Hong Kong mileage run: departure

By now I was much more adept at navigating my way around the Sheung Wan and Central Stations, so finding my way back to the airport express train was a breeze. I had a little cash left over from my ATM withdrawl budget, so I headed upstairs to the macaron place to see if they had the cheese one available. Success!

The train arrived a minute after I went back to the station and the trip to the airport was uneventful. I checked in easily, cleared customs and made my way to The Wing Business class lounge to hang out before my flight.

The food on AA was awful on the way to Hong Kong so I decided to fill up on Dan Dan noodles and a steamed pork bun at the Noodle Bar before boarding. With champagne of course. I had my own little pod with a plug for charging my electronics which was great.

my little pod while waiting for my flight  dan dan noodles and steamed pork bun @ The Wing

Per usual, the boarding process was more hectic than it needed to be. I was near the front of the Business / Priority / Platinum / etc. line but there were people in Group 2 trying to board through the first class line ahead of us and no overhead announcements just added to the confusion. There was a mandatory bag search at the end of the jetbridge – presumably looking for larger liquids. I cleared that quickly and made my way to my window (again! yeah!) seat in Main Cabin Extra.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover the flight back would take about 2/3 of the time of the flight there. I managed to sleep a bit and watch movies for the rest of the time. The two guys next to me never got up to stretch or use the restroom so I had to be “that person” twice to relieve myself and change back into my normal travel clothes.

Thanks to Global Entry, clearing immigration in the US was a breeze. DFW has several kiosks but many were out of order and there were apparently a lot of folks on my flight with GE so I had to wait a few minutes until a machine was free. After that, I sailed through PreCheck and made my way from Terminal D to Terminal A for my connecting flight.

The Hong Kong flight arrived about 90 minutes early, so I decided to try my luck with the earlier flight into Raleigh. The woman at the lounge was helpful — and thankfully there was space for me — so I arrived home about two hours earlier than scheduled! :)

Hong Kong mileage run: day 2

I didn’t sleep well the night before, so I awoke early and made myself a list of things to do before I headed out tomorrow afternoon.

1. Buy French macarons

I had researched a famous place before I left but upon arrival, I found a few different options that also had good reviews and weren’t nearly as pricey. A location of Le Goûter Bernardaud is located inside the IFC tower (one MTR stop away from my hotel) and once I found a map of the mall it was easy to find. A first for me on this trip! The gift box of eight sweets was $148 (about $17USD) and although they didn’t have the “cheese” flavor, I managed to fill the box. :) [Side note: I went back the next day and the cheddar flavor was available!]

macarons!

2. Man Ho Temple

This small temple was only a few blocks from my hotel, so I peeked inside on my way to PMQ. So. Much. Incense. There were coils of burning incense everywhere and it made my eyes sting after a few minutes. This was a busy (working) temple so I mostly kept out of the way and snapped a few photos when possible.

Man Ho temple

3. PMQ

At breakfast I was seated next to two Americans visiting Hong Kong on business and Justine recommended PMQ as somewhere to explore. It’s a pop-up art community with lots of little artisan shops over several levels. There was a large variety of items for sale from custom handmade leather bags to terrariums, handmade jewelry and aspiring clothing designers. Throw in a few bakeries and coffee shops and you have a good way to spend an hour or two. However, you won’t catch me paying the equivalent of $8USD for pour-over coffee though – no matter where it’s from.

PMQ

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After that, I took a mid-day break for a Scottish stout at the Globe pub in SoHo. A comfy couch and my Agatha Christie novel was a welcome hour-long reprieve from navigating my way around.

4. Egg tart at Tai Cheong Bakery

Yum. Even better than I remembered and only $0.75USD. This beauty lasted about 20 seconds.

egg tart from Tai Cheong Bakery

5. Graham Street Wet Market

From Hollywood Road to Queen’s Road Central, Graham Street is full of vendors selling fresh fruit, meats, fish and even orchids. I saw a shop where one fig was the same price as one avocado (~$1.55USD). I also spied Driscolls brand raspberries and blackberries – the California brand popular in the US!

Graham Street wet market

6. Eat more dim sum

I went back to Tim Ho Wan and ordered the steamed rice roll with BBQ pork. The pork was tasty but the rice roll, well, lets just say the gluey texture was not for me. Oh well, at least I tried it and at $2.50 it didn’t break the bank. I also returned to Dim Sum Square and this time I had the Xiaolongbao, Siu Mai and Creamy Custard Buns. Everything was delicious and I cannot recommend this place more. I had mentioned it at breakfast and guess who I ran into at the end of my meal? :)

Dim Sum Square menu

xiaolongbao (soup dumplings)

Hong Kong mileage run: day 1

Saturday

I woke up early after a restful night’s sleep and got some computer work done after breakfast and before heading out to two different gardens.

