As blog content has once again grown kind of light–with pending blog posts in various (early) stages of completion–I thought I’d share some photos from a recent trip to Hong Kong, a city I visited frequently as a kid, but haven’t returned to in several years. As I wasn’t diligent about photographing every meal, I’ve included some supplemental travel tidbits for heft.
———————————— Where to Stay ————————————
As much as you can, avoid paying cash for rooms if you have points socked away in hotel loyalty programs, as hotel points have better redemption value in China than they do domestically. And unless there are specific sites (like Disneyland) that you plan to visit outside of Kowloon and Hong Kong Island, don’t stay too far from the shores of Victoria Harbour if you plan to explore by foot.
I stayed at two IHG properties of similar ratings during my visit–InterContinental Hong Kong and InterContinental Grand Stanford Hong Kong. The two are about 1km apart, and both situated along Victoria Harbour. If prices are comparable during your visit, the former has (imo) better rooms, a better location, a better breakfast buffet (more below), and a better view, thus is the superior choice (again imo).
(Another reason to stay at the Intercontinental Hong Kong: Even if all of your dinner plans fall through, you can still get a last-minute reservation at Nobu, based at the hotel, which is $$$ but a worthy splurge.)
———————————— Hotel Food ————————————
Breakfast buffets at multi-star Chinese hotels rarely disappoint; still, I thought Harbourside at InterContinental Hong Kong is among the finest, though at 330 HKD per person (plus a 10% service charge) it is not inexpensive. There is a good mix of western and eastern fare, with made-to-order egg and noodle stations.
My favorite part of the buffet is pastries. Were it not for the fact that I avoid hotel restaurants as much as I can when traveling for leisure, I probably would’ve eaten here most meals.
———————————— Afternoon Tea ————————————
I originally planned to have tea at four different places in anticipation of rainy conditions during my visit, but the skies cleared up for my visit and allowed for more aimless wandering, so the only appointments I kept was at Lobby Lounge at InterContinental Hong Kong (the view here of Hong Kong’s skyline is just exceptional. The afternoon tea served here is also rather affordable–488 HKD for two–in comparison to like establishments) and Café 103 at The Ritz-Carlton for the MOSCHINO afternoon tea (which sadly ended in September; for October the theme is “Pretty in Pink Afternoon Tea,” in support of Breast Cancer Awareness month). Now, I really don’t love traditional afternoon tea food, but am easily sold by themed teas. The price is 688 HKD for two plus a 10% service charge.
———————————— Hot Pot ————————————
At a friend’s recommendation, I tried making a reservation at Market Hotpot a few weeks before my trip, but the online reservation system would not process my request, so I was prepared for an hours-long wait for dinner. To my surprise, when I arrived in Hong Kong, the hotel concierge told me that, during the week at around opening time (5:30PM), I should be seated quickly even without a reservation. And he was right! I waited all of 15 minutes at around 6PM on a Wednesday for the best meal of my visit.
If you like really flavorful food, get the whole chicken and fish maw soup stock; you won’t regret it. (I had a limited number of meals to eat given the shortness of my visit, but couldn’t resist a return visit here.) A meal for two costs about 600 HKD (the soup stocks are $158-398; plates of meat/seafood run $48-328; and vegetable plates are $30-35).
———————————— SHA TIN ————————————
The mega New Town Plaza in Sha Tin is only an hour and a half away by public transit from Shenzhen, so this enormous mall is always packed with tourists from the mainland. Even though it is really far away from where I stayed, I took a taxi here to people watch, and when dinnertime rolled around, I ate at Sichuan Garden at New Town Plaza, though it is hardly the clear choice, with the multitude of dining options within the mall. The food is good, but not exceptional. Only eat here if you find yourself in my situation: hungry at mealtime, and an escalator away from the establishment. It’s got a pretty big menu with dishes at various price points: from $70 for appetizers to $300 for the duck.
———————————— Siu Mei ————————————
Cha siu and fried egg on rice is my go-to when I am in Hong Kong, and I normally get the dish to go… to eat on a curb somewhere. They are (mostly) all delicious when you are in HK, so I won’t make you look for anything specific on that front.
If you have a more discriminating palate, I would recommend Kam’s Roast Goose (in Wan Chai), the recipient of one Michelin star and best known for the roast goose in its name. At a minimum, order the roast goose and char siu. And if you like fatty meat, get the barbecue pork belly and suckling pig.
If you arrive early enough in the day, the roast-meat-on-rice dishes are quite affordable: $43-$80; for meat the price ranges from $70 for the char siu to $820 for a whole roast suckling pig.
As there is seemingly always a line in front of Kam’s, if you change your mind while standing in line, Joy Hing’s Roasted Meat, another amazing siu mei place, is only a few blocks away.
Another siu mei restaurants that I like: Yung Kee Restaurant (yeah yeah I know it’s tired/overhyped and kind of overpriced, but it’s still delicious).
———————————— DimSum ————————————
A few HK-based friends recommended Sun Hing Restaurant (in Sai Wan/Western District) to me, as I am a salted-egg-yolk-custard-bun (liu sha bao) enthusiast, and the baos made here are considered a gold standard. Now, I wouldn’t recommend this place to those with stringent cleanliness standards for dining (this is a place where washing your eating utensils with tea is necessary imo), but for everyone else: like most standalone restaurants in HK, it is tiny, thus patrons are expected to share tables, and often you will be asked to get up and switch seats mid-meal to make room for new diners. But the setting is vibrant, and the diners are locals and eager to chat–an especially friendly couple enthusiastically recommended their favorite dining establishments for me. Price-wise, dishes are $17-$25 each + $8 for tea.
