We recently returned from a 9 day trip to HK and Taipei. We meant to go in February of next year, but when searching for a US Thanksgiving getaway, the flight prices were quite reasonable ($660 USD roundtrip, no layovers), plus it was supposed to be the best time of year to go to these destinations weather-wise.
We went through United, so had the pleasure of waiting at the SFO Amex Centurion Lounge prior to our flight (located at Terminal 3). I had visited a few times before, first time for Aaron though. The Centurion Lounge is probably the best lounge at SFO given the good amenities and modern furniture, Delta comes a close second.
Our flight was a brutal 14 hours to HKG. We were surprised that there were no entertainment systems per seat, instead you had to bring your own tablets and laptops. I suppose you get what you pay for (plus it was United). Flight wifi did work (though slow) during the international flight, which helped kill the boredom.
Touchdown - customs was very fast at HKG and we took an Uber to our Airbnb located in Tsim Sha Tsui. We were feeling quite tired, so went for a nicer sit down restaurant for dinner. That’s right! We took on Din Tai Fung the very first day. The menu is actually near identical to the DTF USA menus, except with better service and I’d say higher food quality. We previously went to the DTF in Santa Clara which was not well paced (food came all at once, and dumplings don’t taste great when they are a bit cold).
There was no line since we arrived pretty late at the Tsim Sha Tsui location. I assume there’d be a short wait during typical eating hours though.
Did not do much the rest of that evening due to jet lag. Next morning (first day in HK) woke up early to go to Australian Dairy Company - a well rated and cheap HK breakfast place. HK style breakfast is quite interesting. It is Western style food made to taste really delicious. Butter toast, scrambled eggs, and macaroni/ham soup, and HK mil tea was the standard breakfast at this place. It was pretty delicious.
Also ended up having Tim Ho Wan - a michelin star dim sum place, well known for their pork buns. They make the outer layer with pineapple bun, which is why it tastes so delicious. It reminded me of the pork buns I had at Mister Jiu’s in SF recently (also Michelin star, but priced way higher haha). It was also well priced and not much of a wait since we arrived so early.
Rested at the Airbnb for a little bit. Proceeded to take the ferry to Central from Harbour City mall. Ferry transit was very cheap and efficient. Landed at the IFC mall after, which had a very cool Apple store located above city streets. I learned that there are tons of malls in HK. You almost never need to be outdoors. It was nice being indoors mostly since it was raining quite a bit on this day, but also quite overwhelming. Many of the shops at HK malls are high end brand name stores.
HK also loves escalators. In the Central area, which has lots of elevated streets, they have an escalator system that spans multiple streets. It felt futuristic as you headed adjacent to the 3rd and 4th floor shops.
We stopped by Tai Cheong Bakery which is known for egg tarts, which were indeed very good. Central being near the working and financial areas of HK, there are many small restaurant streets with a mixture of traditional HK food as well as western restaurants. Due to the high amount of foreigners, HK is very tourist friendly. English signs were available pretty much everywhere. Google Maps had all the transit data, too, stark contrast to South Korea which didn’t have much transit info.
Aaron reserved dinner at a chef recommended place called Ronin, a hole in the wall that was on the pricier side. We hung out at a bar to pass the time and ordered $8 water by accident, haha. This reminded us of the times we needed to pay for water in Europe.
Ronin had a really good vibe. No store front sign is your typical way of saying we are awesome and you need to have seen us on some foodie website to know of our existence. The high chairs we sat in were comfortable and the service was quite good. Our waiter mentioned the typical “well known for-the-Instagram" dishes, which he recommended to us. It was the carpaccio beef dish, flower crab, and the eel fried rice. The beef was delicious here, and the rice did not taste like anything special. We did not feel like splurging for the flower crab. They also serve some amazing cocktails.
Day 2: we woke up early again. Since our travel was mostly planned around food options and most lunch places don’t open until 11, this sort of sucked. Luckily the michelin star fried duck place opened reasonably early - Yat Lok in Central served some delicious duck and roasted pork. Probably the best I’ve ever had, though can be easily obtainable back in Scarborough, Canada.
After that, we went to the well known Wonton noodle place nearby, Tsim Chai Kee. I personally didn’t think it was that amazing, but apparently they are also Michelin recommended. The funny thing was that another American traveler was also hitting the same food spots as us, so we saw him eat at both these places.
After this, I decided it was time for a blow dry. Taipei is known for its cheap and high quality hair services, HK is pretty similar. I think I only spent $10 or 15 (In the US, it tends to be $30+). I just love how DryBar in the US makes so much money on the worst blowdry experience - you literally place your head on a sink for the wash which is horridly uncomfortable. In Asia, you feel like you’re at a spa despite paying more than half the price, and they give great massages during the wash, too.
We walked around some more in the rain, had congee at some Michelin guide congee place - it was nothing special. Went to Causeway Bay next, which was also filled with lots of malls. This time there were more lower to mid end priced shops, along with some strip malls similar to Pacific Mall in Markham, Canada. We went to the well known Eslite Bookstore (famous across Asia), then Tsui Wah (large restaurant chain in HK). We had the baked rice here, which is essentially lasagna with rice instead of pasta. It was alright, we’ve had better in Toronto and Bay Area.
We headed back to Tsim Sha Tsui to Victoria Harbour, which has beautiful cityscape views of HK. The light pollution in HK is ridiculous - though makes the city feel very futuristic and modern. After this, we chilled for a bit at the Airbnb, and headed to the Ritz Carlton which had a hotel bar on the 108th floor. From here, you could get a pretty good view of the city, though the view is blocked off by windows and is quite cold. This spot is not well known to tourists and is quite accessible from the MTR, too. They serve some reasonably priced and hip looking cocktails, especially the mango one placed in a light bulb.
Part 2 of HK in the next post: http://aimango.me/post/hong-kong-part-2, Evernote has a 25MB limit on attachments now 😔