An hour ferry ride from Hong Kong is the former Portuguese colony of Macau. Like Hong Kong, Macau is a special administrative zone of China. To enter Macau you need your passport. At the port we went through an immigration and passport stamp checkpoint before we could get on the ferry sailing to the Las Vegas of Asia.
Macau is a fascinating mix of European architecture blended with Chinese consumerism. In one day you can soak in some history, have authentic Portuguese and Chinese food and go spend everything but your ferry fare back (or that too) in one of the shiny casinos. To be honest, I was very confused — was I in Europe? No, but it didn’t feel like Asia either. All street names were listed in both languages. The very yellow St. Domic Church (pictured above) with the wonderful cobblestones in the Largo do Senado area are the perfect examples of Macau’s colonial past.
But then you look up and are reminded that it is the year of the dragon and that you can see China from this island.
Besides the parks and sidewalks, the other main reason I loved Hong Kong was the food. It was a food paradise. Beautiful food + new camera = a lot of photos. It was a trip full of new wonderful foods and a major moral dilemma as well. I suggest you eat before you read.
Tim Ho Wan: Dim Sum Restaurant
My friend from Wesleyan who is also on PiA, Sarah, sent me a helpful email about where to eat in Hong Kong. Up first on her list was Tim Ho Wan located at 2-8 Kwong Wah St., Mong Kok. When we arrived at 11 a.m. we were number 14 on the waitlist so we took a stroll through the local market where some very cheerful men making some buns let me take photos (above).
Why the long wait? Well, Tim Ho Wan was awarded a Michelin star a few years back. The move was seen as controversial because when people think Michelin, they tend to think of white linen, beautiful china, and so many forks and spoons that everyone is confused. But Michelin decided that a hole-in-the-wall popular dim sum place was worth the star and after trying the barbecue pork bun, I couldn’t agree more.
While waiting we were handed a menu where we checked off what we wanted. We ordered too much. The owner/supervisor laughed at us, but since our grand total for two people was only $16 it was worth it to try a lot. Victor decided to try beef tongue. I had eaten beef tongue once before in Ukraine, it was cold and in a jelly and I was told much later what it was. I enjoyed this hot version a lot more.
One of my favorite dishes was a cold vermicelli (at least what the menu called vermicelli) noodle filled with beef slices and some greens with a vinegar soy sauce. Delicious. And this was only the beginning of the meal…
About 12 days ago I woke up to a text message from Victor saying, “What if I came to Asia?” I smiled and thought it was highly unlikely and then went about the rest of my day. I guess I should never underestimate the power of an idea and an amazing price on round trip tickets from New York to Hong Kong. After working seven days in a row, so that I wouldn’t have to take vacation time, I got on a Garuda Indonesia flight from Jakarta to Hong Kong. A little over four hours later I was in Hong Kong and an hour after that (the transportation, metro and airport link are both fast and very clean in HK) I was sitting in the W Hotel (very, very nice) looking at the incredible view of Hong Kong:
Hong Kong is a dynamic, interesting city that made me drool over all the parks and sidewalks (and a waterfront promenade with Bruce Lee statue) — how I wish Jakarta was a walkable city. Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China. This former British colony’s relationship with China confuses me a bit. I think it was too far gone for China to try and change this capitalist loving cosmopolitan center, so Hong Kong has its own currency, flag (with an orchid, the one pictured above that only grows in HK), and Americans don’t need any visas to enter!
Victor and I stayed across from Hong Kong island in Kowloon. So to get over to Hong Kong island we paid a little less than 40 US cents and got on a Star Ferry to cross Victoria Harbor.
The lights at night make Hong Kong so attractive and the reflection on the water was phenomenal.
Several of the big buildings had light displays for Chinese New Year. It was interesting to see a city decked out for a holiday to the extent of Christmas that wasn’t Christmas.
To get a great view of Hong Kong we took the tram up to the Peak. The tram ride is a vertical shot straight up. This area was a favorite of the British colonials and still has the most expensive homes in Hong Kong (and some of the most expensive in the world).