A Half Day in Hong Kong

With exactly twelve hours to kill between landing in Hong Kong and that evening’s departure to Hawaii, we decided to head into the city for some lunch and a little window shopping.  Something I love about Hong Kong is how easy and convenient it is to get into (and around) the city from the airport.

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Tawn in his travel outfit and clear tote bag, waiting at the Admiralty MTR station as we connect from the Airport Express line to the Island line on our way to Causeway Bay.

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Something that amazes me about Hong Kong is the effectiveness of its transit.  Granted, this is partially a function of the relative density of the city, but I think a lot of credit goes to the design of the system.  With a population of 7 million residents, the MTR (the rail portion of the transit system) carries a daily average of about 4 million riders.  The main lines run with eight cars (the maximum) at all times and they seem to usually carry a crowd despite trains arriving every few minutes.  I can only hope that one day Bangkok manages to develop a transit infrastructure that is as integrated into residents’ daily use as Hong Kong’s is.

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Our destination was Causeway Bay, the heavily built-up shopping district on the northern side of Hong Kong Island.  This wonderfully retro pedestrian flyover is built along Yee Wo Street right at Pennington Street.  With the Hong Kong trams running down the middle of the street, it is easy to feel caught in a bit of a time warp.  Notice the stairs on the opposite side of the picture.

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When we passed by an hour later, there was a queue of people, mostly office workers, forming up the stairs.  We couldn’t confirm what they were queuing for, but Tawn thought it might be for a restaurant behind the scaffolding.  My suspicion is that it isn’t for a restaurant, as that would be a crazy amount of potential customers on a short lunch break.  I should have explored because if a place is attracting this much attention, it must be worth knowing about.

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The first stop was at the Causeway Bay branch of Taipei’s favorite dumpling house, Din Tai Fung.  There are those who say that the branches outside of Taiwan don’t live up to the standards of those inside the country.  My experience in Singapore has been positive but I was curious to see how the food compares in Hong Kong.

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I’ve written about Din Tai Fung on other occasions so won’t go into a lot of detail other than to say that with the exception of the Xiao Long Bao (upper right) and the spicy shrimp dumplings (lower left), the food was a bit bland.  We were actually considering sprinkling salt on everything.  Perhaps they’ve stopped using MSG, to the detriment of our taste buds!

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After lunch, we went to do a little shopping.  Well, window shopping.  Reportedly, the rents in this shopping area of Causeway Bay, which feature global retailers such as this Sogo shop from Japan, are among the highest in the world, nearly equal that of New York’s Fifth Avenue and London’s Sloane Street.

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Seeing the crowds, I’m reminded of Tokyo’s Shibuya district.  This is true even more true at night, when all the lights are on and the streets glow nearly as bright as day.

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After some shopping we headed to the Excelsior Hotel for an afternoon treat.  On the way there we passed the World Trade Center mall, which has this odd quasi-pedestrian area outside.  It is open to traffic as a driveway but there aren’t many cars.  Because of that, it feels sort of like a set on some Hollywood (or in this case, Hong Kong) movie studio back lot.

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The coffee shop at the Excelsior (which is a part of the Mandarin Oriental group) features Portuguese style egg tarts from Macau’s famous Lord Stow’s Bakery.  I found out about this when MIA Xangan Wangium posted some pictures on Facebook from his recent trip to Hong Kong.  Good to know both that Jason is still alive (although not posting very frequently here on Xanga – hint, hint) and that there is a convenient source for these tasty egg tarts.

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The thing about Portuguese versus the Chinese style egg tarts is that the tops are lightly caramelized so they are a bit like eating creme brulee.  Very rich, but with a coffee or tea to cut through the richness, they are a wonderful afternoon treat and well worth a trip into town from the airport.

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We did a little more shopping after the tarts.  This is at Lee Gardens, another shopping center in Causeway Bay.  I took a dozen shots of this scene and this is the only one that turned out.  A clerk, who seemed a bit self-conscious about the pictures I was taking, was wearing the same jacket that she was placing on the mannequin.  I kept trying to get a good shot of her arranging the jacket on the mannequin but those didn’t turn out.  Finally, as she finished she turned and shot me this look, almost like a mannequin come to life.

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This is another shot that almost came out but didn’t quite.  I was shooting this nursery delivery truck when a bellboy at the hotel walked by pulling a trolley bag.  I missed the perfect shot by just a split second and his head is slightly cut off.  Nonetheless, I find the composition pleasing.

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By about 4 pm we were getting tired, a combination of about four hours’ sleep the night before, a very early departure time, and the wear and tear of travel.  Instead of continuing our shopping or meeting up with friends for an early diner, we decided to head back to the airport.  We went to the Airport Express station, which has this beautiful check-in lobby, before boarding the train.

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On the way to the airport, we were both nearly wiped out.  While Tawn will probably not like this picture because it doesn’t show him in as refreshed and smiling a way as he usually presents himself, I think it is a beautifully contemplative portrait, nicely composed, that really captures the sense of both stillness and motion that we were experiencing on our journey.

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With a little more than five hours before our flight, we decided to get some rest.  Hong Kong Airport features a lounge in the public (pre-security) area of Terminal 2 where you can rent day rooms in three-hour increments.  Each room is a tiny, although well-appointed, single bed and bathroom.  The rate was a little steep – $60 for 3 hours – but knowing we wouldn’t get much opportunity for decent sleep for the next 20 hours or so, we figured it was worth it.

Continued in the next entry.

 

0 thoughts on “A Half Day in Hong Kong

  1. I have never been to the Causway branch of DTF but I always go to the DTF branch in Tsim Sha Tsui. My impression of the food at DTF there was that I like the flavors more than here in Sillypore.

