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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Bangkok to Hong Kong

Well, I’m back and reasonably well recovered.  Recovered enough, at least, to start sharing the story of our trip to Kaua’i.  First part of the story, our flight from Bangkok to Hong Kong.  This may be a bit more detailed than you are interested in, but I’m going to cross-post it as a trip report on Airliners.net.  I hope you enjoy.

Route Map

The alarm rang too early, but since the first leg of our four-flight trip from Bangkok to Lihue, Hawai’i departed at 6:30 am, perhaps that was inevitable.  A quick shower, a double check of critical documents and must-bring items, and a few minutes to whip up some sandwiches to eat onboard later, and Tawn and I were headed downstairs for the waiting taxi.

As we walked across the condominium driveway, a small toad hopped into the bushes, startled by our approach.  On the 25-minute ride to the airport, the taxi driver pandered to us, selecting English songs from his MP3 player.  “YMCA” by the Village People, “Can’t Touch This” by MC Hammer, and “Ice, Ice, Baby” by Vanilla Ice were among the selections.  “Do you really like these songs?” I asked the driver in Thai.  “Of course,” he responded with all seriousness.  “Don’t you?”

Air Asia’s ticket counter was its usual early morning chaos, although once we pushed through the masses of infrequent travelers, we found the online check-in queues had only a few people waiting in them.  After our bags were tagged and our travel documents checked, we headed for immigration. 


As of late, lots of letters to the editor of the English-language Bangkok Post newspaper have been inspired by complaints of the long queues at Suvarnabhumi Airport’s immigration counters.  However, at 4:50 this morning, lines were about ten people deep and it only took a few minutes to clear immigration.

Just beyond immigration is this epic sculpture taken from Hindu mythology of “The churning of the Ocean of Milk.”  More about that story here


After a latte and some duty free browsing, we headed to our gate.  The airport is laid out in the shape of a massive letter “H” and our gate was at the far end of the upper right leg.  We had checked in close to the near end of the main terminal in the center of the “H”, so it was a bit of a walk.


A lonely, dimly-lit pier stretched out ahead of us as we traversed one moving sidewalk after another.  The airport authority has made some attempts to warm the interior and make it more welcoming, especially in a well-publicized desire to rank as one of the top five airports in the world.  This jealousy of peer airports such as Singapore, Hong Kong, and Seoul should be a good motivator, but unfortunately the airport authority is run by people who either know little about airports or else pay little attention when visiting the competition.  Compare the above photo with one later on from Hong Kong to see a night and day difference.


Boarding began about 6:00, an orderly affair.  We had purchased “hot seats” – designated as the first five rows and the two emergency exit rows – for an extra 250 baht (about US$ 8.50) per segment, per person.  This gets you priority boarding and, in the exit rows, a smidgen more leg room and a fixed (not reclinable) seat in front of you.


A look at the leg room in the exit row.  About 36 inches, which is 3-5 more inches than you get in most American economy class seats.  In a three-seat row, we reserved the window and aisle seats, betting correctly that few people would choose to upgrade to a middle “hot seat”, thus effectively getting us three seats for the price of two.  If someone did come along with that seat, we could always offer them the window or the aisle instead so we can still sit together.


This flight was operated by Thai Air Asia, one of four subsidiary companies that together make up “Air Asia”.  The fleet is completely made up of new Airbus A320 aircraft.  The interior was clean and the black leather seats look sharp.  Flight attendants are friendly and attentive and seem very capable.

As the sun rose over Suvarnabhumi, a final passenger count was done and the main cabin door was closed for an on-time departure.


After a quick safety demo in Thai and English, we taxied to runway 1-Left and since there was no other traffic at this early hour, we started our takeoff roll just ten minutes after scheduled departure time, climbing through the hazy skies of Central Thailand en route to Hong Kong.


Housing developments on the eastern edge of Bangkok, as seen on departure from the airport.  The main part of the city is in the haze on the horizon.

Above, a two-minute video of the takeoff from Bangkok and landing in Hong Kong, if you are interested.


