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Tasty Hong Kong

10 Feb

An HK favorite: macaroni and beef in cream of tomato soup with toast and eggs

One VERY important thing about Hong Kong (or at least to me) is the abundance of tasty food. No matter where you go in Hong Kong, there will always be a place near by (or in most cases right next to you) where you’ll be able to get a bite to eat. Due to Hong Kong being the  economic hub of Asia, many people of many different ethnicity come to Hong Kong and bring with them their cuisine. Whether you’re a Malay, Singaporean, or even a Nigerian, there’s a restaurant making food from home. Heck, there were even Halal restaurants, and quite a few of them. (and I must say the kebab was pretty good). My top pick has to be the Japanese ramen restaurant Ichiban, which would consistently have a line outside longer than ten people. If you’re homesick, there’ll always be a McDonald’s right around the corner, but most local food is actually cheaper and tastier. Speaking of tasty, dessert in Hong Kong is pretty darn good. A lot of the desserts are fruit-based and primarily consist of fruit in some form, so you don’t have to feel guilty when eating a lot. I know I sure didn’t! Now: some food photos!

Mango with black rice and sago at Satay King. This is a dessert!

Ice cream/pudding/sago/jelly ball dessert at Chung Kee Dessert

More ice cream at Chung Kee Dessert

Some dim sum

Surprisingly good discount sushi

Ultra cool and tasty Ichiban ramen

I don’t remember the name of the food or place, but this halal dish tasted good with some mint sauce!

Pork roast, mint beef, and octopus. Tasty restaurant trip a few days before I left Hong Kong


A Little Dose of Culture

10 Jan

Culture in Hong Kong is very unique in that it is a product of colonization, creating a hybrid of Chinese and English culture. Also, due to having economic wealth earlier, it tends to be a lot more “civilized” in the Western sense of the word. It tends to be cleaner than the other large cities in mainland China and less polluted. Well, that and a lot less people using the restroom in public, which I had only seen twice in Hong Kong and both were little boys (nothing like the split pants for toddlers in mainland China). Although most toilets are normal Western-style toilets (albeit a bit smaller) there are squat toilets (which I had the misfortune of running into a few times). One piece of culture that people seem to be confused about are people wearing the health masks. People in Hong Kong wear them when they’re sick so they don’t get others sick. This is also practiced in Mainland China as well as other Asian countries like Japan.

Like other Asian countries, people in Hong Kong are more group-oriented rather than individualistic, and the thoughts and ideas of their peers play a more important role in how they think in comparison to western society. Rarely does anyone speak up when someone is being noisy during a lecture, but when I’ve told someone to quiet down, they did, but took it more harshly than someone in the West would. Dressing up is a big thing in Hong Kong. No matter where you go (regardless of it it’s finals week or not), everyone dresses up. The only time you really see someone in shorts and a shirt or a hoodie is either in the dorm or at the gym, something I rather preferred to the average American college student’s style of dress. Another important thing is that filial piety (respecting your elders) is extremely important and one is expected to give up a seat on the train or bus for an elderly person or go out of their way to help the elderly. This mindset is prevalent in the majority of Asia, not just in HK.

Macau Excursion

2 Dec

Like the last post, this post is gonna be a little more in the vein of entertainment. Just recently, I went to Macau for a day trip. It’s about an hour ferry ride away from Hong Kong and in many ways is quite similar. Like Hong Kong, it had been a colony of a European state (Portugal) and had been returned to China in 1999 (2 years after Hong Kong was returned) . Macau is now known for casinos. Big ones. Quite a bit of Macanese land is covered in casino property and is the main draw for tourists.

