A concrete jungle of Asian delights!
Conflict territory or not Hong Kong still deserves a spot on your go to places. Maybe not today but I would suggest to keep it in mind.
It was our second trip to Hong Kong, the first time was around 2012 during summer, this time we went in December exactly one year ago, to celebrate the Christmas holidays in China with family.
Hong Kong, a fascinating and modern concrete jungle with a food culture of cantonese cuisine which I adore so much.
If you're not into dim sum, dumplings, hot pots, wontons, fish balls, noodles; do yourself the favor and start living! Kick start with one of the national dishes which are 'dim sums' in all it's shapes and filled with so many different flavors. Trust me you'll fall in love with these heaven on earth little beauties! It's one of the most comforting foods ever. Have a taste of all this goodness in Hong Kong before you continue your journey of getting to know the Chinese (Asian) cuisine.
We are so lucky to have a family who also loves to eat, drink and stay at nice places so the only thing we did and that mattered on our family holiday trip was at what time and where will we eat today. Oh yeah and the repeatedly 'at the hotel bar' moments before and after all the food indulgences.
The big poppa decided to shelter us at his 2nd home, the Grand Hyatt hotel in Wan Chai,
I just got to write it down, but on my honest opinion I always have the impression that the Asian- Chinese in particular hospitality is incomparable with the European one?
I love to travel in Europe as there are so so many magical places that are so charming and diverse and that aren't artificial or super commercialized seen many times in other places of the world where tourism is huge. But the lack of service or wanting to serve guests is somehow sometimes a bit left lost and left behind, which I think is sad and so different with the Asian hospitality.
I mean in Asia I've experienced they really have the big pleasure to take care of every little detail which sometimes is almost akward (for a European) in a way. So yes I'm a big fan of Asian hospitality.
THE GRAND HYATT HOTEL (not Asian but very Asian minded) is very smartly positioned, next to the harbor in the Wan Chai district and close to Hong Kong Central. A heated pool surrounded by skyscrapers and mega comfortable poolside beds and linens are that little extra that gives you that instant relaxed holiday feeling. Especially when your jet-lagging as hell it's nice to have 'nappy time' outside instead of staying in your AC'd hotelroom. And don't get me started on the (piano) bar, cosy!
Let's say they won't forget the Belgians and there love for champagne and singing along on 'Dreams' by Fleetwood Mac ... = soundtrack of the holiday.
So ones stepping out of the hotel we mostly discovered the city by foot or by taxi (cheap and not on gaz, so a bit less polluting) or by boat of course to cross over to Kowloon.
First things first, LET'S EAT!
It was almost the only thing we did that week.
We tried new spots, did some old favorites and had one terrible experience too.
The last day we tried Vietnamese Pho bar, we didn't understand the menu, the word 'pizzle' in particular so we searched on the net for "pizzle food".
The result we got was = eat an actual dick!! No thanks we're fine!.
Here are some hot spots we did like and recommend:
- Chinese / Asian cuisine
There are 3 of them in Hong Kong so you can pick your choice. Kowloon, IFC center and New Town plaza. Get your ticket and get in line because you can't make reservations here. But believe me it's worth the wait, even if this is a commercialized shack, the food is really good and Michelin approves too. This can easily be your first stop after arriving in Hong Kong Airport, go to the city by train to the stop of the IFC mall and go straight to level 3 to have a quick first foodstop at this place, it's the perfect introduction.
Ones your seated, sometimes it can even be at a shared table which can be very fun,
have Chinese tea as drinks and some beers of course. Followed by digging in Chinese style; which is to have a table center full of steamed veggies & dim sums, crispy pork, marinated tofu & bean curd, congee, wonton noodle soups, ... ENJOY!
- Modern Chinese Cuisine
I recommend the soup dumplings and beefbrisket bao, that stuff is really good!