The captain greeted us aboard the flight, informing us we were cruising at flight level 350 – 35,000 feet above sea level – at a speed of 815 km/h (506 mph).  The flight was smooth, crossing Laos, Vietnam, and the South China Sea on our way to Hong Kong.


Air Asia is a no-frills airline.  Other than buying a seat on the plane, everything else from baggage to seat assignments to food has a price tag.  While I get bummed when I see formerly full-service US airlines doing this, I have no qualms about Air Asia doing it because that has been the arrangement from the first day.  Plus, they provide genuinely friendly and caring service, something most US carriers seem to be missing.

One arrangement they offer is the ability to pre-book your meals from a selection of more than 20 dishes such as pad thai, nasi lemak, chicken rice, and basil fried rice with chicken.  Out of Bangkok the catering is done by local restaurant chain Seefah (“blue sky”).  Dishes are around 100 baht, about US$3.30, and are reasonably tasty for the price.


While they announce a “no outside food” policy, I’ve found if you keep your dining on the down-low, it seems to be no problem.  Before leaving home, I had used the last carefully-selected food items from the refrigerator to make two turkey and provolone cheese sandwiches, complete with homemade pesto-mayonnaise sauce.  All in all, I have to admit they were a little dry, but still a tasty way to start the day.


Needing some more caffeine, I ordered two “Old Town White Coffees”, which are the three-in-one coffee, creamer, sugar mixes from the Malaysian chain Old Town Coffee.  Maybe it is just all the sugar, but these are a surprisingly tasty treat.

Food and beverage service concluded, the flight attendants plied the aisle with duty free and souvenirs.  I can’t imagine why people flying would want to buy some of these things, but it appears they do. 

As much as I have had my qualms about Air Asia in the past, more recently I’ve come to respect them.  Their once abysmal on-time performance has significantly improved.  Their website, which would crash under the pressure of too much traffic, performs more reliably.  And they keep their fares low and frequencies high.  Kudos for that.


Interestingly, Air Asia is the official airline of the Oakland Raiders, despite Air Asia flying nowhere in North America.  The Air Asia CEO Tony Fernandes has explained it as something of a preemptive move, building the brand in anticipation of an eventual service to the Bay Area.  Air Asia already flies to Paris and London through their Air Asia X long-haul subsidiary, so it would not be a surprise to see them begin flights to Oakland eventually.


Descent into Hong Kong seemed to begin quite quickly, less than two hours after takeoff.  I’m reminded that there was a time in my life when a 2-3 hour flight seemed long.  Now that I cross the Pacific several times a year, two hours passes in the blink of an eye.  We touched down on runway 7-Left about twenty minutes ahead of schedule under skies as hazy as they were in Bangkok.


The north satellite concourse (with gates numbered as 501-510!), which seems to serve carriers heading to and from Mainland China.  I like the design of the roof, which reminds me of a bird in flight. 


We parked at gate N28, just a short walk from the main terminal.  Next to us was this Qantas Boeing 747-400, which has a color scheme similar to Air Asia’s, I think.


Here is the transit check-in and duty free area just before immigration.  Earlier, I wrote about how Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok fails to reach the same level as other regional airports such as Hong Kong.  Compare the above picture with the fourth one from the top of this entry.  While the chairs in Bangkok might be more comfortable, the whole setting here in Hong Kong looks more attractive and warmer.  Maybe it is the use of – gasp! – carpeting.  In either case, Hong Kong remains one of my favorite airports and sets the bar which Bangkok will have to reach.


We exited customs and immigration with minimal delay and entered the spacious and well-organized arrivals area, another distinction between Bangkok and Hong Kong.


Since we had exactly twelve hours between our arrival and the departure of our next flight, we decided to check our bags into the lockers and head into the city for lunch.  An attractive atrium leads from Terminal 1 underneath the Airport Express train station and to Terminal 2, where the lockers are located.  We were able to store our two large check-in bags plus a trolley bag for 80 HKD (about US$ 11) for up to 12 hours, quite a reasonable price. 


