Archive for December, 2017

Hong Kong – Hong Kong Island – Modern Architecture

Posted in Causeway Bay, Central, China, Hong Kong, Hong Kong Island, Sheung Wan with tags on December 8, 2017 by gannet39

The skyscrapers of Central are one of the must sees of any trip to HK, not that you can really miss them. The night time view is particularly impressive.

The Kowloon scrapers are quite imposing too, but they are less tightly packed. I’ve given them their own post called ‘Food with a View’. In the post I recommend Eye Bar as a great spot to view the Central buildings at night.

One thing you may hear about is the Symphony of Lights, a daily light show at 8pm each evening where the scrapers on both sides flash their lights in time to music.

The best places to watch the show are from the promenade outside Golden Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai or the Avenue of Stars on the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront, or you could do what I did and catch a special sightseeing ferry across Victoria Harbour from the Star Ferry pier in Tsim Sha Tsui.

The Symphony of Lights Harbour Cruise cost HK$205 in 2017. More info here.

Sadly though I have to say I was less than impressed by the experience. The music was tinny and failed to move me in any way, and the lights on each skyscraper seemed to be doing their own thing rather than linking up. You do get a good view of the buildings though. Video here.

My favourite skyscraper as I mentioned before is the ICT (more pics in the ‘Food with a View’ post).

How well you can see everything depends on how lucky you are with the weather.

You can count on a few pea-soupers every now and then, although this can sometimes add to the atmosphere.

These pics are of The Center, which is the fifth highest building in HK.

Not sure where in Central I took this random shot.

Elsewhere, the flashing lights on this skyscraper in Causeway Bay were quite fun. Video here.

These residential buildings are in Sheung Wan, near Man Mo temple.

I stumbled across a couple of older buildings in Central that I liked.

Please also see my previous post on Innovation Tower which is a very special building indeed.

And that was Hong Kong! Off to catch the ferry to Macau next…

Hong Kong – Hung Hom – Innovation Tower

Posted in China, Hong Kong, Hung Hom, Kowloon with tags , on December 7, 2017 by gannet39

To be honest, despite being a futuristic city (the inspiration for my favourite film Blade Runner among others), I think most of the modern architecture in Hong Kong is pretty dire.

There is the odd exception, such as the Jockey Club Innovation Tower designed by Zaha Hadid. I’m a big fan of the late architect so on my day off I got the MTR over to the University of Hong Kong campus in Hung Hom to visit the School of Design. It totally deserves it’s own post.

You’ll find it on the Google map.

I managed to wander around the building taking snaps without any hassle. I’m not sure what security is like usually but maybe the fact it was graduation day helped make me relatively inconspicuous.

Click on the photos to see them at their best in full-screen slideshow mode.

 

 

Imagine being a design student and getting to study in this amazing building. I’d be very inspired by it.

More modern architecture next!

Hong Kong – out and about on Hong Kong Island

Posted in Causeway Bay, Central, China, Happy Valley, Hong Kong, Hong Kong Island with tags , on December 6, 2017 by gannet39

Please see my other posts on Architecture, Markets , Bars and Restaurants (Chinese, Asian, Noodles, Dim Sum) for more places to check out on Hong Kong Island. Here’s some more stuff to do that doesn’t fit into any of the other posts. Everywhere mentioned is on this Google map.

Each time I’ve been to HK one of the highlights has been a visit to Happy Valley racecourse. The course is set against a magnificent backdrop of tall buildings which must themselves have a fantastic view of the races and the impressive grandstand.

I like to go down to the paddock to choose my horses. Video here.

In 2006 I picked several winners and went home buzzing with a few hundred dollars. No such luck in 2016 when every nag I bet on lost by several lengths. Not a single horse came in for me and I soon lost all my allotted budget of a few hundred dollars (I’m no big timer). Video here.

But you can always console yourself with snacks and beer.

Another fun thing to do is take a ride on the trams. Video here.

It’s only $2.30 (exact change only) and they also accept Octopus cards. You get on at the back and then pay at the front when you’re getting off.

Tram

There are special 1930s open top sightseeing trams and you can even hire a party tram!

 

A walk down Hollywood Road provides a few sights. Frommer’s self-guided walking tours are quite informative if you want to know more about the places you are passing.

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It might not look it but this guy is actually going backwards.

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Push carts are definitely still a thing here.

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Towards the end at 124-126 Hollywood Road is Man Mo Temple (open daily from 8am to 6pm) which pays tribute to ‘Man’, the God of Literature and ‘Mo’ the God of War. Built in the 1840s it’s Hong Kong’s oldest temple. Click on the pics for a full screen slideshow.

Video here.

This fun automaton was outside when I was there.

Video here.

There’s a smaller shrine on the stairs at the top of Peel Street.