We ordered some shots after dinner, they definitely thought this was a strange request, or they we're really having a laugh with us, we still don't know what just happened there. But we are a 100% sure we didn't get a pure alcoholic shot but instead we elegantly drank up some of the '24h marinated drunken prawns juice' (a marinade where the prawns soaked in for 24h with maybe, who knows, with some alcohol in it) that is on the food menu! Hupaaa bottoms up!
You can sit inside but I prefer to sit outside on the terrace, to avoid the AC blowing in your neck.
- Saké specialized shop/bar
Next door to Sohofama you'll find Saké Central a very nice shop/bar/sake kingdom.
There are so many different kinds of saké and books and nice decorative saké minded objects.
A big playground for the sakélovers. Saké in a nutshell = the Asian (japanese) rice wine.
They have two tasting areas, so of course we tried some different sake's, all cold ones, all deliciously dangerous for that next day hangover! I actually learned that saké is a rice wine and can be very sweet too. I only knew it as a hot and bitter brewery they'd serve you at fancy Asian/western sushi restaurants. The ones we've tasted (don't remember the names) were silky in texture, very soft in bitterness and some even had sparkles in it. I started to enjoy, understand and appreciate saké much more since then.
After our daily aperitivo session in the hotelbar, drinks and mystery shots at the restaurant and sake tasting afterwards we were so 'happy' there was nothing else left to do than explore the Hong Kong nightlife...
Hmmmm not exactly what we were aiming for but as we were already warmed up we had some more shots (jagermeister!!!) and the Hong Kong nightlife became better and better as the night evolved.
- Chinese teahouse (food served)
Oldskool, oldskool, supercool!
After our first night of food, drinks and drinks and many more drinks...
We barely had 3 hours of sleep and we got up at 5h30 am to go and have breakfast at this old fashioned traditional tea house a Hong Kong friend of ours suggested.
This was the best Christmas gift to ourselves and my food highlight in Hong Kong! We as food and especially dim sum lovers went totally nuts.
We had the best dim sum in the coolest dusty atmosphere. It almost felt like a cultural get away. Some people visit museums or historical must sees, to get to know a culture we go for the food culture! This place is my number 1 favorate foodspot in Hong Kong.
No fancy shizzle, but die hard real cantonese food and only chinese speaking, you get that 'go local' vibe here. I fell In love with the food, the people, the place, it was just perfect to me. No it wasn't the saké, jagershots,... that set my vibe. It was the realness of just simple local good and freshly made food, HEAVEN!
Lucky for me my brother in law speaks chinese so that went very casually.
We were the only 'foreigners' there, except for a German expat giving us the dirty eye, he didn't seem to be very happy that we 'the tourists' discovered (t)his hidden gem.
And then magic happened, ladies came out of the kitchen pushing a cart throughout the restaurant full of steaming baskets with different delights to choose from. We were very lucky to be seated at the table just near the kitchen. The VIP table! Because later on the day the restaurant can get much more crowded and you'll have to push yourself into the crowd surrounding the carts to get lucky to score some baskets before they're all out.
We actually didn't know what we were having until we tasted it because we just crabbed as many different baskets as possible out of fomo. But believe me it was all good no matter what was inside. And the coconut sesame balls were to die for!
Go for it , indulge into this local hotspot and taste everything, it will be an unforgettable experience.
We liked it so much we kept eating and eating and ordering tea and as time passed by we shared the table with many different people who were all so nice and curious to know how we knew the place and if we liked it. That for me is the coolest way to get to know a destination; have the food they have and don't be afraid of stepping out of your comfort zone and to go to the places behind the touristy facades and deeper into the local areas. Have a chat with the locals even if it's just with gestures, you'll manage to discover so much more and really get in touch with your destination.
Afterwards we went back to bed , satisfied and with our bellies fully filled of delish dim sums, Merry Christmas to us!
- Food, animals, objects, flowers
Ok I'm a big sucker for local markets especially when food is involved.
