A handful of moons ago, my best friend Jack and I went to China.
Well, depending on who to speak with, it wasn’t technically China. It was Hong Kong.
At its origins, Hong Kong was a sleepy fishing village. Nowadays the city is at the epicenter of world trade.
The Qing Empire ceded Hong Kong to the British Empire after the First Opium War. It would remain a British colony until 1997, when power was transferred back to China. Even with a completely contrary system of government and a fierce sentiment of independent pride, Hong Kong is classified as a “special administrative region” to mainland China.
We didn’t have an opinion about whether it was a territory, colony, or space station; we just came to explore and to eat.
We left the tranquility of island life in Bali, we were greeted with a Bali from a parallel universe.
Bali and Hong Kong share something in common: They’re engulfed in nature. Between the tropical monkey forests of Ubud or the endless coastline of Seminyak, travelers in Bali get a sense that the’ve found Valhalla. Hong Kong is no natural slouch; it consists of two hundred and sixty three islands which leave plenty of outdoors to be enjoyed.
I didn’t notice any of Hong Kong’s islands, however. I was distracted by the forest of gigantic concrete buildings, the ocean of pedestrians swimming between metro stations, and the sensation that I was a helpless spectator to an event called progress. Valhalla comes as desire for success and the constructing of buildings that race towards the sky.
Our friend Becca had a connecting flight back to the Bay Area from Hong Kong so she was able to join us for part of our stay in the city which was nice. We based ourselves in the Wan Chai district and our itinerary in Hong Kong was pieced together through many welcomed recommendations from friends.
This is the tallest rooftop bar in the world, located on the 118th floor of the Ritz Carlton Hotel. During a chilly evening we ordered a beverage and contemplated the endless horizon of building lights. Ozone technically isn’t the highest bar in the world as the Ritz was built almost at sea-level, but it’s still a noteworthy place to visit.
Up until Hong Kong, I’d never eaten at a restaurant with a Michelin Star. This all changed when we ate lunch at Kam’s Roast Goose. What should you order here? It’s simple: succulent roast goose. We stood for about an hour in a line that brought back horrific memories of our December visit to the Chinese consulate in San Francisco. Lunch cost about $15 and was well worth the wait.
Sukhumvit is a lively district of Hong Kong that takes on a new face when the sun sets. Bars, clubs, and destinations for all sorts of entertainment await there. Jack, Becca, and I were looking for a place to go in Sukhumvit, and our friend offered us an incredible recommendation: The Iron Fairies. Over ten-thousand paper butterflies on copper rods dangle from the ceiling and we were welcomed with one of my favorite genres of music: Latin. I was sold.
We also planned our Hong Kong experience with spiritual guidance from our trip’s unofficial shaman:
The late food icon visited Hong Kong on various occasions during the filming of his shows Parts Unknown and No Reservations. His tales of the city took us to:
Are you looking for the cheap housing, a used iPhone, and perhaps a warm bowl of curry? In Hong Kong, there’s a place where you can find all three in one convenient location: Chungking Mansions. Built in 1961, this is a seventeen story complex that spans five city blocks. The bottom floors are all restaurants and retail places, while the higher floors are mixed between apartments, guesthouses, and inexpensive hotels. Over the progression of time Chungking Mansions has slowly become the biggest melting pot of cultures in the city. Immigrants from every continent call this place home. I felt like this was the Hong Kong version of the “American Dream” as most people there were seeking asylum, refuge, or simply a better life compared to the country from which they originated.
One of the most savory noodle dishes that I’ve eaten (Cantonese Soup Noodles) was at Leaf Dessert, an open-air corner food stall (dai pai dong) that boasts less than seven tables. If it hadn’t been for a segment of Parts Unknown, when Bourdain and legendary cinematographer Christopher Doyle shared lunch there, we could’ve easy walked by without knowing that it existed.
According to Bourdain, one could get a true feel of a city simply by taking a seat on a plastic chair on a street corner and trying a bowl of whatever was cooking in a mysterious pot. He expressed concern that places such as Leaf Dessert were in danger of extinction in Hong Kong, due the unceasing desire for change and new regulations.
After hopping between trains with our Octopus passes for three days, Jack and I said farewell.
It’s difficult to say whether I understand anything about Hong Kong but it’s easy to appreciate its visual grandeur and energy.
We’d only scratched the surface of a city with it’s own entangled history and eight million stories.
As quickly as we arrived, we soon found ourselves going onward and northbound to mainland China…
Thanks for reading this blog!
If you have any questions or want ideas for a trip to Hong Kong feel free to contact me.
Have a wonderful day and take care,