The huge incense coils are purchased by people who want their wishes to be granted. They can take as long as three weeks to burn.

Of course The Peak is a must do. I went up in 2006 but have lost the photos sorry. I recommend taking the funicular up and then doing the Peak Circular Walk on the way down.

Next time I go I’d like to walk the Dragon’s Back in Shek O country park.

Architecture next!

Hong Kong – out and about in Kowloon

Posted in China, Hong Kong, Kowloon, Mongkok, Prince Edward, Tsim Sha Tsui with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 5, 2017 by gannet39

The first half of this post is mainly for my colleagues staying in Mongkok, the second half is for all the bits and pieces I have left over about south Kowloon.

Mongkok Streets

Our employer puts us up at the Royal Plaza Hotel at 193 Prince Edward Road West, Mongkok, www.royalplaza.com.hk. It’s an excellent hotel with great facilities including a big, well-equipped gym and a large outdoor swimming pool. The breakfast is fully comprehensive with plenty of choices and the restaurant has a good rep although I’ve never tried it. You even get a free mobile phone to use during your stay.

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The views of uptown Kowloon from my hotel window were great.

Good morning

 

In terms of logistics, the hotel so well located that you can be in Central within forty minutes (on foot followed by metro) or instead head out to the New Territories without having to travel through town. And it’s within walking distance of all the temptations of Mongkok.

Please click the Mongkok  link on the home page index to access reviews of all the eateries I’ve been to. Everywhere mentioned is on this Google map.

When heading south on the MTR to Central, the two nearest stations, Prince Edward and Mongkok, are equidistant from the hotel, but I prefer to go to Prince Edward as the station is much less hectic.

The Prince Edward station is also near the Sunshine Laundry at 44-62 Tai Nan Street, www.sunshinelaundry.com.hk (exit C2 of Prince Edward MTR) so you can pick up your dry cleaning after work (opening hours are 0800~2100). Dry cleaning one shirt cost me HK$17 as opposed to HK$90 to wash and another HK$68 to iron in the hotel! It can take 5 days for it to be ready though so some forward planning is required.

On the other hand, at the weekend, if you exit Mongkok station via exit B2 on Fife St, you get to witness all the madness on Sai Yeung Choi Street. Street performers take over between noon and 10pm on Saturday and Sunday when the area is made pedestrian only. Buskers, boppers, singers and various talent show hopefuls come together to create mind-boggling mayhem. It’s definitely a spectacle worth seeing.

For a taste of old Hong Kong, I recommend a walk along Reclamation Street.

It’s not a particularly pretty area but it’ll give you a good idea of how things used to be.

The area is ripe for redevelopment and probably won’t be around much longer.

On the subject of construction, it’s interesting to observe that builders  in Hong Kong always use bamboo scaffolding, even when constructing modern skyscrapers! Bamboo is much more flexible than metal scaffolding but I still wouldn’t like to be bouncing around on it at the top!

Next to the entrance of the Holiday Express on Dundas Street there’s an imitation of a Banksy stencil.

In the original the rioter is throwing a bunch of flowers but this has been replaced by a book in the Hong Kong version. The piece is a controversial comment on the authorities draconian response to the democracy demonstrators earlier in 2016.

Nearby Portland Street is also very atmospheric to walk around at night.

It’s Hong Kong’s red light district so it has a very seedy atmosphere but it’s relatively safe.

There’s a Snake Restaurant here but I never had the courage to go in by myself without knowing what to ask for.

I did a fair bit of shopping on my 2016 trip. I bought a new Samsung Galaxy S8 from a vendor at Sin Tat Plaza at 83 Argyle Street (Mongkok MTR exit D2). This shopping centre for phones was once notorious for rip-offs and fake models but has been (mostly) cleaned up in recent years.

My phone was £150 cheaper than at home but I later found out the charger socket was faulty, hence the price. It wasn’t a problem (I got a wireless charger) but if you want more security then go to Broadway or Fortress (branches all over). Buying products that have their own box is a way of making sure they are original. Reviews here.

Other than China, I don’t think I’ve been anywhere where people are so addicted to their phones. Hong Kongers seem to be constantly on their mobiles when they’re walking around.

I also got a suit made at Sam’s Tailor at Ground Floor, K&L Burlington Arcade 90-94C Nathan Rd, (Tsim Sha Tsui MTR Exit B1) www.samstailor.com. He’s the most famous tailor in town and Kylie Minogue, Gwen Stefani, Avril Levigne, Bjork, Roberta Flack, Celine Dion, Steffi Graf, Joan Collins, Naomi Campbell, Hilary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice and Madeleine Albright, amongst others, have all been customers. You will run a gauntlet of other tailor touts on the way so you could compare prices but I didn’t bother. I’ve barely worn it but the suit fitted well despite being pretty cheap (around £200 as I recall).