After informing and looking for all the foodie possibilities there are always 3 things I look up when visiting new places;
1) the local markets and foodshops 2) the parks
3) spa or massage places
We went to a street market in Kowloon district, and we loved discovering it!
All fresh and so differentiated.
The Chinese eat their fish super super fresh so they are mostly still alive when you buy them, they 'prepare' them for you just in front of you. A bit mixed in the gut feeling to see them finishing the fish at the moment as we aren't used to that anymore, but ok this is as fresh and real as it can get. No sugarcoating selling tricks. just embrace and respect it.
The street market evolves from food to flowers to animals. I must admit I stopped just before the street around the corner started with the animals, I didn't feel the need to see caged (or plastic bagged) animals.
Not going into that much more, but yes do visit the market and try some local food, it's one of the nicest ways to experience another culture.
Be aware it can get super crowded.
- Sneaker stores
What is this place?
This place was so strange and so exciting at the same time.
This is a building where on every floor you'll find little rooms converted into little sneaker stores where you can buy the coolest sneakers. Sneakers that are hard to find in general sneaker stores or that you'll only find online. Let's say you'll find some collectors items next to the hottest models. But are they fake or not? Still haven't figured it out yet.
For example; I found a pair of Yeezees S4 same model, one pair for $350 the other one $420.
And this in exactly the same building, so how do you explain that?
Anyhow if you're a sneaker fan as I am (and if you have the $$$) go and shop the hell away as they just have some really really cool models. If you take the time to search through all the little stores and in every angle. Oh yeah we bumped into a cat café, gaming rooms etc too in that same scruffy building, strange place I tell you :)
- Coffee roastery and bar
Noc was exactly what we needed after some full indulgence into the Chinese food and teas.
A good and perfectly foamed double shot oatmilk latte with an avocado toast and fetta-crumble with a hint of lime and pomegranate. (Euro) Perfection ;-)
Noc has multiple coffee bars in Hong Kong, we went to the one in Central and had a seat outside, as we love to check out the people passing by. So calming.
Apparentely they are also a coffee roastery so obviously they serve and sell there own coffee, which was nice. Their branding game is also very strong but I had the feeling I'd seen it already. Anyway, nice coffees pot for the cafélovers.
LAN FONG YUEN (tea restaurant)
Iced Hong Kong milk tea is their specialty and what they are super mega famous for.
It's a very authentic and super small 'streetfood shack'.
It has become a must see place where all tourists and non-toursits stop for a cheap snack. They are famous for their Iced milk tea and a sweetbread bun filled with condensed milk.
And of course they also serve salty food such as (instant) noodle dishes.
Unfortunately we didn't have the time to try and test it as the cue was superlong to get in or take away. So I'll try it next time as they say it's a must do and I hate not being aware and able to taste the goodness of this over recommended hotspot.
Where Asian fusion kitchen meets that typical prestige feeling.
Ok I am a sucker for it and I like to go to a bit more 'fancy' places ones and a while and Zuma is one of them. Especially their locations are always worth it. The interior, design, the details in the music and lightning, the cool drinks give you that 'I feel so cool and fancy' kinda vibe ;)
We had a mix of so many different dishes, good dishes. But I must admit I wasn't blown away by it. On my honest opinion the place is (to) cool, the menu is very appealing and suitable for many different tastebuds but the cooking is a bit overrated comparing to the prices and hype. I still prefer a real authentic cantonese restaurant such as the LIN HUENG TEA HOUSE i mentioned before. But I love to dress up and feel a bit fancy ones and a while so yes to Zuma for the vibes.
It’s been a while since we’ve been there so yes I have to admit that meanwhile some other ‘conceptual hotels’ as what the W group is known for have risen and are that tiny bit ‘ better, more evolved with their time. But on my opinion the W hotels will always remain a leader in concept and hospitality so I’m a long term fan.
The spectacular view on the Hong Kong harbor you get from your hotel room and especially from the 76th floor where you’ll find the wet deck with a refreshing swimming pool is so very very nice.
