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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

5 October 2010

City of frowns?

Written by Maureen


After meeting such friendly people on our trip so far I found the people of Hong Kong at best… indifferent. Perhaps this is big city syndrome, but I really don’t remember getting that impression from other cities. For example, on our last day a kind Chinese lady explained that we needed exact fare for the airport bus, which we didn’t have. She offered to ask the half-a-dozen other people at the bus stop if they could change our note. Every one of them simply waved us away with a frown, and turned their back for good measure. Not one person bothered to look in their pocket. The kind lady seemed a rare exception; in general Hong Kongers seem happiest when left alone. Hong Kong, I dub you the city of frowns!

Exploring Hong Kong streetsAnyway, the grumpy folks of Hong Kong did not detract from our appreciation of the city. We explored several neighbourhoods, mostly on foot. We stayed in a budget guesthouse in Tsim Sha Tsui, a seedy tourist district akin to London’s Soho/Leicester Square. Our room on the 7th floor of a shonky tenement building was 8 x 8 ft, with a tiny bathroom and a sink the size of a postage stamp. But for £40 you get a clean room, aircon, free wi-fi, a TV, a superb shower, and free toiletries. Further north, Mong Kok is a fascinating district full of local Chinese colour where we found streets upon streets selling the same thing, and hardly any English on signs. On Hong Kong island, Central district is sterile like all financial centres around the world. We took the Peak Tram to the top of Victoria Peak, an overpriced and overcrowded ride, though the views (at the peak, not on the tram) were amazing. The well-heeled Mid-Level area is where the ex-pat community live and hang out, full of trendy bars, restaurants and designer homeware shops.Get your fresh juicy fishheads here! Just below that, we again returned to the hustle and bustle of small lanes with street market stalls, purveyors of fish bladders, live toads, eels and other juicy things.

Matt’s tummy trouble meant that we didn’t sample as much Hong Kong cuisine as we would have liked. But we did enjoy some very good, usually cheap food – we tended to eat in local restaurants where the waitresses did not speak much (or any) English. One of the weird dichotomies of Hong Kong is that you can easily spend less on a meal in a local restaurant, than on a couple of drinks in a shiny new cafe.Waiting for Michelin-star dim sum at Tim Ho Wan On our last day, we ate dim sum at Tim Ho Wan, the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world, where our meal of six excellent dishes cost less than £7. Later on, we spent £14 on a couple of drinks at the Hotel Peninsula. Go figure! But if you were on a budget, you can certainly live comfortably on £60 a day per couple, less if you eat street food.

What we liked: 1. Eating dim sum, especially at Tim Ho Wan – definitely worth the 50 minutes wait! 2. Walking around Mong Kok, 3. The view from Victoria Peak, 4. Fireworks on the 1st of October which lit up the glass fronts of the skyscrapers in glorious technicolour (video below), 5. Markets, especially the gruesome wet markets where you can see squelchy stuff, living and dead.

What we didn’t like: 1. Matt’s tummy bug, unwanted souvenir from Madagascar, 2. Queueing for an hour for the Peak Tram, and then being crammed like sardines for the 8 minute ride, 3. Being hot and sticky all the time on the streets.

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