Hong Kong, China
My trip to Hong Kong was a different kind of trip. It wasn't a vacation, but it wasn't not not a vacation. I went to Hong Kong to study abroad for three weeks while I was in college, and it was probably the best study abroad experience anyone's ever had. Of course, I'm biased, but here's why: I got to study food. I basically got to eat my way through Hong Kong and call it a "global food studies course."
Considering Hong Kong is home to people from a variety of different cultures, it comes to no surprise that the dining scene there is almost as eclectic and interesting as New York's. However, its complex history and cultural diversity also make it particularly difficult to define what unique aspects make up "Hong Kong cuisine." This question is almost impossible to answer, but it is definitely an interesting topic that I considered during my trip. I'm going to talk about this, as well as the attractions I visited during my time there, in this blog post. I stayed in a subpar hotel in Kowloon with a bunch of students, so I'm going to skip sharing that experience. However, I will say that if I go back, I plan on staying in Central Hong Kong.
What I Ate
If you go to Hong Kong and don't do it up with Cantonese dim sum, you're not really living.
CANTONESE DIM SUM
Dim sum is one of the most prominent meals in Hong Kong's dining scene and a noteworthy staple to what people consider to be "Hong Kong" cuisine. I was lucky enough to embark on two different dim sum journeys: Sunday dim sum lunch and an early dim sum breakfast.
SUNDAY DIM SUM, RESTAURANT PEONY, DISCOVERY BAY, HONG KONG
This was my first dim sum experience complete with dishes such as steamed dumplings, "siu mai," chicken's feet, pork buns, rice noodle rolls, honey chicken wings, har gow and deep fried squid.
BREAKFAST DIM SUM, PARAMOUNT BANQUET HALL, KOWLOON CITY, HONG KONG
This early morning dim sum breakfast was the kick off experience to the NYU program. Many of the dishes were the same as the ones from the traditional Sunday dim sum lunch with the addition of radish cakes, a sweet sponge bread and vegetarian rice noodles and dumplings.
STEAMED PORK BUNS
Fluffy, soft steamed buns stuffed with cantonese barbecue pork. Basically where baby angels come from.
JUMBO FLOATING RESTAURANT
Jumbo is essentially a floating tourist trap but I really wanted to go. The menu is extremely long and complicated with an array of Asian-inspired dishes and unique ingredient pairings. We ended up ordering fried rice with egg whites and foie gras, goose liver puff pastries and braised shark's fin soup — a Chinese delicacy that I felt very guilty trying due to the moral issues surrounding shark finning, but I also wanted to taste as an attempt to understand the phenomenon.
Where I Went
Hong Kong is more than just a bustling city, it's a beautiful, scenic destination. There are tons of things to do aside from just exploring the urban life, like venturing off to historical landmarks, hiking, going to the beach and taking day trips.
Tian Tan Buddha at Po Lin Monastery
Also known as Big Buddha, this is a giant statue on the Ngong Ping, Lantau Island. You take the cable cars up and get a beautiful view of the city.
This is a harbour between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon with a beautiful view of the city.
Dragon's Back Hiking Trail
If the weather is nice, I highly recommend exploring Hong Kong's natural wonders.
St. Stephen's Beach and Stanley Village
We ended up hiking to this quaint beach town. There was a cute market, some shops and cheap dining options all near the pretty beach. This area is known for being an expat town, with a very diverse population.
This is supposed to have the most beautiful views in all of Hong Kong. You take the tram up to the top and see the entire city.
There are two parts of Hong Kong: Hong Kong Island and HK's "darker side," Kowloon. I stayed in Kowloon for the majority of my trip. It's much less modernized than Hong Kong Island and in my opinion, has much more character. However, the air is super smoggy and things seemed a little less "clean" on this side. It's very hustle and bustle.
Within Kowloon, some attractions are:
- Nathan Road: a main road with lots of shopping
- Ladies' Market: outdoor ladies fashion market
- Hong Kong Museum of History
- Clock Tower
- Hong Kong Space Museum
- Tsim Sha Tsui: shopping and nightlife district in Kowloon
Temple Street Night Market
This is a popular street bazaar lined with fortune tellers, food vendors, traders and artists. If you go to Kowloon, you must pay a visit.
Visit the wet markets if you're curious about the food system in Hong Kong. For those of you that don't know, wet markets are places where meat and produce are sold instead of dry markets, which sell non-perishable goods. If you're squeamish look away.
Halal Road in Tsim Sha Tsui
If you're a food dork like me, you'll find this really interesting. Halal road is an off the beaten path row of halal restaurants. I thought it was so cool because it was inside a building and was completely different than the Chinese restaurants and street food I was seeing everywhere.
Where I Went Out
If you think the U.S. parties hard, think again. Hong Kong is one of the wildest places I've ever been with a booming nightlife. Think: jello-shots, vodka syringes, jumbo hard liquor drinks, flip cup tournaments, night clubbing....walking home drunk at 7AM....
Central Hong Kong is home to the majority of the hot spots. These two neighborhoods are highly recommended if you're trying to go out.
Lan Kwai Fong
Go to SoHo if you want chic, more sophisticated bars. It's kind of like the SoHo in Manhattan. It's not where you're going to go blackout off of jello shots, but it's where you'll get some cool cocktails with friends.
Take a Day Trip to Macau
If you're in Hong Kong, it would be silly not to take the ferry to Macau for a day or a night. Macau is like the Vegas of China. I went for the night with a few friends and we had a great time.