Little note: the prices of the W hotel rooms are always cheaper in Asia than in Europe, check it out!
After a couple of days strolling through the city malls, skyscrapers and taking in the city vibes to the fullest I needed a bit of ‘fresh air’. The cool thing about HK is that it’s actually situated amongst nature. We went for a morning hike on the peak. We started with a glimpse of a panoramic view on the peak terrace.
We went up there by taxi; You can go by foot if you’re a sportive/active person it’s a climb I tell ya! Or take the peak tram uphill which they say is a very cool trip between the buildings into the sky.
But the cue can be very long so we skipped that. In all honesty I think we took a wrong turn while going down and didn’t do the nice path in between green nature. But it was ok and the view on HK up there is spectacular. Nice thing to do to escape a bit of the city buzz.
And for the hardcore toursits next to the nature trails there’s a Mme Tussaud museum and food and shopping activities provided, which is so typical Hong Kong ;)
Historical culture above the vibrant city .
There’s a big Buddha in a (total commercialized) holistic area into the mountains surrounding Hong Kong.
Again if you feel like escaping the city buzz for a while it’s a nice thing to do.
You need to take the cablecar, go early very early, as the cue is enormous! Ones your in it enjoy the beautiful panorama you’ll get! Don’t be a pussy like me and get a panic attack! If you’re up for it you’ll have a 25'' trip with amazing views, very picturesque.
You’ll even see the Buddha from a far sitting in the mountains, waiting for you :)
After a hell ride for me (panic attack) I discovered it is also possible to get there by bus or taxi (45'') so good you can choose your best way to get there.
What I remembered of my visit to the Big Buddha the most isn’t actually the Buddha itself but the lunch we had there at the monastery’s vegetarian kitchen!!
Super mega cheap and super mega good!
It’s on the left of monastery.. Get a ticket and go sit inside, they’ll bring you there delicious treats in a snap.
Enjoy it all even if you don’t actually now what it is, and yes the lunch comes with all you can drink Chinese tea.
Another thing I remembered about my visit up there are the dogs and cows that run free around you, sacred animals on the loose that rule the area ;) best selfie of 2019 if you ask me!
And then suddenly it started to snow, wow what a magical moment! That's what we thought at first but then we quickly figured out the snow was fake and then very sudden all the magic faded and everything felt so very touristy, the shops the eateries etc. But that's just the Hong Kong way and we embraced it! But again, the food up there was gooooooood!
Just walk, no run your way out of the touristy mainstreet and go straight to the monastery vegetarian restaurant. And yes of course also pay a visit to the Big Buddha :) Have a nice cultural day away from the city up in the clouds :)
You want massage madame? Yessssss please!
That’s one of the main reasons why I love traveling to Asia so much next to the food part, the massage culture. For us Europeans it’s a luxurious thing we do to treat ourselves ones and a while but in Asia it’s a daily common habit and I I’m totally up for that, who isn’t ???
So after having massages at the hotel (read, pricey massages) we decided to check out one in the city, I chose for ten feet tall and I chose well, it’s a gift ;)
The numerous massage rooms in that place were a never ending story. The staff is nice and everything was clean. Oh and they have fresh limonades and tea’s and all the gossip and hipster magazines one can imagine!
I always go for a foot massage and hands and head if possible, it’s where your nerves end which give you that amazing sensation if you know what I’m talking about. No I’m not talking about that happy ending feeling, but it get’s very close to it… and if you’re looking for that happy ending one? I don’t think they ‘serve’ it at ten feet tall but you’ll definitely will find it in HK.
We went back the next day for more, and again it was more than we expected, that sums it all up.
ABERDEEN STREET aka EXPAT STREET
Aberdeen street is located in HK Central and it seemed to me it was mostly a filled with expats area, but ok HK in general is most likely a multiculti / expat destination.
You’ll find young families with their strollers having brunch, cute little interior and fashion shops, hairdressers, barbers, coffee bars, terraces…