Hong Kong, May 20, 2007
With our flight to Bangkok not leaving until 10:30 at night, we had just about a whole day to spend in Hong Kong.
First? Yeah, last day in HK = last day of dim sum! On to a sorta fancy place called “Chao Inn.” I don’t know if the pun translates into Cantonese. Not that it’s much of a pun…
Anyway, we spent several minutes perusing the huge menu, marking off the various things we wanted and making a couple of educated guesses. Husbear really wanted to order the “something something something XO something” – XO sauce is a popular spicy sauce made from dried scallops and chilies, among other things – so we figured, what the heck.
I think we were both a little surprised at the sheer volume of what was laid down in front of us. The something XO proved to be delicious cakes of fried… potato? in that yummy spicy sauce. We also got turnip cakes studded with bits of ham (yum), Japanese-style eggplant layered with pork and topped with bonito flakes and a delicate broth-based sauce, strange sort of dry tubes of dough stuffed with pork and glutinous rice, a “dumpling of blessings” made of rice wrapped in banana leaves with something unidentifiably eggy and beany and not particularly delicious in the middle, steamed spareribs in black bean sauce (which were good, though sort of gummy) and the house mixed dumplings, which tasted like steamed cake batter. Husbear’s favorite.
A little overwhelming? Yeah. That look on Husbear’s face is pure shock, I think.
Next step? Taking the MTR to see the market at Graham Street. The MTR is crazy new-looking, and has some terrific advertisements. This one, which we saw everywhere, is my favorite. I didn’t know that offering to bless your family was such a big con game in Hong Kong!
The market basically takes up both sides of an extremely narrow street that runs uphill fairly steeply. You’re dodging people and umbrellas (because it’s raining, of course, unless that’s just our luck) and out of the corner of your eye you see this. Warning: not for the particularly squeamish!
Here, they actually cut the fish so that its heart continues to beat after it’s been filleted. So the fish is as fresh as it can be, you see. Yowch.
We were back in fairly familiar territory with the pig parts, though.
Here’s a sign that Husbear wants to buy from the proprietor. Barring that, he plans to take it and stick it in his backpack.
The market’s actually not all that big, so we finished fairly quickly and set to walking the streets of an area we hadn’t visited. You know they drive on the wrong side of the street in Hong Kong, too?
The street we walked up was full of art galleries and reproduction antiques and whole carved mammoth tusks. Really, whole carved mammoth tusks. They were unbelievable, and truly difficult to photograph effectively – especially because most of the stores had signs up in the window requesting passersby abstain from photography. Poot.
So we went to a temple, where we displayed shocking ignorance once more. I think we didn’t offend anyone by doing anything stupid, but I can’t be certain.
This is the Man Mo temple, built in the 18th century to worship two deities – one, a 3rd-century Chinese statesman, and the other a 2nd-century soldier who is now the god of war. We couldn’t believe the amount of incense burning on the inside – we were told that these coils can burn up to a week.
Moving on (and quickly, since I just about fainted from all the incense), we found ourselves on a street selling bird’s nest and shark’s fin. These two oddities are considered delicacies by the Chinese, who go to enormous lengths and pay thousands of dollars to procure them.
The bird’s nest, I don’t have too much of a problem with, but I really dislike the idea of shark’s-fin soup – the fact that each of those fins represents an entire shark (and that the practice used to be throwing the shark back in the water after cutting off its dorsal fin, leaving it to suffocate slowly) is rather upsetting.
Dried squid’s ok by me, though. Even if it usually tastes like chewing on paper that’s been in a fishtank.
And dried scallops are downright tasty, especially when they’re put into that yummy XO sauce.
After getting a little lost in the tangle of walkways across downtown Hong Kong, we eventually found the MTR again and refrained from spitting on the platform.
Our destination was the Museum of Teaware, where we bought ourselves a tiny souvenir. The park is really nice – a great spot of green in the middle of the city. We surprised a young couple having their wedding pictures taken.
Back in the area around our hotel, we stopped in a hilarious facsimile of a British pub, serving such treats as bangers and mash or chicken foot soup. But they had a/c and cold beer.
For dinner a little bit later, we went to a Japanese restaurant around the corner from our hotel, where we got a hugely delicious seaweed salad,
and eel on rice with pickles (a favorite of mine), along with a couple of skewers of grilled chicken parts. Very good, and reasonably priced.
We went back to the hotel to collect our bags, which had been sitting in a hallway for hours unmolested, and went to wait for the bus to the airport. I had a freakout because we were running fairly late, and when we got to the airport it turned out that Emirates is one of only two airlines that operate out of the old terminal in Hong Kong, so we had to get back on a bus…but of course everything worked out just fine in the end.
We even got to see this guy and his strange fashion choice. The socks, of course.
Emirates was totally delightful. We got to watch Scrubs and the Simpsons, and we got fed some actually delicious airline food (I had a panfried seabass fillet with a leek and mustard cream sauce and an amazing tomato concassé, for reals, and Husbear had the stir-fried chicken with ginger, spring onions, and oyster sauce).
Arrival into Bangkok just after midnight was much less scary than I had been led to believe. Immigration took less than a half-hour, and we had no troubles getting an official taxi with a very happy and friendly driver to take us by meter to Khao San Road, Bangkok’s backpacker central.
It was in the finding of our hotel that we had some trouble – actually, we weren’t sure where stupid Khaosan Road was, until a friendly Thai guy got us turned around and headed in the right direction. The hotel we had booked was pretty gross, with a beetle doing laps in the toilet and a line of ants marching across the wall… but it was 3 in the morning, and we were in no mood to argue. We just booked one night and went downstairs for a beer to calm our jangly nerves before bed (and we hoped it might allow us to fall asleep even with the bugs). Our view with our beers:
Let’s hope the street looks a little prettier in the morning…