Within an hour of touching down on the runway, we were boarding the Airport Express train for the 24-minute ride into the city.  I’ll write about our day in Hong Kong in the next entry.  Stay tuned!

When I Am Through With the Hong Kong MTR

Before doing a final back-up of my November 2010 photos and videos and removing them from my laptop’s hard drive, I realized I had an unfinished project from my most recent trip to Hong Kong.  I was in the Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station on a Friday evening during rush hour and shot some video of the mass of humanity.

At the same time, I had just completed the third season of the Glenn Close TV show “Damages” and they have an interesting effect in the title sequence that I wanted to try to recreate: they show a crowded intersection in New York in fast-motion and then suddenly cut the clip to slow-motion.  (If you want to see the original, a link to it is here.  The shot I’m talking about lasts all of one second and takes place at about 0:08.)

As an homage to my inspiration, I “borrowed” the same title song, “When I Am Through With You” by The V.L.A.  It is an energetic, guitar-driven song which I crudely edited to just over one minute.  I hope you enjoy it.

I’ve been making an effort to post on a daily basis.  Right now I have a backlog of several entries and am trying to work through them.

Flying Home

Ignore for a moment that this entry is being posted a week and a day after I actually flew back from Hong Kong to Bangkok!  One of the best things about visiting Hong Kong is the airport.  It is one of the finest airports in the world, user friendly, beautifully designed, lots of light, easy to watch airplanes from around the globe, etc.


This view of the main concourse, taken from the second-floor food court area just beyond immigration and security, is such the antithesis of Bangkok’s dark, depressing terminal.


Interesting planes from all around.  I can’t think of the last time I saw a Saudi Arabian Boeing 747.


My flight, an Air Asia Airbus A320, pulls into the gate.  Surprisingly, the Bangkok-Hong Kong ticket on Air Asia was only 4100 baht (about US$130) all inclusive, round-trip.  Normally, Hong Kong is one of their more expensive destinations.


Buy-on-board chicken satay.  Compare what it looks like in real life with the image in the menu, below.

Air Asia Satay 

I’d like to complain to someone about the lack of truth in advertising!

Anyhow, I’m back in Bangkok now, the US midterm elections are today, my San Francisco Giants just won the Baseball World Series for the first time since 1954, and I’m finished writing about  Hong Kong for the time being.


Food in Hong Kong: Modern China Restaurant


In response to my early posts about this recent trip to Hong Kong, some commenters expressed concern that I wasn’t eating at any Chinese restaurants.  Rest assured, I did eat a good amount of Chinese food while there.  One of the best meals was my final dinner, enjoyed at a Shanghainese restaurant called Modern China.


Located in the Olympian City Mall in West Kowloon, right above the Olympic MTR station, Modern China blends in among all the other glass-fronted restaurant in a mall that, frankly, could be any other mall in Hong Kong.


The waiting queue is very modern, with numbers posted on an LED monitor along with a map of tables and their status.  On a busy Sunday evening, Big Michael and I only waited ten minutes for a table.


The interior of the restaurant is clean and spacious, although tables are packed pretty close together.  The wait staff was professional and attentive, although in typical Hong Kong style were not overly friendly.  The menu is accessible, offering lots of pictures and clear English descriptions.


A small dish of sweet dried shrimp were served as a complimentary appetizer.  Very flavorful, although when I lived here it took a while to get used to eating shrimp with the shell still on.


On the autumn special menu was an intriguing sounding dish: braised seafood in pumpkin.


Sure enough, a beautiful orange pumpkin arrived on our table and upon removing the lid, we discovered a medley of fresh seafood in a rich pumpkin broth.  We also scraped the sides of the pumpkin to dislodge some of the cooked, but still firm flesh.  Very tasty.


Can’t go to a Shanghainese restaurant without some Xiao Long Bao!  Very tasty, too, with delicate wrappers.  Really, though, will I ever like any XLB better than those at Din Tai Fung?  On the menu, these are rather cutely described as “Mouthful Small Steamed Meat Buns”.


Braised noodles are always a favorite, especially these fried noodles with twice-cooked pork.