Hong Kong Park — This is a lovely greenspace with lots of flowers, turtles sunning themselves on rocks in a large pond and a walk-through aviary. All free. I managed to get a few shots of the feathery guys eating on the fruit stations but the low point was getting pooped on by a Bali Mynah bird. :(

Hong Kong Park   parrots

Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens — After a few wrong turns (sensing a theme here?) I managed to find my way over to this zoo. Also free. There are many varieties of unusual primates and while it was nice to see these creatures up close, it reminded me why I don’t like zoos very much. There are lots of places to sit and marvel at the fact that this park is completely surrounded by skyscrapers.

sign for park gorilla statue @ botanical gardens

I was getting hungry at this point so I headed to Hong Kong station’s basement to try my luck at Tim Ho Wan – a famous dim sum place. The crowd was large, so I opted for take-away instead of a long wait. My steamed shrimp dumplings were very good but I noticed them being roughly dumped into my take-away container so one was busted open. The baked BBQ pork buns were also good but a bit too sweet for my tastes. I spied some folks eating outside on the ground level entrance amidst a large courtyard area, so that’s where I camped to enjoy my dim sum.

the crowd @ Tim Ho Wan   Ha Gao (shrimp crystal dumpling)

At this point my photo-taking and wandering with Google maps had drained my phone battery, so I headed back to the room to recharge and give my feet a break.

After an hour or so break I took the MTR to Kowloon Island to find my favorite souvenir shop, Elegant Tang Dynasty and pick up a few things.

my favorite shopping place!   Haiphong Road

Nathan Road was absolutely packed with people and it was hard to maneuver around the crowds. After ducking into a few stores, I decided to head to the harbor for the nightly laser light show.

nightly laser show from Kowloon

On the way, I grabbed a green tea ice cream cone at McDonald’s (I know, but it was green tea flavored!) and found a spot along the railing. Unfortunately is was very hazy and there was no music to accompany the lights were I was so I wandered off after a few minutes and went on the hunt for the Din Tai Fung location in the Silvercord Mall.

Most of the food places are in the basement but Din Tai Fung is on one of the top floors after several rounds of escalators. I was only one person and mentioned I wouldn’t mind sharing a table but when ten minutes went by and the 1-2 person number didn’t change I gave up (I was still eight numbers away). I had been to the flagship location in Taipei several times a few weeks ago and noticed that the Hong Kong location was more expensive and charged for tea. Boo.

Instead, I hustled back to Sheung Wan and managed to snag a seat at Dim Sum Square (the place that was closed the night before). I was seated with a lady and her young son and after a bit of staring and then a polite/shy hello out of the boy, we mostly kept to ourselves. They were out of xiaolongbao but I did get the crystal shrimp dumplings (Ha Gao), the baked BBQ pork buns and an order of the shrimp, pork and roe dumplings. Everything was absolutely tasty.

Dim Sum Square  Sui Mai (pork, shrimp and crab roe dumplings)

Ha Gao (shrimp crystal dumplings)  Baked BBQ Pork Bun

I was pretty beat from walking around all day, so I opted to chill in the room and catch up on some stuff before bed.

Hong Kong mileage run: arrival

Technically this trip started on Wednesday evening as I flew to Dallas and spent the night before continuing on to Hong Kong on Thursday morning. I am glad I did this because the middle seat was open next to me due to a lady who missed her connection from Houston that morning. Plus, I overheard another guy who realized he forgot his passport and was wondering if they would let him board without it? Not likely, I’m guessing.

Friday evening

After a relatively uneventful but long flight from DFW to HKG – I arrived at the airport to a thankfully short immigration line and a quick connection via the airport train to Central Station. One strange thing — I received no entry stamp in my passport for this visit; I had a small slip of loose paper (that I couldn’t lose) instead.

And here’s where things got fun (not really).

Hong Kong is a multi-level city that is very compact, so the GPS on my phone was having a difficult time pin-pointing me which, in turn, made it very hard for me to figure out what direction to take. After a few false starts I finally managed to make it out of the gigantic IFC mall area and after thirty minutes of walking (in mostly the correct direction) I found my hotel. Whew! (Probably didn’t help that I was tired and disoriented after being on an airplane for 18+ hours!)

My queen room at the Holiday Inn Express Soho was fine. The bed was a bit firm for my tastes and there was only a large container of body wash / shampoo in the shower but overall it was a pretty good value with the included breakfast and short walk to the MTR. They also had a choice of soft and firm pillows on the bed and two bottles of water for free each day. There was a warning not to drink the tap water without boiling it first so the bottled water was necessary for teeth brushing.

my room @ Holiday Inn Express

view from the 26th floor
my view of Victoria Peak from the 26th floor

At this point I had only eaten airport lounge and airplane food for 24 hours (meh.) and while I wasn’t super hungry I knew I had to get something solid in me or else I would wake up grouchy. The dim sum place next to the hotel was closed by the time I checked in and headed out again, then I attempted to locate a pub we had been to before but couldn’t find it, so I settled on a wine bar instead. I ordered a glass of rose and a curry roti appetizer and found a comfy corner seat. While my dinner was reasonably priced and good, the place was very loud and I only lasted as long as my first glass.

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Of course, I found the first pub I was looking for as I wandered back to the hotel. Sigh.