Travel Blog: Dim Sum Delights in Hong Kong
Drawn by the promise of lush hikes, cooler weather, and legit dim sum, Tom and I finally ventured to Hong Kong. I had been there once before for work but my explorations during that time period were limited to the short walk between my hotel room and the office. My impression of Hong Kong from that short excursion was that it a) was really hilly and steep, and b) had been built up in the 70’s and 80’s and hadn’t been power washed since. As we trudged from the MTR to our Airbnb on a damp Friday night I confirmed that my initial impression had been spot on.
I had forgotten how coveted and expensive space is there. If Manhattan and San Francisco had an Asian love-child (and if Manhattan was built in the 70’s) it would be Hong Kong. The apartments are cramped and eye-wateringly expensive. While there’s a concentration of obscenely rich people who can afford to blow $3 million on a 2-bedroom apartment, most people suck it up and either live with their family or learn to love sleeping on top of their washer and dryer with one foot in the bathroom.
We decided to try some trekking and headed out into the cool, overcast day in late morning. While the weather was fairly pleasant at the start of our journey, it soon turned into a slow, depressing drizzle of acid rain. By the time we had taken the 40 minute MTR ride and packed bus out to the trail, it was downright pouring. Neither of us was dressed for chilly rain, but we were so pissed about coming all that way for nothing we attempted to hike the trail under an umbrella...which was quickly abandoned in favor of hot-footing it back to the bus.
We rode back to the city for some indoor activities to tide us over until the rain stopped, one of which included lunch. We ended up eating at a local chain that had pretty delicious and reasonably priced food. Having spent $100 on a few tasty but unapologetically small and unsatisfying dishes the night before a budget meal was greatly appreciated. I got a bowl of what basically amounted to a salt bath with cabbage, MSG, and mushrooms. This is not a dig – I love me some salty soup.
It finally stopped raining mid-afternoon so we trundled back to the trail for round two. Perhaps it was actually fragrant, or maybe it was just such a stark change from the pollution that blanketed the city, but the air smelled fabulous up there. The rain had also scared most of the other would-be hikers away and we almost had the trail to ourselves. It was perfect weather for hiking, too: low 70’s with a whisper of a breeze now and then. We breezed through the trail and took the bus back to the city to get dinner.
Again, we were underwhelmed by the food. While some dishes were downright delicious (the ‘1000 year old’ silken tofu sliced wafer thin and seafood egg white custard were fantastic) others were just kind of gross. I’m about as western as it gets and it grosses me out when my poultry is served cold and contains as much gristle and bone as meat. Not to mention this is no small challenge to navigate with chopsticks. I’m paying for it, the least you can do is make it easy for me to eat it!
Sunday was much better, both in terms of hiking and food. In the morning we went on a trail promising breathtaking views and it didn’t disappoint. Though I huffed and puffed up what seemed like an endless number of steep stairs (apparently I'm "gym-fit" not real life fit), when we eventually scaled the peaks it was beautiful. We were in the middle of several forested hills fringed by bay beaches, and we could see Hong Kong island and what was probably China – but my elementary/middle schools skimped on geography so I really have no idea. Apparently there was also a lot of pent up demand for hikes due to the previous day’s weather; we passed people every five minutes or so going the other way. Some were Asian people blasting what sounded like Chinese elevator music, which I found hilarious. The next hike I attempt on will definitely include a soundtrack.
After our hike we went to Victoria Harbour to watch the ferries and admire the cityscape, then ducked into a food court to get some hillbilly dim sum. To be honest, our $20 lunch of shrimp dumplings and pork shu mei was the best food we’d had in Hong Kong. That, and the egg tart we shared for dessert was outstanding. Major props for that.
Hong Kong was great to visit, but, much like New York, I couldn’t picture myself living there. Singapore is much more my speed. Although I was pleasantly surprised by how friendly random people were. A few people offered to help us without prompting when they saw me talking to a bus driver or to someone in a restaurant who didn’t appear to understand what I was trying to say. Note to self: learn Cantonese one of these days...