Our final dish were these fried pastries filled with chopped beef and preserved vegetables.  They were kind of like turnovers, with a very flaky crust and a savory filling.


There was a lot of juice inside and trying to cut them open neatly proved to be a chore.  But this will give you an idea, at least.

Overall, I give Modern China good marks for tasty, reasonably priced Shanghai style food served in a convenient location.  Good enough to be added to my Google Map of Hong Kong.  If you are looking for a break from the Cantonese food while in Hong Kong, head over to Olympian Mall.


Hiking in Hong Kong

Sunday afternoon my host Chris and I went for a hike up to Victoria Peak.  It was a pretty good workout, two hours to cover more than seven kilometers and an elevation gain of, I think, about 300 meters (more than 900 feet).  It was also a chance to get a different point of view on a city that many consider to be a veritable urban jungle.

This is how most people view Hong Kong – tremendously dense and tremendously vertical.  But just a short distance from where I took this picture of an urban landscape, I also shot the picture below.

It could hardly be more different, right?  This hike was a pleasant break from a few days of being surrounded by concrete.  There were so many people hiking on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, enjoying the overcast weather and the temperature that dropped several degrees as we gained elevation.

A lovely waterfall on the back side of Victoria Peak, facing the south side of Hong Kong island.  Amazing, too, how much cooler the weather gets just by getting away from the pavement and concrete.  What a heat sink “civilization” is!

Here’s a map of the route we followed.  If you don’t want to gain quite so much elevation, you can walk the approximately 2-km circuit starting and ending at the Peak visitor center.  It is mostly flat and offers a view from several different angles.

All this hiking not only helped break in a new pair of cross-trainers, it also whetted my appetite for some Shanghainese food, which I’ll write about on Friday!

Dinner Party at Chris and Antony’s House

While in Hong Kong, I stayed with a friend I first met some fifteen years ago, also named Chris.  He and his partner Antony are dear people, just wonderful to visit with.  They also live in a gorgeous flat in the western Mid-Levels.  Trying to be the best guest I could, I let them know that I looked forward to spending time with them but also didn’t want them to feel obligated to bend their schedule around my visit.  One thing Chris insisted I must be a part of was a dinner party they were hosting on Saturday night.

I’m glad I did as it was a lot of fun.  I also got pulled in as sous chef since it was a public holiday and the maid had the day off.  This is fine as I enjoy cooking and the opportunity to let someone else run the show is a good way for me to learn.

First, though, back to the topic of bamboo scaffolding.


Here’s a view from the guest bedroom.  I noticed that some work was being done on a unit across the street, on about the twentieth story of the building.


Notice how the bamboo scaffolding seems rather… rickety?  But it seems to be the safest way to get the exterior work done.  I’m curious how it is actually attached to the walls, though.

Okay, back to food…


Chopping herbs, a combination of cilantro and Italian (wide leaf) parsley.  The little roller device was kind of a mess and I think just using the chef’s knife would have been easier.  Mix all that with a hefty amount of freshly-ground black pepper.


Slice really good quality tuna into batons about 1 inch (3 cm) square.


Coat the batons with the herb-pepper mixture.


Here Chris is doing the coating while I take pictures.  Notice the huge library of cookbooks in the back.


Sear the tuna in a hot pan for exactly 30 seconds on each side.


The goal is to have the interior cooked like this, still pink.  These were lovely.


I’m pressed into service slicing apples and cucumbers into matchsticks which are then soaked in a very lightly salted water bath.  These were served as a light salad to cleanse the palate before the main course.  Very nice idea, although I think it needs some color.  That would add flavor, though, which isn’t the idea.


Dining room and living room ready for the guests to arrive.  Beautiful, isn’t it?  The antithesis of the style Tawn and I did our home in and I quite like it.  Very modern but still with an Asian undertone.


Antony did the amuse-bouche, super easy but really complex in flavor.  Toasted whole grain bread circles topped with goat cheese, shredded baked beet root, and a few toasted pine nuts.  Bake in the oven for just a few minutes until the cheese gets soft and creamy.


