Tag Archives: Hong Kong

Hard times cannot keep Hong Kong down

Visiting Hong Kong during the coronavirus

Welcome to Hong Kong. No amount of protests, or global pandemic is too much to slow the city down or slow its pulse. My concern that Hong Kong would be a no-go zone was unreasonable. In my two weeks here, it was hard to feel that I was terribly restricted in my movements. Yes, I had initially thought of Hong Kong as a quick stopover on my visit to China where I would visit several cities, taking in the vast country of Marco Polo’s travels.

Staying in Hong Kong ultimately turned out to be a great blessing in disguise, allowing me to become fully familiar with the city’s environment. If my initial reaction was one of anxiety, it was overcome by relief as I saw that Hong Kong had everything I love about the other Asian cities, featuring legendary food, some cool architecture and women, naturally.

Of course, what I love about Hong Kong has nothing to do with the fact that it’s in Asia.  Whilst Hong Kong will be seen as a region of China (it has SAR status), to Hong-Kongers they are a separate nation. Yes, they remain broadly speaking ethnically Chinese, but they will tell you that they are quite different from the Mainland Chinese.  It helps that they speak their own language, whilst still using the Chinese characters to make it possible for ease of understanding.

A century of British rule has left behind a legacy of Afternoon tea, elegant tailoring and cars that drive on the left hand side. It’s still has just enough reminders of the Empire if you look hard enough. You will find that tea is commonly drunk with milk ( milk tea), in spite of Asians being frequently lactose intolerant. There are chicken pies sold in the bakeries, alongside the traditionally Cantonese Egg Tarts. Another reminder of the Colonial past comes in the street names. Stroll along Nathan Road, and you come to Salisbury Road, site of the famous Peninsula Hotel. There is a town called Stanley, and a fishing village named Aberdeen. The governor’s building is in Statue Square.

The famous Peninsula hotel

Most of the famous buildings are located on the island of Hong Kong. But then, what about Kowloon? Here’s where things become interesting, because it seems that the British weren’t able to leave much of a mark here. Apart from the harbour area, which is known as TST, there are fewer places that are as photogenic as on the island.

This is statue square: many of the city’s Colonial buildings are here. Contrast with lively Kowloon, below.
Busy Nathan Road, one of the main streets in Kowloon

So which one should you choose? The island side has the peak, for starters. That gives you the  best vantage point of the city, allowing you to use the observatory for a 360 view of the city. Next to it is the Hong Kong,  a beautifully preserved garden of fountains and tropical flowers. There is an aviary and a tea museum too. There is also the tram, which runs all the way from the Happy Valley racetrack to Kennedy Town on the other side of the Island.

Aviary in Hong Kong Park

But you might find this all slightly demure. In that case, you will want to spend time in Kowloon. This is where Hong Kong starts to become less reserved, and more Chinese. It’s here that you will find some of the most frenetic streets, site of dozens of street market (selling mostly Chinese imported goods). If you want to try some of the excellent street food, you will have to come here too. Try the fish balls, sold everywhere  in the Mong Kok district.

Tea and Sympathy

There is no shortage of tea (China is nearby after all), but its impressive how frequently it is drink. After the British ruled Hong Kong for a century, its common to have a ‘milk tea’ (usually sweetend with condensed milk). It’s typical to be offered a tea or a coffee with a lunch or breakfast, more so than alcohol or any soft drink. For the quintessential Hong Kong snack, try an Egg tart (thickened custard in a flaky pastry case) and a cup of milky tea or coffee). You can have this anywhere, but you’ll want to be sitting down to eat the egg tart, which has a habit of breaking apart at the first bite.

An everyday treat in Hong Kong.

Alongside the familiar egg tarts, look for incredible chicken pies which supply the taste of something truly magnificent. Hong Kong has no shortage of bubble teas (mostly Taiwanese), and these are full of strange and unusual flavours such as taro and sweet potato. They have also been used by protesters to spread their pro-democracy slogans on post-it notes spread on the walls.

