Monday, July 18, 2016

[Hong Kong 2016] How I Spent 2 Days in Hong Kong

Photo By: Elin Chow

My husband have been wanting to visit Hong Kong for a long time, but did not really have the chance to. The decision to visit Hong Kong was practically made for us when AirAsia was having a promotion for flight to Macau. Since my husband and I have not been to Macau before, we figured that it will be a good idea to take advantage of this promotion.

Initially, we intended to visit Macau for 5 days 4 nights. But eventually, we have to change our plans due to the ridiculously high hotel rates in Macau during the weekend. Hotel rates generally doubled during the weekend in Macau and we had difficulty finding a decent hotel room in Macau that was within our budget. So we decided allocate two days of our five days trip to Hong Kong instead. Or to be exact, we only had one and a half day in Hong Kong.

Normally I will find two days a little short to see and experience a city, but after two days in Hong Kong, we just could not wait to leave. It is not like that we have seen every part of the city. But I just find it boring. Unbearably boring.

Well, this was actually my third time visiting Hong Kong, so I think it is perfectly understandable if I find the city boring and dull. I have been to most of the popular tourist attractions in Hong Kong - Hong Kong Disneyland, Ocean Park, Victoria Peak, Victoria Harbor, bustling shopping districts and night markets. I believe there are nothing much more for me to do or see except to eat and drink all day long.

But for my husband and parents-in law who were visiting Hong Kong for the first time, I thought this will be a more interesting experience for them, which surprisingly, was not the case. Just like me, they actually find Hong Kong strangely depressing and dull too.

Hong Kong is a small, crowded, fast-paced multi-culture city packed with skyscrapers. On the first impression, the skyline of Hong Kong does looks impressive. But after awhile, everything just get boring. We wanted to re-visit a few of the popular tourist attractions again, but realized that we will not have sufficient time for that. So we flew in to Hong Kong without having a set itinerary and decided to let everything goes with the flow.

We arrived at Macau International Airport at 6 pm and made our way to the taxi stand right after clearing the immigration. From the taxi stand, we took a taxi from the airport to Taipa Outer Harbour to catch a ferry to Hong Kong.

There are three ways to get to Hong Kong from Macau: by ferry, by helicopter and by plane. Taking the ferry is the most popular way among the three. It is very convenient, fast and of course, the cheapest way to travel.

At Taipa Outer Harbour, we bought ferry tickets to Hong Kong Macau Ferry Terminal located in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong. There are two main Macau ferry operators from Hong Kong - TurboJet and CotaiJet. We chose Turbojet because it offers a higher frequency of sailing. TurboJet ferry runs every 15 minutes while CotaiJet ferry only runs every 30 minutes between Macau and Hong Kong. There is no need for you to book the ferry tickets in advance (except during the peak season). You can simply approach the ticket counter at the Harbour to purchase your ticket.

The ferry ride took approximately an hour. It will probably takes you 15 minutes by helicopter, which will cost you a whopping HKD 400 each way. Flights departs daily every 30 minutes from 9 am to 11 pm.  Unfortunately, we were not able to take the private helicopter from Macau to Hong Kong due to budget constraint. So, the ferry was actually a great alternative.

We arrived at Hong Kong Macau Ferry Terminal located in Shun Tak Centre, a commercial and transport complex. The complex comprises of a 4-storey podium containing a shopping center and car park, two 38-storey office towers, a bus terminal and the Hong Kong Macau Ferry Terminal.

During our two days in Hong Kong, we stayed in Ibis Hotel Central & Sheung Wan. Ibis Hotel Central & Sheung Wan is a 3-star hotel located in the heart of Sheung Wan, just 8 minutes walk away from the Hong Kong Macau Ferry Terminal and Sheung Wan Station of the MTR. Our reason for choosing this hotel was due to its proximity to public transportation. It will be convenient for us to travel around the city and to Macau without much hassle.

Once we cleared the custom and immigration, we made our exit out of Shun Tak Center and spent the next 30 minutes looking for our hotel. It was late and we could not access to the google map on our mobile devices because we did not have WiFi connection. We did not purchase a local SIM card or rent a pocket WiFi in advance because we were too confident that we would be able to locate the hotel easily.

But we did not expected that it will so difficult to find the way in the dark. It was almost 9 pm and we were starving and tired. The last meal we had was at 12 pm. All we wanted was to check into our room and rest for the night. After asking directions from a convenience store staff, we finally managed to find our way to our hotel.

Check in process was fast and hassle-free. After putting our luggage in the room, we went out on the streets again, searching for something to fill our empty stomach. We were surprised to find most of the restaurants around the area were closed by 9.00 pm and had to search hard to find one that was still open. The entire street was empty and dark on a Saturday night. We could barely see anyone walking on the streets after dark.

We went to the Queen Street Cooked Food Market located beside the hotel and decided to eat at Chan Choi Kee Restaurant. This is arguably the best known eatery that you will find in Sheung Wan district. The restaurant is open all day, serving breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner.

