September 13, 2013 by jenniebean10
I’m home, I’m home! While I was sitting in O’Hare for the better part of yesterday and complaining about how I wanted to get home, one of my friends asked me if it was really a bad thing to not have to be back in Gettysburg til later. As much as I love (and absolutely live for) traveling, exploring, being in new places, seeing dear friends, it’s is such a great feeling and sense of relief to make it back to my home base. Everything is familiar, there’s no chance I’ll get lost, and my bed is faithfully here to greet me each time I return. Plus, I get to see all the friends who have made this place home for me. Looking forward to catching up with everyone this weekend; hopefully my jet lag won’t prevent that from happening.
I’m dying to tell you about some of the things I did (and ate) while I was in Hong Kong! I’ve been wanting to do travel food posts about the locations I’ve visited these past 2 years, but really have only scratched the surface, so here’s my first post dedicated to Hong Kong and getting there.
For those of you who don’t know about my travel perks this summer, my brother was working for United, and I was able to fly standby for insanely cheap prices. I took advantage of this and decided to go visit my friend Tiffany in Hong Kong for my last week of vacation. Getting to Hong Kong wasn’t the easiest! I missed my original flight from Harrisburg to Chicago because it was full, and this caused me to miss my connecting flight. Luckily, I’ve got friends and family in Chicago, so I got to hang out with my best friend, Annie, for the day! I was famished getting off the plane, so we stopped for some Buona beef sandwiches. We almost went to Jimmy John’s and had to do an emergency tire-screeching exit from the drive-thru when we heard the voice say, “Welcome to Jimmy John’s!” WHOOPS! Mmmmm, Chicago I love you… (You too, Annie.)
After a 16 hour flight and jumping forward 13 timezones, I arrived in Hong Kong Saturday night and hit the ground running. I haven’t seen Tiffany in over 2 years! It’s crazy to think that it’s been that long since we’ve hung out. Complain all you want about technology ruining our lives, but it makes it possible to maintain long distance relationships and friendships, no matter the distance. Tiffany’s one of the people I keep in touch with on a near-daily basis, but it was still surreal giving her a hug at the train station. She took me to meet up with her aunt Jenny for dim sum and xiao long bao (soup dumplings), which she knew I was CRAVING. I was so hungry, I almost forgot to take pictures! Above is one shot of the last xiao long bao (on the right). We had several other kinds of dumplings, some green beans, and a spicy peanutty soup. Xiao long bao are delicate, and if you ever find yourself lucky enough to be in a situation where you’re eating them, you should know how to eat them! You’ll have a Chinese soup spoon and a plate or little bowl, and they’ll serve the dumplings with a small dish of shredded ginger. Pour some black vinegar over the shredded ginger. Grab your chopsticks and gently pick up a dumpling from the bamboo steaming tray, taking care to not break the skin. Dip the dumpling in the ginger vinegar and hold it over your spoon. Nibble a little piece of the skin and sip the very hot liquid out of the dumpling. Now you can finish your dumpling without burning your mouth!
Next, we headed over to a hipster neighborhood for some “Lab Made Ice Cream,” where they make individual servings of ice cream with liquid nitrogen in KitchenAid mixers. It’s pretty gimmicky, but really fun to watch. Plus, the employees’ uniforms are so cute. This place was packed! We ended up trying the moon cake, strawberry shortbread (best), and Hong Kong custard flavors. While we were sitting inside, we also got to watch their ridiculous commercials. Luckily, LabMade has all their videos posted on YouTube, so you should DEFINITELY check them out. This one is my personal favorite.
On our walk back, we saw a woman making shahe fen, or rice noodle sheets, out on the street. This stuff is used in lots of different dishes, including many dim sum rolls, but according to Jenny it’s usually made by machine now. It was unique to see it being made by hand.
Tiffany and I hung outside Times Square Mall and listened to some live music. Most of it was Cantonese pop covers, but there were a few covers in English which were interesting. One of the guys did I’m Yours (Jason Mraz) and Someone Like You (Adele)…prettttty ballsy to cover Adele! It was entertaining, but what was more entertaining were the little kids who were dancing around to the music.
Next morning, we woke up, ate a big beautiful vegetarian brunch, and left to hike Dragon’s Back, which is a ridge in SE Hong Kong Island between Wan Cham Shan and Shek O Peak. To get to the trail, we had to first climb to the top of a huge mausoleum. The stairs were killer and never-ending, but the first view from there was already promising. As we were trying to find the trailhead, a solo hiker approached us and asked if we knew where we were going. He had hiked the trail before, but wanted to find a different starting point, so he asked around and kind of took us under his wing. We wandered around the top portion of the mausoleum for a while, trying to make our own trail, but hit a dead end and wasted a bit of time. We finally found the trailhead and set off on our little (HA!) journey. After hiking for a while, we had the option to continue on Dragon’s Back or take an easier route down to Big Wave Bay. It was apparent that we hadn’t packed enough water for our hike (ooooops), but our hiking buddy Ming offered up one of his bottles of water. This guy was crazy nice, and had two daughters our age. He had already done another hike earlier in the day, and was in far better shape than either of us, but he would hike ahead of us for a while and then wait up while we caught up to him. This is one of the things I love so much about traveling. We were so lucky to have met Ming!
Along the hike when we were under lots of tree covering, there were tons of little streams running through the trail. Once we got out and could see both sides of the bay, I couldn’t stop grinning. The views were stunningly beautiful and I just wanted to capture every moment of bliss on that trail. We saw a couple of hang gliders catching some wind, which was really cool to watch. I wanted to be up there so badly! I think we were hiking for about 4-4.5 hours, and I’m not sure about the distance. When we finished and were drenched in sweat, we took a minibus over to Big Wave Bay, rehydrated, then headed back to the city to grab some dinner.
We took the tram to Tim Ho Wan between North Point and Fortress Hill for some Michelin Star dim sum. We were starving and SOOOO looking forward to this. In Hong Kong, it’s customary to clean your own utensils. At the diner, they provided us each with a small drinking cup, bowl, spoon, and chopsticks. We got a pitcher of hot water and an empty bowl in which to discard our dirty water. You basically just pour the hot water over your eating tools, then dump it out in the empty bowl, and you’re ready to eat. Tiffany expertly selected all of our dishes, which included shrimp dumplings, steamed spare ribs with black bean sauce, steamed lettuce, pan fried turnip cake, steamed rice rolls with both shrimp and char siu (BBQ pork), and char siu bao, my FAVORITE THING EVER. These char siu bao were the best I’ve ever had. Crunchy and sweet on top, soft and delicious bun, gooey and tender char siu inside…oh my god! We had food babies afterwards, but no regrets because we needed energy for later that night.
I’ll end part one of the Hong Kong Diaries now, but look forward to more posts soon! I know, I know, people want to hear about it, but I’m short on time now so this will have to do for now. Don’t forget, you can subscribe by email or just keep an eye out for new posts via Facebook/Twitter.