Whilst you can find the designer coffee bars that you get everywhere, its better to stick with the tea, which feels like a much more authentic experience. There’s a story about the creation of this authentic Hong Kong drink and it’s too much to explain here. But in short, someone decided that they could go one step better with the English Earl Grey, making it into something more heavy, the condensed milk rounding out the sharpness of the dark tea. It started as a working person’s drink, rather than any thing fancy. Now it is the most popular tea drink in Hong Kong.

Like any big city, it can feel really overwhelming if you come here without an idea of what to do. So to make it easy, here, , are my ten favourite things to do in Hong Kong.

Take the Star Ferry to Central from TST at 8pm.

By doing this, you get to experience the famous Symphony of Stars, which is a light show from the skyscrapers of the central district set to music.

Visit a Cha Chang Teng

For a really classic Hong Kong experience, go to one of these cafes, which are open from morning to night. They date back to the seventies and can be found in all the main districts. With prices low, they welcome anybody, but that shouldn’t put you off.  Order from laminated menus, choosing such delights as the milk tea, or French toast. A local treat is a peanut butter and condensed milk sandwich.

Because they are so relaxed and friendly, these were some of my favourite cafes in Hong Kong.

Visit a mall

Even if you aren’t a big shopper, you can enjoy the experience of a Hong Kong mall. I particularly enjoyed the Argyle Centre (Mong kok), for it’s fun boutiques and excellent snacks. There are plenty of luxury shops in Central district, but I found it much more fun going to the more offbeat smalls, which have so much character. I can’t forget the delightful Dragon Centre – which has eight floors filled with unique shops – in Sham Shui Po, for example.

At the entrance to the Dragon Centre

Dim Sum

Another unmissable experience. From early morning to the afternoon, Hong Kongers crowd together to order Cheung Fun (soft rice noodles with minced pork) and siu mai (translucent prawn dumplings). In the older restaurants you can still see the birdcages and the waitresses pushing carts of dumplings and pastries.

Two of the most famous Dim Sum options. Drunk with tea, this is known as Yum Chaa.

Hong Kong Park

From the tram, get off outside admiralty station. Then walk past the famous Lipppo towers and into Hong Kong Park. This is such a wonderful place to relax, enjoying the birds that live in the Aviary. There is an observation tower, waterfall and even a tea museum.

Visit a Chinese Bakery

With prices of many food stuffs rising, it is good to find affordable snacks at low prices. Chains such as Wing Wah and Kee Wah sell nicely packaged boxes of egg rolls, sesame and almond cookies, as well as the famous pineapple shortcake. On the other hand, there are several franchises which do French patisserie extremely well. The Chinese bakeries are usually independently owned, and the labels will be mostly in Chinese. But I recommend that you try them, if only for the egg tarts and Lai Wong Bau – a steamed bun filled with custard.

An excellent example of a traditional Chinese bakery

Bar Street in Prince Edward

You can walk a long way in a particular area and not find anything remotely resembling a bar. Then you will come across an area almost exclusively designed for drinking. Most of them will a Happy Hour – with up to half the normal price of a drink. It’s common for some of them to have women standing outside calling customers in.

Lamma Island

A very pretty place which I have already talked about. Visiting will give you a different outlook on Hong Kong.

Traditional Markets

These make a good contrast to the sterile malls in the Island, which are mainly used by suited office workers.  Although you will not be able to buy much of the produce on display (dried fish heads anyone?) it’s great to see a wet market in action. You can always find plenty of excellent snacks to buy as you watch the housewives bargaining for the best selections.

Mong Kok

I love Mongkok.  It might seem like most of the best places are all clustered around Central, but they really aren’t. Within just a few streets, you can find flower markets, a street selling goldfish, and dozens of cafes. It’s also the most populated area of Hong Kong.  Day and night, you can come here and you won’t be lonely. It’s a little rough around the edges, but I had the best time here. Take the MTR to the Mong Kok subway and walk in any direction. You have the best cafes, restaurants and markets all within walking distance.