Upon sitting down, we were given menu to scan. The restaurant menu offers a wide range of options to suit all taste buds.

Roasted Chicken with Fermented Bean Paste

We had roasted chicken with fermented bean paste and were amazed by the tender, flavorful meat with crisp skin. The skin of the chicken is incredibly crispy and is perfectly golden brown in color. Yet, the meat of the the chicken remains wonderfully moist and juicy.

Hong Kong Choy Sum

Choy Sum is probably the most popular vegetable in Hong Kong. The vegetables are very sweet and tender with a crunchy bite. 

Sweet and Sour Pork

Sweet and Sour Pork is undoubtedly one of my favorite dish of all time. It is a commonly seen dish in most Cantonese restaurants. Nuggets of pork are marinated, coated in batter. deep-fried before stir-frying it in a sticky sauce along with peppers, pineapples and onions. The sauce is made from soy sauce, ketchup, vinegar and plum sauce. The meat is moist with a semi-crunchy texture. 

After dinner, we bought water and some yogurt drinks from the convenience store located just underneath our hotel. I always love visiting the local convenience and grocery stores whenever I visit a new country. In fact, it is my must-to-do things when I am traveling.

Rise and shine! We decided to start our second day in Hong Kong with a traditional Cantonese breakfast - Dim Sum. After doing some research online, we decided to visit a famous Dim Sum restaurant named "Dim Sum Square" located at 88 Jervois Street in Sheung Wan.

Dim Sum Square is a small but cozy place offering a variety of dim sum dishes - spring rolls, buns, steamed rice rolls, rice and etc. The menu is easy to understand with both English translations and pictures provided. Food was prepared fresh and served piping hot within a few minutes. The servers were generally friendly and food were very delicious. Do take note that the restaurant only accept cash payment. So please make sure that you have enough cash with you before you make an order.

The restaurant gets crowded during peak hours. Do not be surprised if you are asked to leave immediately after you finished your food. I would recommend anyone to arrive early to avoid a long wait.

After a satisfying breakfast, it was time for us to do some sightseeing around the city. With no itinerary or particular plan in mind, we hopped on the double decker Ding Ding Tram to get around and see the city in a leisurely way. The century-old trams are the oldest and cheapest form of transportation in Hong Kong. A ride on the tram cost only HKD 2.30, regardless how far you traveled. It is the most cheapest and economical option to get around Hong Kong for budget travelers.

We passed through bustling residential area, shopping districts and main city center while observing the everyday life of the locals. Ding Ding trams are certainly a great and great way to see and experience Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is renowned to have one of the best transport network in the world. However, it is also known that Hong Kong has one of the highest density of cars in the world due to limited amount of space. Traffic jams can be bad in Hong Kong during peak hours and parking spaces are very rare and costly. It is generally more convenient for one to travel around the city via the public transportation than driving. It will save you heaps of money and time. Be prepared to do lots of walking if you plan to travel around with public transportation.

If you can avoid visiting during the summer months. The weather can be unbearably hot and humid in Hong Kong during this period of time. We were feeling sticky and sweaty all day long. It was not a really pleasant experience.

After the tram ride, we went back to the hotel to rest before heading out at 5 pm again for dinner. There are many must-eats in Hong Kong. Among all, roast suckling pig and roast goose will always be on the top of our must-eat list whenever we are in Hong Kong. Both of which are delicacies we rarely get to enjoy in Malaysia. But in Hong Kong, you can eat roast suckling pig and roast goose at many restaurants on almost every street.

Roast Suckling Pig

Suckling pig are two to six months old pig roasted with seasonings in a charcoal furnace at high temperature. Roasted to perfection, the meat is deliciously moist and tender with crispy, crunchy skin. The taste and texture of the meat is heavenly and melting-in-the-mouth. Even without any garnishing, the meat is wonderfully flavorful on its own.

Roast Goose

A whole goose is roasted with secret ingredients, cut into small pieces and served with a sweet plum sauce. The meat is plump, juicy and tender with a surprisingly crispy skin. I would recommend eating this dish with the sweet plum sauce as it would help to enhance the flavor of the goose meat greatly.

After dinner, we took a ride on the MTR from Sheung Wan Station to Tsim Sha Tsui Station. My husband has specifically requested me to include a visit to the Victoria Harbour in our travel itinerary. Our initial plan also includes a visit to the Victoria Peak as well. But unfortunately, we did not have enough time to visit both. 

We decided last minute that we will only visit Victoria Harbour. The Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade will be one of the best place to enjoy the breathtaking view of Hong Kong's skyline and bustling Victoria Harbour.

To get to Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade, we have to take the MTR to Tsim Sha Tsui Station and walk to Tsim Sha Tsui East Station, From Tsim Sha Tsui East Station, take Exit L6 to Salisbury Road, heading towards the Star Ferry Pier. The Promenade is located just next to the Star Ferry Pier.