At a shopping area inside The Venetian. Yes, there were gondola rides

The cars lined up at the end of the exhibition

Upon arrival, I noticed that many of the signs had Portuguese on them, an outward sign of being a former colony. Riding a bus into the city I noticed it was very clean and everything was glitzy and elegant. Most of the cars were luxury cars and many people were dressed well. Seeing these initial images really shows why so many people come here.  Well that and because it’s the “Las Vegas of the East” (despite actually being bigger) and having a lot of hype can boost the people coming. Other than casinos, there really isn’t much to do other than shop, eat, and see its old colonial period architecture ( which isn’t too much due to Macau being so small). Macau is also know for hosting automotive events and concerts and I was here for the former. I’d come to see the first exhibition of Japanese D1 drifting and I wasn’t let down. Seeing tuned Japanese cars going sideways at high speeds and I even caught a shirt on of the drivers threw into the audience. All in all I had a good time, although I did not gamble due to being underage (and not really wanting to) despite being able to walk into and through casinos (like The Venetian)  without being carded simply because I “looked” 21 or older. Anyway, it was an interesting place, but if you don’t gamble or party, you’ll only need a couple of days to see the whole place.

Mew + Wild Nothing concert

22 Nov

The guys from Mew signing stuff after the show (although the lead singer Jonas was still in another room relaxing after the show at the time. Still got him to sign my poster, though!)

There are definitely perks to living in one of the biggest cities in the world.  Trying new food, meeting new people, going cool places. The list goes on, but what I’d like to highlight is the opportunity to go to so many concerts in one place. A few weeks ago Bieber was (sadly) in the area, The Killers and Matchbox Twenty were here a few months ago, Best Coast was here a week ago, and there will be a huge music festival where Franz Ferdinand and Metric will be performing. I got the opportunity to see the Danish band Mew (who I’ve really liked for the past 3 or 4 years) and the up-and-coming American band Wild Nothing.  I honestly had never thought I’d get to see Mew in concert and I’d actually found out only a day before that it was even happening (thank God for the City U of HK International/Exchange student Facebook group!)  The concert was great, with the opening band Wild Nothing doing pretty well, reminding me a bit of both The Killers and The Smiths. When Mew came on, though, it got awesome. They’re a normally chill-sounding band when you listen to their studio albums, but they were something else live. They played some of my favorite songs, people were singing along, and surprisingly there were quite a few big Mew fans in Hong Kong, with many locals bringing their CDs to be signed, as well as the free posters many got. I must say, it was an awesome experience and I’m pumped to see Franz Ferdinand at the end of the month as well.

Just a cool free poster from the gig. Signed too

Cheung Chau trip

20 Nov

A few weeks ago I had traveled the the the island of Cheung Chau, a few  miles south of Hong Kong. It took a 45 minute ferry ride to get there and the ride itself was pretty calm and provided a nice view of the other islands south of Hong Kong. I’d been convinced by my friends we were going for a simple day at the beach, so I’d worn flip-flops and trunks. I’d been sadly mistaken. What we ended up doing was more akin to hiking, if anything, and would have been fine if I wouldn’t have worn flip-flops. Despite that mistake, it was a nice, quaint island with good food, beautiful scenery, and plenty of little shops and restaurants to visit.

Kinda a tight fit…

The island was very hill, but had beautiful coast line and some old cannons left behind by pirates. There was even a small hideout cave you could crawl through to get from one side to the other (although it was nearly too small for me and very dark).

The beautiful place where I had cut my feet.

There was swimming involved, but only for about 5 minutes and I cut my feet pretty badly on some underwater rocks. Overall, I was glad to get back to my bed that night.  Beautiful sights, but a rough day.

More travel than school

14 Oct

Thanks to Singapore’s paranoia of a pandemic, I spent twice as many days in September traveling than I did in class. NUS has an annual e-learning week to practice watching lectures online and having tutorials on a discussion forum in case of something happening like a disease outbreak that would keep us from coming  to campus. Without having to be physically present, most of the exchange students took that as an opportunity to travel! I spent the week (plus the weekends around it) in Bali with four friends I traveled with to Tioman Island in Malaysia two weeks earlier.