Faye Wong buying a goldfish in the film Chung King Express

Information about your trip

With many places closed, be prepared to make last minute adjustments. Although many places are doing business, several venues remain closed, such as the Happy Valley racetrack, Disneyland, and Ocean Park. More importantly for budget travellers is the fact that many hostels are not taking new bookings until the summer. With many hotels at under 10%, it’s possible to stay anywhere at short notice. Many are from 300 Hong Kong dollars a night. For a more luxurious stay, try the 5 star Royal Plaza in Mong Kok. https://www.royalplaza.com.hk/en/. I tried to arrange accommodation through Couchsurfing, but at the last minute many of my hosts changed their minds. It seems that many Hong-Kongers do not use Airbnb much either. In the end, a very kind friend let me stay at her place for a week. I was able to spend much more time in Hong Kong because of her.

Hunting for snacks on Hong Kong’s Cheung Chau Island

The best thing about travelling to Asia are some of the amazing food stands selling things you can’t find anywhere else. Whenever I go to a new city I can’t wait to sample all of the snacks from the street vendors. Sometimes these are as good as dinners in restaurants at a much cheaper price, and I can afford to try several different foods at one time.

I start by visiting the Cheung Cheuk island, only thirty minutes by boat from central Hong Kong. In many ways, the densely populated urban centre of Hong Kong is just one side of the region. The many small islands of the archipelago are another side of the bustling city centre of skyscrapers and car fumes.

The entrance to the tiny beach at Cheung Chau. Everything is small scale, incuding the signage.

Because the islands are not too developed, they can be walked around easily and the lack of pollution or road traffic means that they are ideal for a causal stroll without the constant stream of traffic you find in Hong Kong’s streets. Getting off the ferry gets you right to the heart of the island.

There are no cars of any kind on the island. Use a bike or hike to get around.

It’s time to try the snacks. You can’t miss the typical fish balls – they are everywhere. Pay 10 Hong Kong dollars for two of the balls of compacted fish paste. You can choose from a range of flavours such as plum sauce, bbq or curry. Watch the sauce doesn’t spill everywhere, and be careful not to scald yourself as they are served just below boiling. The taste is not as important as the texture, which has a slightly springy bite to it.

These gigantic fish balls are fun to eat, but quite filling.

Turn left from the harbour, past the McDonald’s, and you will see a guy with a grill and some dried squid and octopus. Make sure you try these as they are really unique, and go down great with beer. The squid are air-dried whole, then cooked on an open grill and coated with a soy based dip, then sliced into strips. Good as a healthy, low-fat snack.

The translation of the stall’s name is ‘Long Island Sea Street Snack‘.

Turn back to the main square, and you will see several stalls serving the aforementioned fish balls. You can buy ‘sa bing’ which is similar to bubble tea, and you can find a whole load of interesting flavours such as taro and sweet potato, for less than you would pay on Hong Kong Island itself.

Various flavors of sa bings.

Also in the Main Street is a guy deep frying ice-cream. This is something I learned to do at cooking school – as long as you keep the surface of the ice-cream coated, it will stay cold as the batter forms a protective seal around it. Unfortunately they use mass-produced ice cream so the effect is ruined.

The deep-fried ice cream

Many stalls sell Mochi and this is always one of the best sweets you can buy. Mocho is a Japanese dessert made of sweet rice flour which is stuffed with various fillings and served cool. I’m crazy about the gooey texture of the wrapper and the sweet fillings inside. They are so chewy and soft, and very light tasting, consisting only of flour and sugar.

Another dessert snack is the Chinese steamed red bean cake (see picture). Like a tart but without the pastry, its eaten on a stick like so many of the snacks here.

Steamed red bean cake

Other than the snacks of the main square, you can find any seafood restaurants along the harbor. You won’t be able to walk five minutes without being accosted by ladies wielding menus trying to drag you in. It’s not only Chinese restaurants here. You can find several International restaurants, such as Morocco’s.

