Hong Kong holds a more than special place in my heart. The birthplace of my father and his siblings. The place I came to visit my grandparents when I was Monkey’s age. Home to many of my cousins and their offspring. The island where my sister has lived for ten years. My visits there have contributed to making me who I am. Even if you only have 48 hours to spend in Hong Kong you can really get a feel for the place and understand why I love it so.
Experiences like riding the Peak tram, boarding the Star Ferry and eating fine, fine meals at some of the world’s most luxurious hotels, were highlights of my childhood. And during those visits to Hong Kong, at least 15-20 members of my extended family would gather for dim sum or dinner a number of times.
Everyone in my family, without exception, appreciates and loves to eat great food. With at least two large round tables, and a lazy susan laden with delights connecting us to one another, the main conversation during these gatherings is always about the food. What tastes good? What haven’t you tried yet? And always a pair of hovering chopsticks (your neighbor’s), putting things on your plate or re-arranging what’s already on it. This is how we show we love each other.
So with just 48 hours to spend in the Fragrant Harbor—which smells more like fried sewage but still, it is such an evocative smell I can’t help but love it—it wasn’t too hard to decide what to do.
First stop, like within two hours of landing after a 14-hour flight, was food, of course. My sister took us to BÊP Vietnamese Kitchen in SoHo. Nothing like a little pho to reset the system after all that travel. Broth, easy to digest noodles and a little protein – just what the doctor ordered. I couldn’t resist trying the sesame rice crackers, and polished off the lot. Monkey chowed down on his favorite, chicken satay, and we rounded it off with a lovely young coconut to rehydrate the system. For fast service and yummy food, this is a great spot located in a traditional part of the city with lower rise buildings and lots of alleys and markets to check out.
Make sure you visit the Gage Street wet market before they completely knock it down. The gentrification of the area has already begun with a swanky deli and butcher: Feather and Bone, which is a real cornucopia of all things European and delectable, with an espresso bar to boot.
After a lot of sleep, next up was an incredibly hot (like 107 degrees Fahrenheit hot) and expensive (at $50 USD) yoga practice at Pure Yoga. There are definitely cheaper options, but if you want to practice yoga in a high rise, with a great teacher (I’ve never been to a bad class here here), then check out one of their studios. You can find Pure in NYC too. All that sweating, twisting and movement is another tried and tested way to get your body back in sync after being stuck in a tin can hurtling through the sky.
Our trip coincided with Easter Sunday – and my lovely aunt arranged a wonderful, big family lunch. The aforementioned two large round tables sat three generations for dim sum. My uncles and aunts, their offspring (my cousins), and their offspring—Monkey’s first cousins once-removed. (I think.) The lazy susan was soon crowded with all the usual favorites from char siu bao (steamed pork buns), to dumplings and noodles. I particularly loved these vegetable steamed beauties which were decorated to look like pumpkins.
After lunch, with about 10 kids in tow and a lot of full bellies, we braved the hordes to go a few miles down the road to Repulse Bay. On the south side of the island, this is where the most accessible swimming beaches are to be found. Back in the day, Repulse Bay was home to a gorgeous colonial hotel, which was sadly pulled down in the early 1980s (preservation is not a trait of most Asian countries). I have vague recollections being there as a young child.
Today, there is a replica building with a few high-end stores and a restaurant, and a recent addition at beach-level is a throbbing scene of bars and stores. We grabbed drinks and ice cream and watched the kids go wild on the sand. A perfect afternoon.
Let it never be said that I don’t make the most of my time anywhere. After an amazing dry martini, made by one of my cousins, Monkey and I headed back to Central with the intention of finding a way to enjoy the night skyline of Hong Kong before we crashed hard. We took the moving walkway down to IFC and found a spot outside at Isola.
The view of the harbor has changed over the past decade with all the land reclamation, but still, it’s pretty impressive. A perfect way to wind down the day. Needless to say, we fell asleep almost as soon as we got back to our AirBnB just off Hollywood Road.