Offering an unobstructed view of Hong Kong's majestic skyline, the Promenade is a great place to unwind after a day of sightseeing. Along the walkway, there are plenty of cafes, eateries and benches around to relax, dine and enjoy the view.

Visitors can take a ride on the Star Ferry sailing across the Victoria Harbour. Just like the Ding Ding Trams, the Star Ferry is another cheapest form of transportation in Hong Kong. With tickets costing only HKD 2.50 per adult on weekdays and HKD 3.40 on weekends, the Star Ferry is definitely a must-do when visiting Hong Kong.

The nightly Symphony of Light show is the main highlight of Victoria Harbour. But just like what I have experienced in my previous trip, the show was actually very disappointing. It was a total waste of time. The only reason we waited for it was because my husband and parents-in-laws have not seen the show before.

Nevertheless, the Hong Kong's skyline is spectacular and still worth seeing. But I would not recommend anyone to visit Victoria Harbour specially for the Symphony of Light show, or else you will end up really disappointed.

A great way to spend your evening in Hong Kong is to take a ride on the Junk boat across Victoria Harbour -  a traditional Chinese sailing ship that first appeared about 1000 years ago, during the Song Dynasty.

With its flashy red sails and wooden paneling, the Junk boat is a famous tourist attraction in Hong Kong.

After the Symphony of Light show, we headed to the Temple Street Night Market for seafood. To get to Temple Street Night Market, we took the MTR to Jordon Station. Take Exit E and turn right to Jordan Road and then take another right onto Temple Street.

Also known as the "Mens Market", Temple Street Night Market is the largest and livest night market in Hong Kong. There are hundred of stalls and carts selling mainly items for men - from clothing, mobile phones, counterfeit branded goods and cheap second hand goods such as cassette tapes and antiques.

We did not enjoy shopping at Temple Street Night Market because we were not interested in fake designer goods, cheap merchandises and souvenirs. Instead, we came here specially to enjoy local seafood specialties.

Strolling down the night market, you will find many "Dai Pai Dong" or small street vendors and medium sized restaurants offering delicious food at a fairly affordable price. It is not a surprise to find most of the stalls and restaurants packed with people in the evening since the night market is popular with both tourists and locals alike.

We decided to grab a table at one of the the many food stalls lining along the street. There are buckets and tanks outside the restaurant filled with live seafood just waiting to be ordered.

Roast Pigeon

The pigeon is braised in soy sauce, rice wine and star anise and is dry roasted to crispy perfection.
Served hot with crispy skin, the meat is flavorful, tender and juicy. Unlike the wild pigeons that you will normally see in the public parks, these small birds are specially bred for the table and normally roasted whole. The texture of Pigeon meat is like chicken and is served whole with its head.

Mantis Prawn

Mantis Prawns or I prefer to call it ''Lai Liu Ha" in Cantonese. The direct translation means "Pissing shrimp" because it shoots water out from its tummy when caught. Frying them with chilli, salt, pepper and garlic is the most common and delicious way of preparing the prawns. Once cooked, the shell of the prawn becomes translucent and hard. It is not easy to extract the meat from its hard shell. The meat of the prawn is very  sweet and tender. It actually taste more like the meat of a lobster than a prawn, but of course, at a much more cheaper price.

Bamboo Clams

Bamboo Clams are stir-fried in sizzling wok with bell peppers and onions in black bean sauce. I am not sure how it taste like because I did eat any of it. But this was one of my husband's favorite dish. He could not stop complimenting how delicious the dish was while eating. So I believe the clams were really tasty. It is a definite must-try if you are visiting Hong Kong.

Hong Kong offers a stunning array for delicacies from street food to Michelin Star Rated restaurants. The diversity of food on offer in Hong Kong is amazing, which will leave visitors spoilt for choices. Simply put, Hong Kong is a food paradise that will satisfy the craving of any and every food lovers.

However, people in Hong Kong can be quite rude and unfriendly. We have encountered a number of servers who are impatient to serve and will not wait for you to decide your order. Customer service does not seem to exist in most Hong Kong's restaurants. Generally, most of the restaurants in Hong Kong will expect you to know what you want to eat, finish your food quickly and leave. The faster you leave, the more money they will make.

Surrounded by towering skyscrapers, congested roads and bustling shopping districts, the city of Hong Kong is home to 7 millions people. Although energetic and highly efficient, the city seems to lack a soul.

Everyone around us always seems to be in a rush, even on a weekend. No one talks, no one smile and no one has time to pay attention to you. Everyone has their eyes fixed on their smart phones or tablets. Just like in Singapore, people in Hong Kong adopt the work hard, play hard attitude. To them, time is money.

Like Singapore, Hong Kong is a notoriously expensive. In fact, it is known to be the one of the most expensive city in the world to live. The cost of living is high, almost comparable, or perhaps even higher than in Singapore.

I guess I will not visit Hong Kong anytime soon again. The city is just plain boring. But I am still glad that we finally managed to check Hong Kong off our travel list together.

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the review. The photo of the roast suckling pig is simply amazing. I wonder if we can find it in Singapore...