I still prefer the quiet stalls inside the square. For a more substantial snack, I can recommend the freshly made sushi at Japanese tea house, which are made into temaki rolls with a range of fillings such as crab roe and sausage.

Getting there

Cheung Chau is easily reached from the central pier, number 5. You don’t need to book a ticket in advance, just turn up and use your Octopus card to go through the turnstiles. There are some hotels and guesthouses but most people tend to visit for the day and head back in the evening.

The truth about ‘yellow fever’

One of the things that annoys me by the glib term ‘yellow fever’ is that it only looks at one side of the equation. If you’re a white guy and you prefer to date women of a particular country, for example, China, you might feel a level of stigma for doing so. Maybe you prefer Asian women because of their interesting personalities. Or you like their unique dress sense. It could be that you have a unique feeling when you spend time with them that you never have when you are with women of other nationalities. Like creatures of habit, we Asian fanciers know from experience that we want to be with the yellow women, and it’s going to take a lot more than the disaproval of a bunch of angry man-hating liberals to make change our ways.

Yellow fever

It is a bit rich to criticise men for favouring ‘eastern’ women, when those women profess an equally strong preference for men of Caucasian race.
Another oft-mentioned claim is that white men exploit Asian women who they consider an easy target. This is not only a gross oversimplification, but it ignores something far more noticeable. The lack of desirability of many white women, along with their ridiculous levels of expectation, means that most white guys don’t stand a chance with women of their own race. If you were constantly ridiculed by women growing up, and seen as a loser by women in your surroundings, how are you able to form healthy relationships with the opposite sex? Its because men who move to Asian countries experience such a positive response from the
women there that they begin to see themselves in a new light, and finally have the confidence to start approaching women in a natural and healthy way. It’s this new-found confidence that gives men the ability to start trading up – giving them the opportunity to meet girls considered out of their league back home.

Game playing
If you’ve ever been on a date with someone whom you met through a datingapplication, be it tinder or similar, you probably faced a whole load of questions about things. Should you pay for the first date? Do you kiss her? Where do you go? Should it be somewhere expensive, or just a causal place? The problem is, no-one knows the answer. It’s why dating has become so much harder, especially now that women want to be seen as equals, whilst still clinging to the idea that men should pay for everything.
The other thing you hear is that men dating white women have to jump through so many hoops, prompting one internet writer to declare that the real reason whitewomen are against men dating Asian women – they don’t want other men to see how easy it is when there are no games to play and you don’t need to go to great lengths to win her approval.

You hear so much about white men and Asian women, but what about the
reversal? If you’re a woman who likes Korean or Japanese culture, you’re
probably equally interested in men of the culture. Surely all the fans screaming at BTS aren’t just excited about the music? Yet, nobody has suggested that these women are racially stereotyping these men.

Why I prefer Asian women

Not that I’m some kind of pervert or anything, but I do happen to believe that Asian women have the nicest bodies of women anywhere. I have tried women all over the world, so it’s not like I’m an experienced loser who likes Asian women because those are the only women he has been with.

Ho says in her bio that she wants a man to take care of her. I’m crazy about flight attendants and would do anything to be with one.

Do Western women even want to dress nice and make an effort? Lets face it, they never wear the clothes and accessories that men like. If they wore some nice skirts with tights and heels, wore make up an went to the gym, I might have a scintilla of interest. As it is, they way they dress makes me want to cover my eyes in shock.

I’m chatting to Luna (who is Chinese) on weChat. She messages everyday, and always takes in interest in what I am doing.

You can bet I was swiping right on all of these. A fair few girls still like to wear denim cuttoffs, and why not? As I said, it’s all about looking as good as you possibly can. True, these aren’t the youngest women, but with my age fast approaching 40, there’s not too much I can do about that. Sometimes I think about settling down ( I will, eventually). But at the moment, I’m having so much fun getting to know these wonderful women. London has more Asian women than I will ever be able to date and I have no intention of ever stopping. All I can say is they have changed my life and they have changed it for the better.