Hong Kong – Milk Tea and Skin Grass

After 10 days in Vietnam we felt like we had our traveling legs back. Next up was Hong Kong- a city that neither of us had visited before. Hong Kong has a rich history as a former British colony, and a unique culture that manages to blend elements of Chinese and western identity. Hong Kong is officially part of China, but independently governed as a ‘special administrative region’, or SAR. U.S. citizens don’t need a visa in advance and can freely travel within Hong Kong, which made our stopover very easy.

We took a brief one-hour flight from Hanoi, and arrived in Hong Kong to our luxurious accommodations. Just kidding, we stayed in the most cramped single room at a hostel we could find. Cheap hostel rooms tend to be woefully under-furnished or regrettably over-furnished, and this room, with a bizarre 6-seater conference table, fell squarely into the latter camp. The hostel was in a fascinating building called the Haiphong Mansion- it was 15 stories, encompassed an entire city block, and housed more diversity of business than some cities. The building housed an Indian market, a yoga studio, a clothing distributor, someone who was shipping a lot of rugs to Guadalajara, at least 4 guest houses excluding ours, several law practices, two different holistic beauty centers, a new wave music shop, and what appear to be numerous private residences. It was an adventure, but I think 4 days was the max given our accommodations.

While the hostel was bare bones, it was quite central and it gave us a great base to explore the city. As soon as we checked into our hostel we scampered right to the Russian embassy to apply for our Russian visas. Jeff wrote a dedicated ‘How-to’ for this section so I won’t go into all of the gory details. In short, the Russians were predictably surly and uncooperative, but after 3 separate visits and two verbal berating-sessions we ended up with our visas. Yay!

photo 3
Russian visas obtained! If our experience with the consulate is any indication, Russia will be super ‘fun’.

We did a fantastic free walking tour through Hong Kong Free Tours. Our tour guide Alla was a native Hong Kong-er (Hong Kong-ite?) and we learned a lot about the history of the British colonial period. I was surprised to learn how much Chinese principles like feng shui (and other crazier superstitions) have shaped the skyline of Hong Kong.

After working up a good appetite walking, we went to Lan Fong Yuen milk tea stall- they make a delicious sweet milky tea and claim their secret is filtering the tea leaves through a lady’s silk stocking. After like 4 milk teas, we went to a noodle shop for and had the best pork noodles of my life. We can’t remember the name in English but we took a photo of the name in Cantonese (see below). The pork is seared so it has a super crispy crunchy skin; when you eat it over soup noodles its like crunchy croutons of pork in the bowl. It was glorious, and I made us go back twice.

Another highlight of Hong Kong was seeing Jeff get in on a game of pick up soccer with some high school kids. He’s the sweaty white guy in the photos below. There were many high-fives and fist-bumps, so I think they had fun.

Overall, it was a good introduction to Hong Kong. It will definitely be a fun city to explore more in the future! The next stop is sweltering Malaysia, where we’ll visit Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh, and Penang.

P.S. This post has a bonus question: what word in English translates to ‘skin grass’ in Cantonese ? Hint: see our photos above (Thanks Judy!).

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