  2. I’d been to the Din Tai Fung in TST and in Taipei and I have to say the one in Taipei is the best! Good to know there is a good place to get the Portuguese tarts but a friend here in London makes them which I have yet to try!

  3. wow, i don’t think i’ve ever seen tawn in a picture like that before (as you said, not his usual smiling self, or at least photographed)… i like the picture a lot though. i also really like the picture you took at lee gardens. before reading the description, i was debating on whether the employee was a mannequin or not!

  4. I am always fascinated with the double-decked Hongkong trams. I think I’ll try it next time I visit HK. It would sure be a great way to tour around the city.

  5. @icapillas – @Dezinerdreams – The trams are an amazing value and a great way to see the city.  Something like HKD 2 and you can sit on the front seats on the upper level, let the breeze blow through your hair, and take in the sights.@iskrak – Yeah, who knows, he might ask me to remove the picture!  =D@agmhkg – Are you going through your products so quickly?  LOL@Roadlesstaken – Glad you liked the pictures, Alex.@Fongster8 – Oh, you should take some pictures of your friend’s tarts (and maybe the making of the tarts) and write about it!@beowulf222 – Really?  Perhaps we just ordered the wrong things.  I thought the flavors in Singapore were quite good, but then we didn’t order the same dishes so the comparison isn’t 100%.@swtaznxtc90 – Shouldn’t it make you nostalgic for Hong Kong?  @moolgishin – I keep hoping DTF gets their branch here in Bangkok open soon.

  6. Love it when you do these breakdowns of your trips… makes me feel like I’m there. I appreciate how detailed you are but I have to smile since you haven’t even reached Hawaii yet in your descriptions!

  7. OK – great food porn. I love the picture of Tawn! I found DC system to be very functional but it seems in the States everyone wants there own transportation and mass transit has not become popular.

  8. hong kong (and the rest of china) is definitely up there on the list of places i want to visit. i sometimes wonder if i’ll ever get a chance to travel to all these places you blog about.

  9. haha I love Tawn’s outfit! I miss Hong Kong. My parents always say that there’s no point of going there because it’s all food and shopping. And I’m just like “HELLO! That’s the best part!”

  10. I stayed in Causeway Bay, on Yee Wo Street to be exact. The craziness of Causeway Bay reminded me of Shibuya as well. I think it’s amazing how convenient it was to get from the airport to the city and enjoy a few hours of fun and food!By the way, your recommendations were very helpful. I never had a chance to say thanks! I had a great time in HK, but it was too short. I hope to return – there’s so much to explore, eat and shop!

  11. @Passionflwr86 – Yeah, I’m kind of teasing everyone with this slow reveal of Hawaii.  LOL.  Oh, I’m sorry but I haven’t yet offered my congratulations on your wedding!  I need to catch up on blog entries and commenting.@fuzzynavel – Glad you enjoyed the picture.  “Peaceful” is a good description.@waiszeblogs – I’m glad the recommendations were helpful.  Definitely go back for a return visit to HKG!@fukuoka_stars – @Yoru_Kendo – The HK Tourism Board thanks you for missing the city and invites you back! LOL@yang1815 – That’s true and I was going to mention it.  But for the point of brevity it was the top that seemed more critical.@oxyGENE_08 – If you need any recommendations or details, let me know!@kunhuo42 – Have you not been, Aaron?  I’m surprised.  Let me know if you ever head there.@Fatcat723 – Actually, from what I remember of it, the DC Metro is a pretty good system.  New York’s is comprehensive, too, although you can tell how it was cobbled together from what were originally competing systems.@ArmyWife4Life2007 – I hope you do, too.  It is one of many fascinating cities in this world and wholly different from life in the US.  I consider myself blessed to have had many opportunities to travel and to see the world, and I think it helps give me a better context in which to appreciate and understand what it means (and what it doesn’t mean!) to be an American.@twentyse7enn – Yeah, if they don’t like HKG for those reasons then there are a whole bunch of cities they should avoid!  Ha ha…@CurryPuffy – We did more on the return portion, incl that retro Starbucks you wrote about.@Randy7777 – Glad you enjoyed the pictures.@murisopsis – I think I have some sort of disorder where I can’t simply just fly from one place to another but have to pack a lot into the trip.  Next trip to LA will be basic with no odd stopovers.  I promise.

  12. I have always always wanted to go to Hong Kong. Maybe someday I will. Your pictures are amazing and I love the one of the egg tarts. I notice I always love your food pictures the best. That either says something about your food photography or it says something about me. Let’s go with the former.

  13. Now I feel stupid. The last time we were there and trying to get to the airport from Kowloon, we took a taxi and it cost quite a bit. Probably should’ve just taken the MTR 😦 Tawn looks thoughtful, the black and white certainly makes it seem quite emotional.

  14. @AzureRecollections – Depends how many people you have.  When we left this past Sunday from Ho Man Tin (near Kowloon City) Tawn and I just took a taxi direct to the airport and it ended up being almost exactly the same as taxi fare to the Kowloon Airport Express + two one-way tickets.  Plus, since Air Asia doesn’t do baggage check at the MTR station, we would have had to schlep our bags quite a bit.  Taking the taxi direct was worth it.@ordinarybutloud – I think it says something about you, but something good!@AppsScraps – The historical plaques on that pedestrian bridge are interesting, aren’t they?@thedetail – Thanks!

  15. @christao408 – Ah, I see what you mean. Yeah… we had 4 people in total. Mostly, we just weren’t sure how to navigate the system very well since we were just stopping by on the way to Guangzhou. I’ll keep that in mind next time when we are around there!

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