sweet and sour 'chicken' Here the dessert was a goodwill freebie but we had no idea what it was and nobody could tell us! Meals in this type of place are around £7 a person for a main course with rice, shared side dish of vegetables and a pot of Chinese tea.
Back at our hotel we had a luxurious room with a bath and shower, view of the Harbour (extensive building works going on) and a sunny spot by the pool. We only ate breakfast here but it was substantial: vegetable and lentil curries, a variety of croissants and pastries, cereals and full English breakfast to choose from. Just round the corner there was a kiosk where we ate falafel, salad wraps (standing up booth) for a few dollars and a supermarket where we stocked up on bottled water, crisps and made cheese sandwiches up in the room for late night snacks!
Street food: I saw a queue of locals at a stall for what I thought was tiny donuts being deep fried, placed on skewers and smothered in chocolate sauce (I asked for lots of sauce!), having eaten half of mine I asked some youngsters what it was and they couldn't stop laughing when I told them I'm veggie as it was fish balls in gravy! not pleasant to my taste but all part of the experience! I finished it off with good grace :)
|fish balls in gravy|
Hong Kong has something for everyone. There is a tram ride to the highest point (The Peak) for fabulous views over Hong Kong) and Stanley (small beach area) but we ran out of time and luckily had seen before.
That's it ... until the next trip!.....