Hong Kong: Last Hours

photo: Good to know that certain things cross cultures

Asleep in the chair of a front end loader

The good thing about doing your research before a trip is the rewards if you get it right. I figured that the place to be in Hong Kong was near the Star Ferry docks, either in Kowloon or on the Island. I'm staying - for one more night - at the "Hotel Panorama by Rhombus" right in the middle of Tsim Sha Tsui (Kowloon). The hotel has been outstanding, and the location couldn't be better.

I decided I should try another dim sum place today, so I went to the Rough Guide-recommended Majesty Chinese Restaurant at Jordan and Nathan. I had sui mai, pork and green onion in deep fried glutinous rice dough, and Shanghai style pork dumplings. The latter were rather small, and didn't come with a warning that biting them in half would send soup spurting all over the table ... a bit embarrassing. All of them were very good. Joy Cuisine wins on decor and quality, Majesty wins on price. And I have to admit that the slightly shabby, slightly tasteless glitzy decor reminded me a lot of dim sum places in Toronto. Joy's got that vibe going on too with their end-to-end giant chandeliers, although it hasn't got shabby yet.

I decided to walk back to the hotel with my camera and shortly came across a five or six block long fruit and vegetable street market on Reclamation Street, with butchers in the fixed stores behind the booths. The butchers can be interesting: in this tropical climate, the meat is hanging out on the street on display. And the butcher (usually a man) is taking orders and whacking away with his cleaver. Occasionally with a cigarette dangling out of his mouth. I took some people shots at the market: a quick scan suggests I didn't get anything great, but we'll see.

photo: Street market

Vegetables for sale at a street market

I got turned around and ended up heading north rather than south as I'd intended. I walked a good 15 or 20 blocks but didn't mind, I was having a good time. Found another wedding party. All the groomsmen looked spiffy in their new dark suits and their white sneakers. Definitely a WTF moment. Accidentally found a place I'd read about in Rough Guide, a street of kitchenwares (may even have been another stretch of Reclamation Street) and I remembered "number 297" and "razor-sharp cleavers." So I bought something I've wanted for several years, a ... I don't know what it's called, I tend to think of them as cleaver-knives. Think of it as a cleaver, but the body is shorter from blade to back. In this case, the handle is contiguous metal. I've been looking for one in Toronto, couldn't find one I was happy with. At worst it gets seized at Customs and I'm out $25CAN (this isn't super high quality) - I like to think they'd find it hard to justify seizing a kitchen knife.

I caught the MTR back to the hotel, and then a half hour later walked out to try to navigate the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront. This is one place Hong Kong falls down quite badly: public access to the waterfront is poor. I suppose constant land reclamation doesn't help, because what was a park with Island views today is tomorrow's boxed in space ... A path around the tip of the peninsula, perhaps 800 metres of it, was accessible until they started building the latest skyscraper right at the point. The "Walk of Stars" is the current victim, although they're calling it a revitalization and, for the moment, the content from the Walk has been relocated to "The Garden of Stars" nearby (handprints from Jackie Chan, Andy Lau, people like that, and a sculpture of Bruce Lee who sent their film industry international and stratospheric). And the rest of the content (boards documenting the history of the Hong Kong film industry) have been put in a pedestrian underpass that bypasses the current construction. Weird location. It did at least make interesting reading: I've watched enough HK/Chinese film to be familiar with a lot of the names and even some of the movies. Despite the disruptions, there are still plenty of places where you can look out at the Island.

My next stop was the Chi Lin Nunnery again for a bit more tranquillity. As last time, it was raining - but that's fine because there are covered seats. But this time it was also rather cold tranquillity: the high today was reported to be 14C and I'd been fine in my fleece until I sat still. I stayed 30 or 40 minutes.

Back to Tsim Sha Tsui, to another Michelin-rated street food place I'd noticed earlier. The rain had done wonders for their big line-up, I just walked right up to the counter and ordered. This is Cheung Hing Kee Shanghai Pan-fried Buns, where I got two of their original dumplings and two of the black truffle version. And again, no warning sign about the soup inside (you'd think I'd catch on). But these ones are a little too big to take on whole, so you just have to chance it. I blame them for the state my fleece is in: one of the dumplings sprayed all over me. <sigh> Very good though. I also revisited Mammy Pancake (I guess I'm fascinated with the Michelin thing) and got a cheese waffle this time.

Breakfast will be at Joy Cuisine tomorrow, and then it's off to the airport. I'm fascinated by my second flight: I leave Beijing at 6:45 PM on Sunday, and arrive back in Toronto at 6:35 PM on Sunday. It's called "the International Date Line," and I understand the problem it solves ... but it can be a little confusing.

photo: Seen at the street market

A colourful umbrella patched with tape