Only Planet

One Child, One Year, One Planet. A family of three traveling around the world...

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Monday, April 07, 2008

First You Eat, Then You Shop

A friend of ours writes and produces some sweet, cheeky, purse-sized travel guides that are all about eating and shopping in locally-owned businesses, which for some travelers might be incidental to seeing the Smithsonian or Louvre. However, if there ever was a city that needed an Eat. Shop. edition, it would have to be Hong Kong. While there are a few notable things to do or sites to visit, anyone who loves the city as much as we do knows it’s all about two things—eating and shopping!

After leaving calm, blissful, beautiful Bali we dove head first into Hong Kong’s densely packed streets to sample as much shopping and eating we could in three nights and four days. It helped that we spent a full week in Hong Kong in 2005 and knew the lay of the land and could also avoid the “kid centric” Ocean Park and Disneyland, since we did them before.

Hong Kong covers three different areas and is made up of four different regions, Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, Lantau and the New Territories. We made our home base at the YMCA on Salisbury situated on the Kowloon side of the city. As soon as we dropped our bags off in our hotel room, we ventured out to meet the crowds. It was dinner time and raining and about thirty degrees F cooler than Bali and it took about ten seconds for me to realize I was underdressed and that my flip flops—so useful for walking on the sandy beach—were no match for the rainy sidewalks, where it seemed that three centuries of oil and dirt were flowing down the street making it impossible for me to walk. Grasping Andy’s arm, we navigated up, away from the harbor and towards a mass of every type of restaurant in the world. We had to walk past it a couple times, but finally settled on a tiny noodle shop with no western signs, and no English menu-the only thing attracting us was a picture of a huge bowl of noodles and dumplings simmering in a beige broth. Sitting on tiny plastic benches, we crowded in with a dozen or so others and sucked our noodles and slurped our broth with the finesse any of the locals watching me glide to our seat. Ahh, yes, it was good to be back.

We insisted on visiting some haunts we enjoyed our last time and added some new favorites to our list. If you’d like to read more about these, I plan on sending an piece in on the website Bootsnall, where I have already written an article, and will send a link when it’s posted.

Dylan and I got a bit of food poisoning or something during one of our meals (could have been something in those noodles….) and spent a better part of two days looking for bathrooms throughout Hong Kong. Now, while conditions of everything in Hong Kong are markedly better than in mainland China or some parts of Bali, you do not want to spend more time than you have to in the bathrooms. Many of them are what I call squatty potties which are a serious disadvantage for girls who have to get down low and not only balance while doing their duty, but do so without 1-falling into the toilet, 2-be able to aim your used toilet paper into the basket which is never in an easy-to-reach position (most of the plumbing in Asia cannot handle modern amenities like tp) and 3-not gag from the 643 terrible smells emanating up from a toilet that has been there since the 1800’s, and not “cleaned” since the handover to China (1997). I exaggerate, but not much. It’s bad.

A few cruises back and forth on the Star Ferry, a day trip to Lantau to see one of the largest Buddhas in the world

and Dylan snapping up every ratty thing she could afford (including a stuffed panda dressed in a rat costume) and we were done. Originally we chose Hong Kong as a layover because it is the Year of the Rat

and so our rat-loving kid could further feed her obsession. But we soon realized we didn’t need an excuse to go back to Hong Kong, it’s a city that once it has it’s hold on you, never lets you go.

We made it back home sometime after two in the morning yesterday and jet lag is hitting hard this time. Falling asleep at 7:00 am only to get up at 2:00 pm isn’t too disruptive, but it has made it hard for me to fulfill my Bene/iced tea craving at Milo’s, maybe by Friday I’ll see the crack of noon!


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