Hong Kong

By bskinna

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I've been here for under 20 hours so take this with a grain of salt, but I love Hong Kong. Everywhere I look it's neon signs and burning incense and gorgeous skyline.

I got in around 7 last night and found my hostel after only three trips back and forth across the same intersection and two kindly stranger interventions (pretty good for me!). Passed out hard around 8 and slept through till morning, take that jet leg. I made my way to a famous noodle shop but it didn't open until noon, so I wandered around the Kowloon fruit markets until my stomach and raging caffeine headache won out and I popped into an anonymous diner that was crowded with locals. Ordered butter toast, a fried egg, a beef noodle soup and coffee strong enough to peel paint off a barn. Apparently restaurants here give everyone a cup of weak tea to rinse off their silverware/chopsticks in. Wish I would have read that somewhere before I gulped down a full cup of it. The lady sitting next to me caught my eye and gave the barest of head shakes, then gestured to her own cup holding her spoon. Too late. I was on glass two, although that did explain the waitresses laughter.

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A little bit in love with Tim Hau Temple. Huge cones of incense smolder dangling from the ceiling and the smoke is illuminated by beams of sunlight coming through the elaborately carved open roof. It was almost ludicrously evocative, the type of place that makes me wish I could paint or take a decent photograph. I'd like to go back before I leave.

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After a ride on the crazy efficient metro I took in Sik Sik Yuen Wong Temple. It was a much larger complex, and beautiful. Big crowds of people surrounded each of the temples wafting incense and bowing in worship. Many left fruit or candy offerings at the alters. Visitors weren't allowed inside any of the temples which was too bad, but the facades made the trip more than worthwhile.

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First of what I'm sure will be many dim sum meals, and it set the bar pretty damn high! I waited too long to eat and finally crowded into my shared table at the apparently very popular One Dim Sum restaurant shaky and feeling a little sick. I was following the advice of my taxi driver, but once I got there I realized I'd read about it already in the older Michelin star guide.

I ordered steamed pork buns, glutinous rice, beef meatballs, and some fried little mystery pop-ems that melted in your mouth and will feature heavily in my dreams from now on. Divine. Everything was delightful, and that's only about 15% the overwhelming hunger talking. Cheap too! I paid under $10 for one of the best lunches I've had to date.

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Hit the star ferry for sunset over Victoria bay. Akoni's landed and making his way to the hostel, I was worried I'd pass out if I stayed up in the room, but my feet were begging for mercy. I hit up one of the "foot reflexology" places for a 30 minute massage, and it has changed my life. Honestly I would pay another $15 to lay in their cozy chair with a heated blanket and neck wrap again.

We're grabbing ramen for dinner than turning in early. Akoni with justifiable jet leg, and myself with "secretly 85 in her 20's" syndrome. But first, a quick ride on star ferry to take in the light show!

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Hit up the legendary "cheapest Michelin star restaurant" in the world. We queued up meekly after watching the hostess get into a Cantonese screaming match with an older gentleman, but ended up only waiting like 5 minutes for our table. Most of the fare was pretty standard- well prepared and some of the better dim sum I've had, but nothing that blew me away. But the pork buns. Jesus Mary and Joseph, the.pork.buns. Light and airy with a slight crunch outside and BBQ'd pork inside that melted in your mouth. I could write a sonnet about them and still have more to say.

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Hoofed it all over HK today in my adorable green oxfords...and I was ready to cry from foot pain 7 hours in. Sneakers, looks like you and I will be spending quite a bit of time together on this trip. We'd read about a spa in central district before coming here that sounded nice, so we made our way over hoping to unwind before dinner and drinks tonight. I was thinking wistfully of the lovely place I went to yesterday (that also happens to be directly across the street from my hostel...) but Akoni seemed keen to check this one out, so I figured no biggie. A huge construction project was going on the floor beneath the facilities and it was hard to hear anything over the shriek of drills and hammers. We left immediately and high tailed it back to what I'm now pretty certain is the best place on earth, aka the massage place next to Urban Pack.

We somehow accidentally signed up for a couples massage (despite ordering and paying totally separately) and no amount of language barrier-ed conversation or gestures seemed to get across "hey this is just my buddy and we really don't want to see each other naked" so we just rolled with it. The massage lady spent easily 15 minutes laughing at us because we'd put on the wrong outfits. I was in the mans robe (which failed to meet over my chest by about...a full foot. That sent my masseuses into hysterics. She cupped her own chest, pointed at mine and howled laughing. I don't care, after what she did to the knots in my shoulders I'd still propose) and Akoni the woman's crop top. Clearly, we were killing it.

An hour and forty minutes of aromatherapy-warmed neck wrap-tub soaking-magic massages followed all the laughter. I emerged a changed person. My singular goal in life is now to get that cozy and pampered again. The hunt is on.

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Hanging out in the middle of the most elaborate mall I've ever been inside. There's like 5 Chanel's in here. Why? How? Who even? We popped in (along with what feels like the entire population of Hong Kong) to grab a Korean desert Akoni's been craving. Shaved ice topped with a red bean sauce and powder. Wasn't really my cup of tea, but I don't have a huge sweet tooth. We're hanging out resting our feet until the harbor tour starts at 8. Turns out it's doesn't matter where they are, I hate malls. Too many slow walking people and screaming children.