I also got two pairs of reading glasses around the corner at Tai Kwong Optical, 22-28 Mody Road, taikwongoptical.com. The quality was good, prices were fair, and he had a good selection of frames. Small shops like this will give you a better price than the chains.

While you’re in the area you could drop in on the Avenue of Comic Stars over the road at Kowloon Park Drive, www.comicavenue.hk. Handy if you have kids to entertain but a bit silly otherwise.

Here are a few signs I came across that tickled me.

 

Walking around Hong Kong Island next!

Hong Kong – the markets

Posted in Central, China, Hong Kong, Jordan, Jordan, Mongkok, Yau Ma Tei with tags , , , , , , , on December 4, 2017 by gannet39

As regular readers will know, I love markets, especially food markets, and Hong Kong has heaps of them. Here are a few I’ve been to.

MONGKOK

Fa Yuen Street Market

Fa Yuen Street Market sells clothes, bags and electrical items as well as fruit and veg and other foodstuffs.

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The stalls are open from 10am to midnight at the northern end of the street.

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This lady is deseeding a Jackfruit or Bōluómì (菠萝蜜).

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Fa Yuen is also known as ‘sneaker street’ as there are lots of shops along the southern section selling sports shoes. They’re a bit cheaper than at home but good luck telling the snide from the real.

Fa Yuen Street Wet Market

Located at 123A Fa Yuen Street, this is a very typical Chinese food market. As such some of the sights captured in these photos are not for the faint-hearted. You have been warned!

Freshness is very important for the Chinese shopper and this market is one of the few places you can still select a chicken while it’s still alive and have it butchered in front of you. The same goes for fish which are kept in tanks ready for purchase.

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You can click on these pictures to go to full-screen slideshow mode.

 

 

Not sure what the white fungus is but…

…the bright orange things are pigs’ fallopian tubes, or Shēng Cháng (生肠), a common street food delicacy that I’m still plucking up the courage to try.

The cucumber shaped with the ridges is Sin Qua (絲瓜 or 勝瓜), or in English, amongst many other names; Angled or Ridged Luffa, Silk Gourd, Chinese Okra, or formally Luffa Acutangula. Originally from India, it tastes similar to okra and courgette.

The plant with the green leaves and white stems is called Pak Choi or Bok Choy (上海青). I tend to call it Pak Choi as the translation ‘Chinese Cabbage’ is highly ambiguous.

Cantonese wind-dried sausages  are called Laap Cheung (臘腸). They’re a slightly-sweet mix of pork fat and meat and sometimes include offal like liver. Other ingredients are light soy sauce, salt, sugar and rose wine (Mei Kwei Lu). Spices such as Chinese Five Spice, Sichuan Pepper Powder and chilli powder might also be added to create different flavours.

Goldfish Market

The northern end of Tung Choi Street (between Mongkok Road and Prince Edward Road West) is lined with pet shops.

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Goldfish and other exotic aquatic species are available to buy here. One shop proprietor wasn’t keen on me taking photos of the turtles and puppies so I laid off but I got a few of the fish.

 

 

Flower Market

If you like your blooms you should take a stroll along Flower Market Street which has over fifty flower vendors.

 

 

JORDAN

Temple Street Market

The legendary night market, running from 4am to midnight. It’s definitely worth a wander but it’s full of rip-off merchants so be careful what you buy. I bought several novelty cigarette lighters back in 2006, but they stopped working pretty much straight away. The street food is probably fantastic but I can’t take the risk of eating it due to my job. Bonne chance!

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YAU MA TEI

Yau Ma Tei Wholesale Fruit Market

A dingy but atmospheric old market that’s good for photo ops. It starts at 4am so it was pretty quiet when I arrived around lunchtime after working nearby.

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Apparently it’s disputed territory between Triad clans and gang fights have occurred, although tourists don’t have anything to worry about. The most action I saw was an animated game of Mah Jong.

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There are lots of strange fruits and veggies on display. Click to go big.

 

 

The long green beans, Dau Gok (豇豆), have many names in English, including Long-Podded Cowpea, Yardlong, Snake, Pea, Asparagus or Chinese Long Bean. The photo shows both types; the light green ones are known as ‘baak dau gok’ or literally ‘white long beans’, and the dark green are known as ‘cheng dau gok’ or ‘green long beans’.

The warty green vegetable is I think is a fatter than usual variety of Bitter Melon aka Bitter Gourd, or Kǔguā (苦瓜) in Chinese.

No idea what the long brown things are.

The pink and yellow gnarly fruits are two kinds of Dragon Fruit or ‘Huǒlóngguǒ’ (火龍果), whereas the squarish orange ones are upside down Persimmon or ‘Shizi’ (柿子).

