Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Hong Kong

I've always considered myself a city girl. Growing up in the sleepy suburbs of Western Washington, I have grown to despise the quietness and lack of excitement of living in a 3-story house surrounded by nauseatingly nice neighbors and pleasantness in general. That's why, when I was given the opportunity to go to Hong Kong, even for a few days, I squealed with excitement. For quite a while I was craving the rush and excitement of being lost in a giant metropolis, a thick urban jungle that stretches as far as the eye could see. Hong Kong, with its population of 7 million people squished onto a tiny island in southern China, satisfied my cravings quite nicely in both the atmosphere and culinary triumph.

However, my entire trip was not quite spent in Hong Kong. We first flew from Seattle down to San Francisco, home of one of the nation's largest airports (by the way, I cannot understand why they put such a giant airport in a place with such bad weather problems). Due to fog, our flight was delayed for two hours. During those two hours, the flight to Hong Kong from San Francisco left without us. Thus, my mother and I ended up spending the night in SF. I confess, at first I was dreading having to do this. Being a bitter, snide and moody Seattlite, my conception of California in general consisted of sun-worshipping, obnoxious orange people running around with bleach blonde hair flaunting as much skin as legally possible. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that San Francisco was quite a swanky city, at least the downtown area. I spent an entire day walking around, looking at high-end stores and dreamily window shopping at the local Gucci outlet. The food in the Chinatown area was also quite delectable, but it was nothing compared to what was in store for me in Hong Kong.

Upon arriving in Hong Kong, I was immediately blasted by a solid wall of 90 degree weather, 70% humidity and the lovely aroma of Hong Kong sewage that is ever present in Victoria harbor. Usually I am very irked by such things as hot weather and bad smelling places, but with the thought of food blaring loud and clear inside my head, such trivial matters were cast aside. After leaving the airport, we met up with my aunt in a buffet at Hotel Excelsior on Hong Kong Island (Hong Kong consists of three main subdistricts: HK Island, Kowloon, and New Territories). In terms of dining, the next few days proceeded in a similar fashion--meeting up with relatives who wouldn't stop raving about how much I've grown since I was two years old and, due to my influency in Cantonese, treated me like a goddamn white tourist instead of a person who's been raised in an Asian household. However, the food was amazingly delicious, so I wasn't one to complain.

And, of course, every meal is accompanied with a nice cold glass of Hong Kong style milk tea:

In my opinion, this is the best thing to drink in such disgustingly hot weather. I'm craving one right now as I type this, and I'm at home in Seattle relaxing to 73 degree weather.

For those who are not familiar with Hong Kong style cuisine (which is slightly different than regular Chinese food), the best thing to eat during lunch time is dim sum. It's where waiters go around the restaurant pushing carts full of food, stopping by each table and offering a wide variety of small dishes. It's kind of like a sushi conveyor belt, minus the conveyor belt. My personal favorite dishes are sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves, ha gao (shrimp wrapped in...hell, I don't know what it is, I just eat it), beef balls with vegetables, and beef chow fun. Of course, there are way more dishes than this, these are just the ones I enjoy eating the most.

Being a girl, of course food wasn't the only reason why I came to Hong Kong. Asian fashion is a world all on its own. I wouldn't say that it is mutually exclusive to Western fashion; I mean, they do follow the general trends set by major European fashion houses, but they add their own twist to it to make it exclusively Asian. And of course, every woman must have either an LV or Burberry bag at all time. These might or might not be real, however.

Outfits usually look like they're thrown on at last minute, but somehow they work quite nicely. It doesn't follow the rules. It's innovative. It's sometimes quite outlandish. It's different.

Shopping in Hong Kong can be a bit pricey, but it can also be very cheap if you know where to look. Forget all the large shopping malls and department stores; where you want to go is the Kowloon area, more specifically, Mong Kok and Causeway Bay. Look for little markets and hidden shopping centers. That's where you'll find the good cheap stuff. Accessories such as necklaces go for around 20HKD--around $2.50USD. I scored several pairs of shorts for $30 each ($3.75 US) and many, many pairs of legwarmers for around the same price. I left Hong Kong with a full suitcase, but surprisingly a not-so-empty wallet.

However, my shopping crusades were not over yet. Realizing that there was no way we were getting to San Francisco with just a couple of standby tickets, we instead flew to Tokyo, Japan, for an overnight stay. To my disappointment, we didn't have enough time to take the train to downtown Tokyo where all the action is, but instead stayed in the small airport city of Narita. The next day, before we left for the airport, we stopped by the AEON shopping mall to have a look-see. Due to previous shenanigans in Japan, I realize that the clothing they sell at this mall is a more "tame" version than what you see in downtown Tokyo. It was a lot like what I saw in Hong Kong, except more expensive. And yes, I bought more legwarmers. I am ready for winter!

And you know what I'm craving right now? This stuff:

This delicious thing consists of sweetened coconut milk with tiny tapioca bubbles (sago). It tastes even better with purple rice or some sort of fruit, like strawberries or mango. The perfect summer treat.

Being the daughter of a flight attendant, I've been bitten by the travel bug ever since I was a small child, with no hope for a cure. Who knows where my travels will next take me? Rio? Moscow? Athens? Bangkok?
Until next time,


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