Exploring More of Hong Kong
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As a result of yesterday’s rigour, I woke up about half an hour later than yesterday. My legs were rested, but were still bearing the souvenirs of Sunday’s walk. I had also received messages from a friend who had just landed, asking my whereabouts, followed by another who wanted to meet around lunch. I figured that bringing the two together in largely unfamiliar grounds would work for all of us. After making some logistical arrangements via SMS and instant messaging, it was decided that the meet-up would be somewhere in the northern part of Hong Kong Island.
In order to make sure I didn’t miss the 10:00 a.m. breakfast-time cut-off, I brushed my teeth, did a quick wash, placed my hair in a clip, and wandered down to the restaurant in my pajamas. There were a stares from a tourist couple sitting nearby, but the waitstaff chose to see past my presentation. I helped myself to a generous meal, knowing that I would need the energy for the day’s activities. Afterwards, I got myself and the room together, then checked out of the hotel.
I hailed a cab, and took the half-hour ride to the New Territories. I arrived at the hotel I was going to stay in for the last night of my trip. It was still early, so I parked my suitcase at the concierge, and proceeded to head towards Wan Chai by MTR.
Under Bridge Spicy Crab, Wan Chai
Commuting back to the main part of the region and finding Jaffe Road took about an hour, including the couple instances I had to stop for directions. Seeing people seemingly appear from every which way was a silent battle with a mild case of claustrophobia. A few turns later brought me to the right place, and after being short of walking straight into the restaurant’s large, open meat locker, the witnessing kitchen staff redirected me around the corner to the entrance of Under Bridge Spicy Crab.
The famous restaurant has captured the taste buds of many public figures, and was even featured in the Hong Kong installment of Anthony Bourdain’s show, “No Reservations”. One of my friends wanted to try the place out precisely for the latter. By the time I arrived, both my friends were about halfway through their meals. Unfortunately for me, I have a food allergy to crab, so I wasn’t able to savour their signature dish. However, they did have very tasty fried rice and pork, so I was all over that.
All of the waitstaff, except for one, did not speak English. As a result, communicating with them was limited to pointing at various parts of the menu, then resorting to Google Translate for other requests, like for a glass of water, and the bill. I’m sure our attempt at Cantonese was laughable.
Our decision to visit Star Street had been a collective intention, so, after lunch, we decided to head there by tram. All of us were first-time riders, and it took us several instances of trial and error — including crossing the street, upon figuring out that we were on the wrong side — to figure out the system of the trolleys. When we found the right one, we climbed to the set of seats upstairs to get a better view of the sights along the way. We alighted on front of Three Pacific Place, and walked a short distance to a quirky cluster of buildings, which immediately became my favourite place in Hong Kong.
Starstreet Precinct was initially the site of Hong Kong’s first power station, and has since been re-purposed into an art directed gem hidden in plain sight. It consists of Star Street, Moon Street, Sun Street, and Wing Fung street. As a group, we explored some clothing boutiques and took note of some cafés for later lounging. Then, we crossed some back streets, and found ourselves at the back of Ted’s Lookout.
We spied some chairs near the back window of the rustic and industrial inspired restaurant, then asked a couple of men nearby to get a photo of all of us using my camera. They happily obliged, and even relished in directing our poses as they fired a few shots. When it was obvious that they were happy with their work, they handed the camera back to us. It was incredibly adorable. We thanked them for their time, and just before we all went on our way, I took shots of the area myself.
The three of us headed back out to the wider roads, and proceeded to meander in and out of the many stores that lined the streets. We browsed the small retail function of Hong Kong’s Monocle Shop, and peeked at the busier back office through the wooden slats that separated them from the store. I briefly wondered if a new issue of their magazine was in the works. After leaving, we took a few steps up the road to scour through the vintage items at an antique store called Nlostnfound.
The place was enchanting. I found myself lingering by the cozy displays, among religious icons the Catholic in me instantly recognised, and surprisingly intact toys of my own distant childhood. I wanted to learn about the stories behind all of these items, and didn’t want to leave. However, I had to, after a couple minutes. With some reluctance, I followed my friends out the door, but not before directing a note of gratitude to the shop owner, who quietly sat at her desk as we perused the collection. I don’t remember whether not she reciprocated.
I was too enamoured with charm of the place, so while my friends were trying to find an item of posterity to purchase, I spent most of my time going around the precinct and capturing it all on camera. Aside from the adorable word-search-like branding near the store entrance (see below), Nlostnfound’s window display was so full of character, what with its classic desk lamps, globes, and a vintage typewriter arranged to entice any passerby into the histories of other people. I took a shot of it (see above), and it instantly became the defining photograph of my four-day trip.
Moving forward, we made a second round through the streets, but mainly kept our focus along St. Francis Yard and Star Street. A friend eyed an locally-made ochre wallet earlier, and after some time, decided to return to the shop she saw it in, and buy the item. We continued on to browse items made by an international range of designers in stores like Kapok and Odd One Out. It was the middle of the afternoon on a weekday, so many of the outlets were open, but nearly devoid of shoppers.
In between all the beautifully decorated shops and occasional eateries, we saw a pet shop, and some unique rentals that were available within the area. Knowing the amazing location of what we assumed to be lofts, we had a hunch that the price would be astronomical. We moved on, and walked past a popular bespoke clothing store, to which one of my friends remarked that it was the tidiest Club Monaco outlet she had ever seen. We stopped momentarily for a photo.
Thirst and physical exhaustion eventually overtook us, so we headed for Classified, a popular café with a wonderful view of the Wing Fung Street that looks out to the business district. There, we enjoyed the cool evening air, while we spent some time charging our phones. We balanced between satisfied silence and relaxed conversation over piping hot beverages. I was enjoying myself in particular, because the cappuccino that I ordered that day was so creamy and smooth — probably one of the best I’ve ever had.
Earlier that day, a friend from university whom I have been trying to contact before arriving in Hong Kong finally replied, and we agreed to meet up — albeit briefly — that evening. I called him to establish a meeting point, and when the sky reached a rich navy blue, my friends and I parted ways, with the intention to meet up later that night.
The Petit Café
With a little help, I crossed the surprisingly straight-forward underpass to One Pacific Place, and took a seat near our agreed meeting point, the cinemas. After finding each other, we moved our conversation over to a rooftop deli called The Petit Café, where we had dry red wine and meat sandwiches. While we caught up on each others’ lives, we looked up and watched the drizzle pour down against the dance of the evening lights across the night sky.
Then, he had to go. It was near closing time. The smattering of cold water was soon to graduate to rain, so we ran to the mall lobby for a cab, since it was nearing midnight. We promised to keep in touch, and I rode back to the hotel.
L’Hotel Nina et Convention Centre, New Territories
L’Hotel Nina et Convention Centre over at Yeung Uk Road stands far from the epicentre of Hong Kong’s activity, yet offers a breath-taking view of Tsuen Wan, especially in the morning. Between the two places that I stayed, this hotel wasn’t my favourite, mostly because of its location. (Oddly enough, it was also more expensive, given the distance from the heart of the region.) However, to be completely fair to them, they had very good facilities and service.
I met one of my friends from earlier that day at the lobby. After properly checking in, we fetched our bags from the concierge and parked them upstairs, before heading downstairs for a stroll. We took a pitstop at the nearby 7-Eleven for some food and a HKD 99 bottle of red wine, which we shared, along with a generous helping of stories arising from various points of our lives, until we both collapsed in slightly inebriated exhaustion at a little past three in the morning.