Spent the day exploring Victoria Peak and the central neighborhood! Crowded but beautiful. It really showed how insanely large the city is here, amazing.

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Really leaned into the tourist thing today and am currently watching the sun set over Sleeping Beauty's Castle listing to a brass band play Christmas carols. This Disneyland is quite a bit smaller than the California original, but it's still adorable. It's brought a weird amount of nostalgia for my childhood up, but I guess that what Disneyland is for, haha.

We grabbed dynamite egg tarts by the hostel for breakfast, and then it was a quick train ride from Kawloon (maybe 40 minutes?) till coffee on Main Street USA. My feet are approaching critical failure levels of pain (I'm picturing just collapsing as they explode on the walk home), but we have seen every land and rode every ride AND I've secured a coveted bench seat to watch the tree lighting ceremony and later fireworks.

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Sipping my milk tea in the delightfully old school Mido Cafe early this morning. Weak sunlight is streaming through the yellow and blue painted window panes and Hong Kong style French toast is an ultra decadent fluffy fried delight. I'm solo until this evening, after being surrounded and buffeted my people all week I'm reveling in the quiet. Akoni is the worlds best travel companion, but I have a three day max with even delightful company. There's nothing more freeing than wandering by yourself in a foreign city.

I'm going to pop back into the Tin Hau Temple as it's right across the street, then make the trek out to the Big Buddha. It's a bit overcast, but I don't mind. Atmospherically I think the giant bronze statue looming in the hills and clouds will be perfect.

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There's always something before a trip that captures my imagination above all else. In Istanbul it was the gate of the dolmabahçe palace. In India it was the Jain Temple in Ranakpur. In NYC it was the Woolworth building. For whatever reason my brain latches onto an image and I spend the whole countdown to the trip looking up photos and projecting fantasies onto this one spot. For this trip, the image of the giant bronze Tian Tan Buddha tucked into the rolling misty hills and water of Lantau Island was my anthem.

Even the crowds of tourists couldn't take away from the experience. Serene and lovely perched on a lotus leaf, awe inspiring and massive, the Buddha contemplates the lush green hills that drape the countryside.

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This is the best public transit I've ever experienced. I haven't experienced a single second of a train delay or been in one that wasn't immaculate. What is NYC's problem?

People here walk very slowly. Maybe it's because their trains come every 2 minutes and they don't need to worry so much, but there's not a lot of pep in steps. To be fair, I am also about a foot and a half taller than most of the crowd.

There's clothing hanging out most of the apartment windows, but they don't seem to be drying lines. Just extra storage in a place where space is at a premium, maybe?

Old Chinese neon signs are the coolest aesthetic in maybe the whole world. What are the logistics of getting one home with me?

If anyone needs a ladies tailor, handbags or watches man oh man do I have a street for you.

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Meet a wine mentor of Akoni's for drinks and a quick snack at the Continental's adorable outdoor patio. She runs the hotel chains wine program and was super friendly and a sort of casual stylish that I aspire to. I was coming off the big Buddha hike and didn't have time to change so I was...less then my freshest self shall we say, but we all graciously pretended my sweat stained back pack was appropriate for the venue and we laughed and talked (their) shop and travel. It's crazy how immersive the wine world in for people who are really into it, I'd like to learn more.

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Hit up yardbird for our last dinner in HK. They do mostly chicken, all different parts skewer style. If that sounds boring, you are wrong and someone has served you wrong chicken. It was a goddamn delight.

We went pretty aggressive with the ordering, trying a ton of the skewers, a whole selection of the pickled veggies, and some interesting veggie sides. It was all fantastic but the standouts for me were the chicken hearts (so tender and flavorful!), the meatball served with the egg yolk dipping sauce (on the recommendation of the very cool bartender) and the Korean Fried Cauliflower (aka the KFC, which I thought was cute). The last one was on the recommendation of the wonderful @findingmomo who did not steer me wrong- so unique and tasty!

We wandered through Sohos eclectic mix of stairs and bars and shops oh so full and (on my end) fairly tipsy and glowing with good will. What a perfect day.

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Last day in HK, I'm hanging out in the very hip Coffee Academics waiting for an Uber to a curio shop I want to check out. I want a vintage karate movie poster to take home. Akoni and I have gone back and forth on preferred souvenir styles all trip.

Me: What, you just want something new and boring and Hong Branded that everyone buys?
Akoni: Well I don't want something that looks like it has a tiki curse on it, I'll tell you that much.

Touché sir. That is my exact aesthetic. I want my knickknacks to look like if they were polished in just the right place, a genie might escape.

Had black truffle buns for breakfast that might have been the best bite we took all trip, ps. Akoni just bounced to catch his flight to Seoul, sad to see him go! There is no better person to eat your way across a city with than the original M105 foodie .

I've got about two hours before I need to leave for the airport, and as excited as I am for Bangkok I already miss Hong Kong. Frantic energy, lush green space and nonstop phenomenal food, I'll be back!

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