The appetizer course.  The tuna batons served with some pieces of fresh mango.  So simple, so good.


The main course would have benefitted from some advance work as it took almost thirty minutes for the two Chrises to pull this together as the guests chatted.  Slices of salmon with a egg white and soy sauce mixture brushed on the skin side, which is then crusted with toasted sesame seeds and then pan fried.


The salmon is then served over cold soba noodles with some citrus slices and a small rocket salad.  Very nice and I’ve recreated this at home since returning.  I think this needs to be something that you sear in advance and then maybe finish in a low oven, that way you don’t smell smoky while your guests are here.  I’ll work on that.


For dessert, little molten chocolate cakes served with vanilla bean ice cream.  A bit rushed as two of the guests had to head to the airport, but very nice nonetheless.

As we neared midnight, fueled by two bottles of champagne and several bottles of wine, the guests became more animated.  One of them who has a history of performing in drag, decided to give us an impromptu runway show set to Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face”.  Since his identity isn’t clear in the video, I guess it will be safe to share it with you here.

Notice the disco lights.  Would you believe Chris and Antony had these built into their kitchen bar area?  They are hidden under the seating area.  Handy to have at such an event!


Seeing Hong Kong Through a Tourist’s Eyes

Hong Kong is one of those cities that, when I visit it, I feel more like an insider than an outsider.  That may be a bit presumptuous of me, but then who is to judge another person’s feelings about these matters?  I lived in Hong Kong for just over three months in 1998-99 and I made it a point to get out and explore with every free moment I had.  Since then, I’ve been back to Hong Kong a dozen times visiting friends and retracing my old stomping grounds.

On this visit, though, I had an opportunity to spend a day seeing the city once again through the eyes of a first-time visitor.  Another American expat who lives in Bangkok timed his first visit to Hong Kong to coincide with mine, and I offered to play tour guide on Friday.


This is Vic.  If you think he’s cute and would like to date him, let me know!  (Ha ha…)  We started our day at his hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui and walked along the harbour front to the Star Ferry terminal, taking the ferry across to Central.  Of all the things you can do and see in Hong Kong, I think the Star Ferry is the best value.  Eight minutes for less than US$1.00 to cross one of the most scenic harbours in the world.

From Central we took our time walking along the elevated pedestrian paths, taking in the significant infrastructure development going on near the waterfront.  In a few years, the entire waterfront from Central to Causeway Bay will be open to pedestrians, a wonderful improvement.  We then continued to the Mid-Levels for a late breakfast at Tsui Wah on Wellington Street.

Afterwards, we walked back downhill and caught a ride on one of the island trams.  These trams are over 100 years old and in addition to providing transportation for nearly one-quarter of a million passengers each day, they are an inexpensive and very effective way to take in life in Hong Kong as you slowly make your way down major thoroughfares and into various neighborhoods.  Some of the sights that caught my eye:


A serpentine staircase works its way up a steep hillside with the retaining wall painted an interesting checkerboard pattern.


Bamboo scaffolding, which is much stronger and more flexible than metal scaffolding, perfect for a city that is often buffeted by typhoons.  In fact, one blew ashore a week after I departed.  Despite knowing that the bamboo is much sturdier, I have a hard time reconciling that fact with the flimsy appearance of the structure.


A colorful side street.  Most buildings in Hong Kong are very drab, painted once in their lifetime and rarely repainted.  This small street, though, had a lot of color going on.


Our destination was North Point, a neighborhood in the Eastern District of Hong Kong Island.  Primarily a residential and retail area, the island tram terminates in the midst of a crowded market street.  We walked around for a bit, taking in the sights and heading to the waterfront to see the view.


Among the interesting sights was a truck full of slaughtered pigs.  While I was standing there, this bundle of guts fell to the floor of the truck.  The man kicked them towards the door before picking them up and resecuing them.


