Friday, August 15, 2014

Our morning in Hong Kong with Pictures!

We arrived last night to this beautiful view:

Hong Kong from the airplane.
... And made our way to the lovely Hotel Icon. A nicer King room was a bit of a splurge, and we are making the most of its perfect location in the middle of Kowloon. They provide you a cell phone to use around Hong Kong and in addition to unlimited data usage, you can even make international calls on it. I vote for all hotels in the US to immediately add this amenity to their unlimited breakfast buffets as a way to attract clients. Brilliant.

So after dumping our bags in the room, we couldn't resist getting out and exploring some of the Friday night vibe in our neighborhood. There were thousands of people out enjoying the slighty cooler temps.

We walked around a few blocks and settled on a big outdoor square with several small-plate pubs. Did you know that Kirin makes a Stout? Either it's new since my years in Japan or I had never noticed it because I used to like beers that taste like stale water to me now. The stout was perfect.

Hello I am hot and travelled-out!
See how many people were out? Compare it to the next pic, taken in the morning.
We sat surrounded by chatty young working class people and probably college students, and had grilled pineapple (MAKE THIS TODAY on your BBQ's, people), grilled scallops and oysters baked with cheese. The plates were about two bites each, which was perfect for long-flight-recovery. When we asked, the waitress taught us how to say thank you when people serve us here. It sounds like "Mmmmm-DOY", and you can also say "DOH-chay" with a little extra length on the DOH part. Truth is, we haven't run into anyone who didn't speak English well enough to easily serve us and have us understand them as well. We just like to make an effort at good manners.

Hong Kong is extremely international. I'd guess a good 30-40% of the folks on the streets around us are Philippine, Indonesian, Indian and a huge range of other countries. In addition to those languages, we heard Italian, German, French and English of varying accents. I love that.

This morning we woke around 7am and headed out to a Starbucks we had seen a block from our hotel the night before. It was already hot and humid. My sunglasses and phone both instantly fogged over with condensation. I somehow survived.
Starbucks to the left, bun shop to the right, cute buns in the middle.
We ate steamed buns from a little street shop for breakfast. I had a "glutinous rice bun" with boiled peanuts in it and J ate a pork & veggie bun with a breakfast pastry twist thing. The whole lot was about $3, and completely delicious despite my accidentally eating half the paper on the bottom of my bun before I noticed what I was doing. Oh well, roughage is a good thing, right?

From there we decided to go walk over to pick up our train ticket for tomorrow morning's trip to Guangzhou. The train stations are absolutely phenomenal for people watching, and while they aren't all air conditioned (until you get on the platform/trains) they do stay at least a bit cooler than the streets. The other thing they have in spades is escalators and moving walkways. Did you know I hate escalators' guts, and will usually go to great lengths to use the non-terrifying stairs or elevators? Hong Kong may just cure me of this aspect of my freakishness. We must have used them 15 times this morning alone.

Our next plan was to find a China Unicom shop where we wanted to buy a SIM card for our phones to work in mainland China. The neighborhood for that shop was exclusively the highest of the high end shops. It reminded me of Ginza in Tokyo. Gucci and Lanvin and Prada as far as the eye could see, and very few street-facing entrances. No fun shops for browsing, no more quirky street shops and hardly any good people watching. When we discovered the Unicom (doesn't that look like "unicorn"?) shop was closed on the weekends we hopped the train again to escape the land of the very very rich and boring.
Downtown train station with mall and coliseum in background.

Jonathan does his best to fit in by staring at his phone. It's a world-wide phenomenon. 

This lady on the wall-sized opera ad in the subway is just not at all happy with that pork bun she's holding. She should have gone to the street shop this morning, too. Sopranos are so dramatic.

If we didn't already have our lunch boxes, this would have been perfect.

Yoshinoya! The front of the shop was a sauna, but the A/C back here worked great.
After wandering endlessly through shmancy shopping buildings connected by skywalks, we had worked up a bit of an appetite and decided to search for the Yoshinoya that Jonathan spied on one of our twists or turns. It was so delicious and filled with average locals on lunch breaks. I've been surprised how much Japanese stuff is going on in Hong Kong. A lot of shops and ads are in Japanese/for Japanese folks. It's been fun brushing up on my skillz, though I haven't heard all that much of it on the streets so far. Of course, written Chinese and Japanese share many characters, so I can often guess what the meaning is of shop signs and menus when I access long-unused cobwebby parts of my brain.

I love weird English translations like this.
Imagine if I tried writing signs in Chinese. Toad the Wet Sprocket got their name that way, right?

See? Lots of Japanese influence here. Girls on the left seemed to be dressed up like Anime characters. 
Cookies on the right were too weird and creepy for words. I didn't recognize the name "Kobito zukan"so when I got back to the hotel, google gave me this:
You're welcome. 

A music lesson shop in the mall. There but for the grace of God teach I. 

These traditional Chinese medicine shops are everywhere and kind of bum me out. They sell things like ray fin powder and bear paw soup mix. Mostly sea creatures, and so many jars of it all. No wonder the popularity of one curative potion can wipe out a species. 

So after a long and fun morning out, we repaired to the hotel where I soaked in a cool tub, cranked up the A/C and plan to lay around until we go out again. We want to take the Star Ferry (it's a tourist requirement) and watch the laser light show tonight when it's cooler

Just one little day of travel between us and our girl now! 

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