HK Travelogue – Day 4: Hong Kong Park

This was the day when my feet started to really resent all the walking I was making them do. According to my pedometer, each day we were in HK, we walked about 5 miles, maybe more. I wore my all-weather/trail running shoes the whole time, but I think my poor soles just aren’t used to hitting the pavement all day, every day. Every night when I got up in the wee hours to use the bathroom, I’d be limping because my feet were just so tender. On some level I liked it, though; I liked going out first thing in the morning and then coming home just before bed. I think it’s probably closer to the way we were meant to live. Since we’ve come back, I’ve tried to adapt my lifestyle to involve more walking and more time spent outdoors in the morning and evening. It’s a challenge, but it feels good to try for it.

Central district

On this morning we thought we should explore our neighborhood a bit more, so we set out along Canton Road to look for breakfast. It was drizzling and there weren’t very many tourists out, so it felt rather behind-the-scenes to be walking around at that hour — like catching the orchestra tuning their instruments or something. Newspaper vendors were setting up their stands, and street crews swept and hosed down the sidewalks (so that’s why HK streets are so clean!). We passed a few tiny eateries, but it was hard to know whether any of them were good (or accustomed to dealing with English speakers), so we kept going. In the China Hong Kong City food court we thought we’d found what we were looking for, but most of the menus lacked English, and the food didn’t stand out either. The mall includes the China Ferry Terminal so there was an airport-ish feel to it, with large numbers of mainland tourists swarming around with their luggage, and light-up signs giving departure and arrival status. So we turned around and ended up at a restaurant called Sweet Dynasty. It had a very large menu and all dishes were given in English as well as Chinese, though none of the staff appeared to speak anything but Cantonese. It really is lucky that I’ve apparently absorbed a lot of daily-life Cantonese through my grandpa; I understood everything that was said to me.

As it turned out, ordering breakfast was easier than we could have imagined — we just filled out a form, giving the numbers of each dish, and our orders were brought to us very quickly. I had cheung fun (yay!!!) and Erik had noodle soup with watercress wontons, and we shared some lo bak go. Tasty. I always love dim sum restaurants where you can order by writing down what you want, even in the States; I wish we’d had a chance to go back to Sweet Dynasty during our stay!

On our way back from breakfast we stopped and bought some cookies at Bread Talk, and I popped into the YMCA gift shop too for some postcards. We were so well fed in HK, I rarely wanted to buy buns at bakeries, and my paranoia about getting an upset stomach made me not want to eat any dairy. So in spite of the fact that there were bakeries everywhere — seriously, in a five-minute walk through a few blocks of Sheung Wan we passed something like five bakeries — I rarely bought buns, and never any of those delectable-looking custards or cream cakes. So I bought cookies instead, the kind of crisp sugar cookies that never appeal to me at home because they seem too plain. And they were good, too; I’m sure bakeries here don’t make them so well. I’d eat them late at night when my stomach told me it was CA meal time, and since the packages were so small, it wasn’t too much an indulgence. I miss those cookies.

Not long after breakfast, Caroline met us, and we took the Star Ferry over again to Hong Kong Island. She was late to meet some friends (also in town for the wedding), so I navigated us quickly through Central to get her to their hotel. I must say, I am so grateful for my sense of direction. Maps make sense to me, and I also have a very good memory for how things are situated. When there are clear natural landmarks (like Victoria Harbour), and when I’ve been through an area before, I can usually find my way again upon returning. This was how we found C’s friends’ hotel this time; I had a map, and I remembered things we’d passed the day before with Joanna. It was so warm and humid out, and we walked so fast, that after we dropped off Caroline, Erik and I just sat down under the nearest tree and cooled down. Hong Kong Park was only a couple of blocks away, so we went there and hunted down the museum of teaware.

As I said earlier, I was very impressed with all the museums we visited in HK. The art museum was brilliant, and the teaware museum was just as good — maybe better, because it was more interactive. It was housed in the oldest colonial building in HK, and there were two floors of teaware divided into themed galleries. Each gallery had maybe 20-30 pieces in it, really good descriptive signage, and a monitor showing video of tea leaves being harvested or prepared. I enjoyed making my way through the galleries. There was a nice gift shop too, where I bought two teas (“moderate” tieguanyin and something called Wild One Leaf).

After the museum, we returned to Central to meet Caroline and our high school friend Debbie, who moved to HK in January to start a postdoc at HKU. She took us to Lan Kwai Fong, where people usually go for nightlife, and we ate at a crowded café called Tsui Wah. It was the kind of place that is open all day and night and caters to a late-night crowd. I think there are a lot of similar cafés in the States, actually, especially in places like Berkeley or Cupertino, where a lot of young Asians congregate. You could get pasta, Cantonese rice dishes, sandwiches, milk tea, and toast spread with condensed milk. Deb apologized for bringing us to such a casual place, but it was definitely a place where locals ate, so that was interesting. As it was, Caroline and I both remarked that the café was what we expected HK to be like: noisy, crowded, with indifferent, rushed service, and everyone pushed into each other because of small tables and even tinier chairs. The toilets were squat toilets, and the waitperson misunderstood Erik’s order, giving him rice instead of spaghetti with his pork chop.

We finished our meal and took a long, circuitous, mostly uphill route back to HK Park, where we found our way to the incredible aviary. It was home to some 600 birds from all over Southeast Asia, and we walked through on an elevated walkway that let us see the birds at treetop level. It rained the whole time we were in there (mesh ceiling didn’t keep out water), but it was such fun to see and hear the birds.

Caroline had to leave us from there to go to Denise and Will’s wedding, and soon after, Debbie took off for salsa rehearsal (yes, it’s a glamorous life!), but not before telling us we had to check out Muji if we could. So we took the MTR back to TST, and found the Muji store there. By this point I was very hot, sweaty, and tired, which made me rather cranky, but Muji cheered me up. It’s a little like a Japanese IKEA (which of course means it’s much smaller than IKEA), with clothing departments, food, stationery (eeeee!!!), bath products, and some housewares. I bought a beautiful collection of pens and a piece of banana baumkuchen, and then I ran out of cash. But I vowed to return!

In the MTR station I bought a Pocari Sweat to replenish my electrolytes, and then we flopped onto our hotel bed and ate the banana cake. Food, drink, and a place to lie down… if there’s anything good about being so exhausted, it’s the gratitude it provokes for these everyday luxuries!!

We wanted to go to bed as soon as possible after that, so we headed out to iSquare, which was now jumping with schmoopie (Debbie’s word choice, and it’s apt) couples out for Saturday night. We ate extremely good katsu and tempura that we were probably too tired to savor as completely as it deserved to be savored. I think the waiter was scandalized that we didn’t touch our salads, but we were trying to avoid raw produce and had ordered edamame instead for our veggies. By the time we finished our meals we were almost dead on our feet, so we went back home and slept.

Tomorrow: Macau!!!

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