After lunch at Pacific Place mall in Admiralty, we caught the #15 bus to Victoria Peak.  Sure, you can take the Peak Tram to the summit but it is pricey and touristy.  Better to take the inexpensive bus which spends an hour winding its way up the mountains, giving you fantastic views of Happy Valley and other parts of the city.  I was tickled by this construction fence that was built to hide some work being done alongside the road.  Located directly across the street from an international school, the fence has a vista painted on it that is incongruous with the view that lays beyond it.  Just above the fence you can see the end of the Happy Valley Racecourse.


Atop the Peak we walked a short way away from the masses of tourists and schoolchildren and took some pictures.  It was a hazy day (which are never in short supply here) but managed to get a few good pictures.


I’m tempted to use this one to replace my current profile photo.  Thoughts?


After the Peak, I turned Vic loose on the city as I had an appointment with an old friend for dinner in Mongkok.  Above, the chaos that is Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station at about 7pm on a Friday night.  Madness, I tell you!  I shot some video and may get it edited together to share with you.


After walking for a little bit, Edward decided on a Cantonese restaurant just off Nathan Road.  I didn’t get the name and while the food was good, it wasn’t so good as to recommend you to visit it.  Above, Edward, whom I met when I lived here in Hong Kong.


Braised eggplant with minced pork, served with bok choy.


Crispy roast chicken.


Steamed dumplings.


Baked rice.


The meal was fine but the company was definitely better than the food.  Afterwards, we strolled around the neighborhood, remarking how much this part of Kowloon has changed in the past decade.  When I lived here, this area had a lot of red light activity and was always featured in police and gangster movies.  Nowadays, thanks to the clean-up effort brought about by the Langham Place Mall, it is much nicer and the illicit activity has moved a block or two to the west.

We wandered through the wholesale fruit market and over to Olympic MTR Station, another area that is radically different than a decade ago when it was the initial stages of landfill.  This is a city that is always changing.


Food in Hong Kong: Isola Bar and Grill

After the Korean lunch, I took the MTR over to IFC.  IFC is the International Finance Centre, a large multi-use complex built atop the Hong Kong Airport Express station.  There are two office towers, a hotel, and a nice mall in the complex and it could be a model for the development that might happen around Bangkok’s Airport Express terminal at Makkasan station in the future.  While at IFC, I dined at Isola Bar and Grill.

Isola Bar and Grill is a two-story restaurant adjacent to the Lane Crawford department store.  It has a fantastic outdoor dining deck offering sweeping views of the harbour and West Kowloon waterfront and Thursday was a perfect day for sitting out there.  The restaurant was suggested by Angel, a Xangan from Vancouver who comes to Hong Kong frequently on work.


Since I had just had lunch and he was flying out in a few hours back to Vancouver, neither Angel nor I was in the mood for a full meal so we settled instead for dessert.  Thus, this entry isn’t a fair review of Isola.


My hazelnut creme brulee with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  It was okay but I found the hazelnut flavor to be kind of muddy.


Angel had a chocolate cake that, if I’m not mistaken, had ground nuts in it.  It was the tastier of the two desserts.

The service was passable, the dessert was passable, so not much to say there.  The view was sweeping, though, and the company pleasant, so that made the appointment well worthwhile.


Food in Hong Kong: Jin Luo Bao

While in Hong Kong recently for four days, I spent most of my time visiting with friends.  Interestingly, I didn’t revisit many of the restaurants from my last trip there, which was a watershed trip in terms of food quality.  Instead, I tried some new places.  First stop was Jin Luo Bao, a Korean restaurant in Causeway Bay located in the building behind the Sogo department store.

Assorted kim chi, pickled vegetables.  Did you know there is a shortage of Napa cabbage in Korean right now, driving the prices higher than the price of meat?

A stir fried dish with a moderately spicy sauce.  The tubes are made of rice, basically like mochi.  Very tasty and fun to eat.

Bi bim bap – rice, meat, and garnishings in a super heated stone bowl.  Add chili sauce and stir as the heat from the bowl finishes cooking the meat.

I always enjoy Korean food and had a fun time catching up with my university friend Tehlin, who graciously (and unnecessarily) paid for lunch.

More soon.  For a complete listing of my Hong Kong recommendations, visit my Google Map.