The red fruits are called ‘Lián wù’ (蓮霧) in Chinese and in English they’re known as ‘Roseapples’ or ‘Lillypillies’, or more formally as Syzygium Cumini. and can be eaten fresh or used for jams and jellies. Cloves are the dried flower buds of it’s relative Syzygium Aromaticum.

On sunny Autumn days, everywhere you go you’ll see green mandarins being peeled and their skins being dried. ‘Chenpi‘, prized for it’s bitter flavour, is used as a cooking ingredient as well as a medicine. It’s easy to make but you have to wait at least three years for the flavour to develop.

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CENTRAL

Pottinger Street Costume Market

Pottinger Street also known as Stone Slabs Street due to its granite steps on the section between Hollywood Road and Stanley Street.

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It’s the place to come when you’re shopping for angel wings…

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…as well as Father Christmas outfits, feather boas, multi-coloured wigs and all other kinds of party supplies.

Graham Street Market

Further up the hill, the Graham Street fruit and veg market has been operating for 160 years making it Hong Kong’s oldest street market.

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Sadly the area is under threat due to redevelopment so go while you can.

You can click on these pics to enlarge them.

 

 

The segmented brown vegetable at top left is Lian Ou (莲藕) or Lotus Root.

There are a few things I’ve been unable to name. Can you help me out?

Hong Kong – bars and pubs

Posted in Central, China, Hong Kong, Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, Mongkok, Tsim Sha Tsui with tags , , , , , , , , on December 3, 2017 by gannet39

Here are a few bars I liked in 2017.They’re all on this Google map.

CENTRAL

Quinary (Advanced B+),56-58 Hollywood Road, Central, quinary.hk

Top notch mixology with prices to match. This sleek bar could double as a science lab with such exotic kit as a centrifuge, a rotary evaporator, a sous vide and vacuum machine all being used to assemble the exotic creations on the menu.

This is the home of Hong Kong’s most famous cocktail, the Earl Grey Martini. Earl Grey tea infused ‘pearls’ of sodium alginate (a seaweed extract used as a food stabliser) float in a pool of cucumber, elderflower, Ketel One citrus vodka, Cointreau, lemon and lime, topped with a foam crown made using an aquarium air pump.

It’s massively poncey and a bit difficult to drink, but I liked it (B+). The bill came to a hefty HK$143.

Recommendations from others include the Touch of Rose and the Oolong Tea Collins.

Little L.A.B. (Intermediate B+), 48-50 Staunton St, Central, www.facebook.com/littlelab50

A smaller, less pretentious bar around the corner from Quinary but also selling original and inventive cocktails. I had a decent Dark ‘n’ Stormy (spiced rum, ginger beer, bitters) and a nice chat with the barman. As it was happy hour the bill only came to around HK$100.

Aberdeen Street Social (Advanced B+),G/F, PMQ, 35 Aberdeen St, Central, www.aberdeenstreetsocial.hk

Also around the corner from the above, their outdoor terrace is a nice spot for a drink. The setting is the outdoor gardens of the PMQ, formerly a housing complex for married policemen and their families, now a centre for creative industries. It’s also a Michelin star restaurant (untried).

Club Feather Boa (Advanced ?), 36 Staunton St, Central, Hong Kong

This speakeasy type place was recommended by a friend but, although I tried a couple of times, I couldn’t get in as you have to be outside at a certain time to be inspected for admission. Their entrance policy is quite controversial, see the negative reviews on TA, but I wanted to try it for myself. Next time.

Other nearby bars reviewed on the Gannet:

Ronin (Advanced B+), 8 On Wo Lane, Ground floor, Sheung Wan, www.roninhk.com

High end food and drink with a Japanese slant.

Edition (Intermediate B), 37 Peel St, Central

Cosy neighbourhood bar selling American-Korean fusion food.

Reviews of both here.

KOWLOON

TAP aka The Ale Project (Intermediate B+), G/F, 15 Hak Po Street, Mongkok, www.thealeproject.com

Of course the craft beer revolution has reached Hong Kong as well. I came with my friend Kelvin, a beer aficionado who gave it a good rating. I had a glass of IPA which was fine but more expensive (about HK$45 a half pint) than what I’m used to paying back at home in Sheffield (the beer capital of the UK) but then this is Hong Kong. We liked it though as it has a good atmosphere. You can even stand outside and simultaneously drink and smoke if that is your want, which is impossible to do in the UK now.

Eyebar (Intermediate +), 63 Nathan Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui

Roof top bar with a fantastic view. Review here.

On this trip I deliberately avoided the three main drinking areas for Westerners, although I have passed through them on occasion so I know what they’re like. If you want frenetic townie action it can be found at Knutsford Terrace in Kowloon and Lan Kwai Fong and Wan Chai on Hong Kong Island.

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