I hope you enjoyed all the HK posts, because I sure enjoyed writing them. Blogging is not a chore for me. I do it because I truly, sincerely enjoy it. I’d rather blog and reminisce about all the fun things we did and the lovely food we ate, than stretch out on the hotel bed and watch dubbed Korean dramas.
Traveling is also definitely a leisure for me. I’ve heard many people groan about how tiring and uncomfortable traveling can be. And that is totally true, unless you are pampered with a first-class seat in a renowned airline, and dining in a 5-star hotel with rose petals strewn by your pillow.
Well, actually, in that case, it’s not really traveling. To me, traveling is all about getting a real-life experience of that particular country. It’s not even about visiting the museums or famous landmarks. It’s about mingling with the native people, interacting with the common folks, eating their food, and trying new things.
Do I think I accomplished that during my trip in Hong Kong? I don’t know, because I can’t say I’m an expert in what and how Hong Kongers are like, what they do, or what they eat. But I can say I definitely enjoyed my trip, not because it was luxurious and comfortable (quite the contrary, actually), but because many things were a new experience for me, and I went back “home” to Singapore feeling like I’ve stepped on yet a different part of the world.
Just to recap, here’s a few personal tips from me to you in visiting Hong Kong. Again, I do not profess that I know everything about Hong Kong. I’ve only spent 5 days in this country, so my knowledge is very limited. If you want a real insider’s view on Hong Kong, check out Kenny’s blog. Kenny is a Hong Kong food blogger who documents every kind of restaurants in Hong Kong, from fine dining to low-key diners, with splendid pictures that are sure to make you want to book the next flight to Hong Kong. He sometimes have lovely recipes, too (He actually graciously invited Jing Wen and me for a meal, but I had to reluctantly decline because Jing Wen was too shy to meet someone new).
As for me, all I have are some recommendations which I really want to share with future Hong Kong visitors— all of which are based on my own personal opinion and experiences.
#1: Walk around the streets. Without a map.
When traveling, being lost and wandering around aimlessly is part of the fun. In fact, half the time, Jing Wen and I were walking around without a clue which direction we were heading. But the neat thing about Hong Kong is…you can’t ever really be lost. They’ve got maps and train stations everywhere to assist you, and the streets are really safe.
#2: Check out their 7-Eleven.
You can’t miss them; they’re everywhere, very much like how you can’t walk past a block without seeing a Starbucks in Manhattan. They’ve got some pretty wide choice of various beverages. And you’ll find all sorts of interesting snacks, too.
#3: Since you’re gonna hit up the 7-Elevens, might as well visit the numerous Japanese snack stores, too.
I’ve already shared with you all the crazy-interesting Japanese snacks I bought. Here’s more. The above boxes contains caramel. One is corn-flavored, the other kombu-flavored (seaweed).
Corn caramel?!! I’m imagining you wrinkling your nose and sticking out your tongue in disgust. Don’t knock it before you try it! It’s awesome. Tastes like buttery, sweet yellow summer corn, except in a chewy candy form. The seaweed-flavored caramel was awesome, too. Just a faint, grassy flavor that was very refreshing.
#4: Succumb to the green tea and sweet potato fetish.
Seriously, you see products flavored with green tea and sweet potato everywhere. And trust me, they’re good. Those steamed buns above? Heaven. The bitter tones of green tea gives the sweet cakes a subtle savory tone.
And I guess I don’t even need to convince you that the sweet potato one was awesome. It’s got a WHOLE piece of roasted sweet potato in there!
Or that sometimes, they also indulge in more traditional western flavors like chocolate and peanut butter:
#5: Don’t turn your nose at fast food chains. No seriously, don’t.
One thing I noticed in every country (the Asian ones, at least), is that their fast food chains are at a much higher standards than the ones in America. Take Freshness Burger, for example:
See how posh is it? It even has a girl standing outside welcoming customers in with a pretty smile. We liked this place so much, in fact, that we had our last meal in Hong Kong here again. Yes, that’s how much we loved this place!
We ordered the same exact things as the last time, but also shared a plate of tuna salad pasta:
Yes, they serve pasta!!! This one wasn’t too bad…It had bits of caramelized onions in it, and flecks of oily tuna with some fruity olive oil dressing…
The pasta was actually cooked just right, too!
And guess what they had for a side?
Baked potato skins with cheese and bacon!