If you don’t speak Cantonese or Mandarin, you will encounter some difficulty, but don’t let that dissuade you from visiting: upon entering, gesture the size of your party with hand signals–people dine quickly so you shouldn’t have to wait too long for a place at a table; a server will quickly follow up and ask you what kind of tea you want (most places serve pu’er, oolong, shuǐxiān, jasmine/xiāngpiàn, and shòuméi). The server will then bring you tea, a washbowl, your stamp ticket, and tableware; you are expected to “wash” your wares with the tea. Then you can either wait for fresh food to be brought out on trays, or fetch lukewarm ones from behind the cash register yourself. I would recommend grabbing the food as it’s being brought out. When you are done eating, take your stamp ticket and pay at the register by the door.
While I did not put Tim Ho Wan (claim to fame: one of the world’s cheapest Michelin-star restaurant) on my list for this visit, because they have an outpost in NYC, my resolve crumbled when I found only a very short line in front of one its five locations in Hong Kong. The dim sum here is delicious, and the price is reasonable, but it’s not so good that I would stand in line for an hour (let alone hours) for a table. If you must eat here but keep finding winding lines outside, order the food to go (~15-minute wait); just remember to eat it quickly. Each dish is $12-$32 + $3 per person for tea.
———————————— Street Food ————————————
I lost count of how many visits I paid to Mammy Pancake (multiple locations) for egg waffles (or gai daan jai in Cantonese) in my short trip, but the chocolate chip eggettes (perfectly crispy with just the right amount of cake-y-ness on the inside) were so addictive. In comparison, the eggettes I’ve had in the U.S. all seem really sad, limpy, and underwhelming.
I was not adventurous on the eggettes front, and kept going back to the same chain for the same flavor egg waffle. From what I hear, the other stalls are just as good.
I also ate a lot of fish balls–plain, spicy, curry, in a soup, on a stick, with noodles–the spicy ones seen below are from 新永兴美食坊/xinyongxingmeishifang. I admit to having an unrefined palate so couldn’t tell which of the various stalls I purchased fish balls from was superior. None of it is bad, though, either.
———————————— Bing Sutt ————————————
Bing sutts are old-timey cafes in HK: they typically serve cold beverages–like coffee and milk tea–with sandwiches and pastries. I’d recommend visiting Chrisly Cafe (several locations) if you happen to find one without a long line in front it.
Bing sutts in recent years have been replaced by cha chaan teng, with Australia Dairy Company being one of the best known. It also has a long wait at all hours of the day, but if you don’t mind lines, this is also a fun dining experience (if your idea of fun includes dining shoulder-to-shoulder with people).
———————————— Fast Food ————————————
I am a huge fan of KFC in China and Taiwan, but found the franchise mostly underwhelming in Hong Kong, so only went once. I did visit McDonald’s a few times (as they are everywhere) and tried a number of things on its menu and brought home some extra seaweed and mentaiko seasoning packets. Overall unmemorable, though, so I would recommend skipping western fast food and getting fish balls and stinky tofu instead.
———————————— What to Pack ————————————
For this two-week trip that took me first to Taiwan, and then to Hong Kong/China, I stuck close to the script of my “ultimate travel wardrobe,” but made some necessary tweaks: 1) I added some “work” pieces for a few work meetings; 2) I needed neither sweaters nor jackets because of the sweltering heat; and 3) I packed rain gear as unending rain (which fortunately didn’t happen) was in the weather forecast.
And as I was on the move every few days, I limited myself to a backpack, the Osprey Porter 30-Liter Travel Duffel Bag, and my Longchamp Le Pliage Expandable Tote, in which I carried just my laptop, other electronics, and important documents and IDs. The following–sans rain boots and rain jacket which I wore on travel days–fit nicely in my backpack:
♥ a tailored blazer (additional options here) and a linen shirtdress
♥ ankle rain boots (more short rain boots here) and a rain jacket (more rain jackets here)
♥ a pair of sneakers for impromptu hikes and general exploring (more “lifestyle” sneakers here)
♥ several pairs of jogger pants, wide leg crop pants, and leggings
♥ stretchy fit-and-flare dress (more options here) and silk jumpsuit (more options here)
♥ small crossbody bag
♥ quick-drying active tank tops, t-shirts, bodysuits, and jackets (I really like tops from Uniqlo’s “Airism” collection)
♥ dressy sandals
♥ a lightweight scarf (more options here)
———————————— Trip Notes ————————————
♥ Winter is the best time to visit Hong Kong, imo. As much as possible, avoid July/August/September as the humidity and heat can be unpleasant, not to mention that period is peak typhoon season in the area.
♥ When I visited, the exchange rate was ~7.8 HKD to 1 USD.
♥ Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated cities in the world, and in urban areas like Tsim Sha Tsui, the flow of pedestrian traffic compares to that of Time Square on New Year’s Eve. If you, like me, like quieter living, plan a shorter trip of four days or fewer.
♥ Google Maps is an adequate tool for navigating Hong Kong by foot (or by public transit), with potential complications that arise when you account for covered footbridges and underground cities.
♥ The MTR is easy to use, with clearly marked stations and routes. If you can, avoid taking taxis on longer (or cross-island) trips, as those rides tend to be fairly expensive with tolls and traffic.
♥ In Hong Kong, as in Guangdong, it is customary to “wash” your utensils and dishes in hot tea or water before you dine. This is a vestige of distrust in dining establishments to properly wash tableware. While it is no longer necessary, it is certainly an entertaining tradition to partake in.