Bali was beautiful, filled with terraced rice fields, volcanoes, forests, and Hindu temples. Ubud is the cultural capital and from there we discovered gorgeous rice paddies, saw dozens of the ubiquitous temples, and had some fantastic Indonesian food. Two temples we visited were water temples, which contain pools people can cleanse themselves in. We also stopped by a small small plantation where they produce kopi luwak, or civet coffee, which is made from coffee beans eaten, digested, and excreted by a civet cat. The cup I tried was delicious, and much cheaper than abroad, though I’m not versed enough in coffee to really tell a difference. In Amed on Bali’s northeast coast, two of us took the exciting opportunity to learn how to scuba dive. We did five dives over two days and also did readings and watched videos. After focusing on skills the first day, the second day we dove at the shipwreck of the USAT Liberty. It was very exciting to swim around the remains of a WWII ship now covered in coral. I saw clownfish in anemones, trumpetfish, a garden of eels sticking out of the sand, a stingray, an enormous pufferfish, and countless other fish and reeflife. Our last couple days were spent in Kuta; it’s the awful developed part of Bali overrun by Australian vacationers and touts, but the beach was nice and I got to try out surfing. It was tough at first and I swallowed a bunch of seawater, but I was able to get up a few times and ride the waves.

After getting back early Monday morning I had to face the reality that I was behind in a couple classes, with readings and a paper due for my Middle East Politics class, homework problems for chemical engineering, and some practice for Chinese, plus I had to prepare for my next trip!

For that I was going with two friends from Denmark to Borneo, the world’s third largest island. On the way out Changi proved once again that it’s the best airport in the world as I used one of the free leg and foot massagers throughout the terminal. When we arrived in Brunei, a small wealthy country ruled by a hereditary sultan, the first thing I noticed was the flags everywhere. They are very patriotic, though a lot of it also seemed to be government-encouraged nationalism. The capital city Bandar Seri Begawan is quite small, but its two main mosques are stunning, and there’s a fascinating water village on stilts with over 20,000 residents. The Royal Regalia Museum shows the cult of personality around the sultan, as well as his incredible wealth, exhibiting his early life and education, coronation, silver jubilee, and gifts given by foreign leaders.

Sunday we took a ferry to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia, and along the way I saw Pulau Tiga, the site of the first season of Survivor. KK is a small city that mostly serves as the gateway to the rest of the state, but we enjoyed our three days there. We made friends with some of the other backpackers in the hostel and went with them to Mount Kinabalu Park around Southeast Asia’s tallest mountain to hike in the surrounding forest. One of my highlights of the trip was scuba diving at the marine park near the city. I was so excited to see two cuttlefish on the second and third dives. Despite never having seen one in person before cuttlefish have been my favorite animal for several years, and these two did not let me down. They were about two feet long, a bigger species than I expected, and had amazing coloration. When I came near one of them, he immediately changed from camouflaged white to black before changing back again. I loved how they just floated there in the water watching me with their arms raised. During the dive and snorkeling later I also saw pufferfish, triggerfish, barracuda, a small blacktip reef shark, a sting ray, and plenty of other fish.

In Kuching, Sarawak,

Now I need to get back to the study part of study abroad

The Mid-Autumn Festival

26 Sep

This is one of those “lots-of-pictures'” posts because, well, the title says it all. A little background on the Mid-Autumn Festival (also called the Mooncake Festival), it’s the second biggest festival for both the Chinese and the Vietnamese (the first being the Chinese/Vietnamese New Year). The Mid-Autumn Festival is held in the 8th month on the 15th day of the Lunar Calendar during a full moon. Originally a harvest celebration, now is a bit commercial (like Christmas has become in the US). Don’t get me wrong, it was enjoyable, but under the “authenticity”, you could see the plastic sheen.

On a less-jaded note, quite a few families were there with children and by quite a few, I mean what seemed to be half the people in Hong Kong. It was packed! There were figures with traditional Chinese dress and lit-up constructions of food.

There was also lanterns. A lot of lanterns.

There was also a lit dragon at the end of the night, but it was poorly lit and I didn’t get any good pictures of it. Maybe that’s a bit of motivation to come here yourself! Also, I only got to try one kind of mooncake (pastry eaten during the holiday that has some kind of filling, usually raw egg). Maybe I could scrounge some more up this week… Anyway, next time I’ll talk about my trip to the island of Cheung Chau, so stay posted!