They also offer a choice of corn soup, salad, or french fries. DO NOT get their salad. That’s what Jing Wen got the last time, and they gave out a few wedges of ice-berg lettuce. The lettuce was fresh, but hardly what you would call a nutritious salad. In fact, don’t ever get salads in an Asian country. They are usually quite pathetic. Not to mention, freaking expensive.
I also had their original Freshness Burger again because I loved it so much the last time:
Beef patty, sloppy joe, huge slice of tomato, and Japanese mayonnaise, all encased in a fresh-baked pumpkin bun. Mmmm…I usually don’t like mayonnaise all that much, but you’ve got to try Japanese Kewpie mayo! Somehow it’s got this zing and just enough sweetness to lessen the cloying factor.
#6: Order dessert.
And by that, I do mean the desserts at Hui Liu Shan. Anything with mango goes, like this black glutinous rice pudding with mango in coconut milk and extra mango.
How can you say no to a fresh mango dessert, one that has both a creamy fatty texture and a starchy chewy pudding? Utterly refreshing and satisfying, especially during the hot, stuffy summers of Hong Kong.
#7: Try the bubble tea. Of all different kinds.
The choices are simply unlimited. Blueberry? Watermelon? Honeydew? Papaya? Strawberry? Taro? Green tea? Or just the plain original milk tea?
And the pearls can be the original black tapioca pearls,or white tapioca pearls, or mango pudding, or sago seeds…
#8: Visit every bakery. And I mean every. damn. bakery.
Why? Because every bakery is different. Every bolo bao is different. And sometimes, you just might be awarded with some fabulous cute creations like these steamed buns (mantous).
They are not cheap. And personally, I would not buy them, because how could I bear to eat these adorable buns?
I totally thought of Mara and her Cute Food Saturday as I clicked away at my camera. And yeah, I totally lied. I definitely would have gotten this pumpkin shaped bun if not for the fact that I only had about HKD$3 left!
#9: Don’t be afraid to try their streets foods.
Yes, there had been a few misses. But the hits were well worth it. Like their stinky tofu, the infamous deep-fried, artery-clogging, corpse-smelling fermented bean curd:
Their takoyakis (fried octopus dough-balls), chewy little balls with a creamy center and doused with a sweet and savory okonomiyaki sauce and tangy Japanese mayonnaise:
And their gai dan jaai, crispy eggy waffle balls with an airy center that comes in all flavors like butter, chocolate, pandan, taro, black sesame…I’m surprised I haven’t come across a sweet potato or green tea ones yet!:
Honestly, there’s lots more that I have not tried yet! So pleeeaaaase try them for me! Apparently their waffles (the circle ones next to the waffle balls) are fabulous, and so are their curry fishballs.
I promise you, you will not keel over and die from dyslexia. Well, okay. I can’t exactly promise you that…but I’ve eaten from their street vendors, and I’m alive to tell the tale, right? And Hong Kongers eat from them every day, and they look mighty healthy to me. Much slimmer, too.
Now, the most important part…
#10: Don’t take yourself too seriously.
Because you’re gonna be pushed, shoved, and jostled as though you’re a piñata. And when these people talk to you like they’re screaming, but don’t get offended—it’s just the coarse sounds of their dialects. But one thing is the same in every country: a friendly smile and gentleness will open up these people’s hearts to you. In Korea, we have a saying that goes, “You can’t spit on a smiling face.” Well, that saying is true in every place else where there are humans.
Oh. And if you’re a Caucasian…they might call you a “Gwailo”…they’re not insulting you; it’s just the, uh, endearing term they use for white people (It means “ghost man” in case you’re interested). You might also want to learn some basic Cantonese. Every native appreciates a foreigner who makes the effort to learn their language. Just don’t look too satisfied with yourself for being able to say “Too expensive! Gimme cheap cheap!” while totally butchering their language. Everyone prefers an ignoramus to a pompous ignoramus.
Basically, don’t come thinking you’re gonna be treated like a king. Don’t come with preconceived ideas about the people here. Don’t come with a judging, one-sided perception. Come with an open mind, one that is willing to consider and accept different cultures, traditions, and languages. Oh, and come hungry. You’re gonna need one heck of an appetite. But that won’t be a problem, I promise you.
P.S. By the way, I managed to stay within budget. Just barely. I came with a budget of SGD$300 (or USD$212), and left with exactly HKD$3 (USD$0.38). Go me!!! (Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about Jing Wen, my shopaholic friend…She spent well over twice her budget!!).
Question of the day: Where is one place to which you’ve traveled (as in, really traveled), and what is one recommendation you have for that place? (This place does not have to be overseas)