For Part 2, which features places, shopping, accommodations, currency exchange, and other tips, click here.
This marked my first international trip with a group of friends. What I liked about it was that even if we traveled together, we (or at least I) actually had some time to ourselves. I flew out of Manila at 5 am (the rest of my friends flew in late in the morning and in late evening), though it actually ended up being a wise decision. In my case, I got to have lunch with my boss and other former & present colleagues who are all based in the island. In the evening, one of them generously offered to take me to a gay bar for ‘bears,’ lol. By the time I retired to our hotel, I had been up for 24 hours, with 1 liter of beer in my system to boot.
So make that tip #1: Even if you are traveling as a group, give yourself some ‘me’ time and go solo even for just a few hours.
Tip #2: A trip to a gay bar for bears is always good, haha!
We didn’t have an itinerary, so there were some spontaneous decisions, which were pleasant surprises. Those included some of the restaurants you’d find below. I’m sharing them and other finds over the next couple of entries should you find yourselves in the City of Lights.
Tim Ho Wan
This place deserves the hype from print and online reviews. Generally known as the most affordable Michelin-rated restaurant in the world, Tim Ho Wan offers the best baked bun there is.
It’s the bread the hits the jackpot here: put it in your mouth and it immediately dissolves into this sweet, almost syrupy and fine pulp—it’s part sorcery, part science!
The rest was good-okay: we like the spare ribs, shumai, and other dimsum. I guess you go here for the bun and the affordable prices.
It’s hard to put an estimate on how much you’d spend here as it largely depends on your appetite and how many you are in the group. Oh, and the good news, a branch is opening in SM Megamall this year.
Shop 72, G/F, Olympian City 2, 18 Hoi Ting Road, Tai Kok Tsui
正斗豬骨煲 or “Yummy Hotpot”
Well, that’s what the staff told us when asked about its restaurant’s name in English. It’s 正斗豬骨煲 in Chinese. Google translates it as “Are fighting pig cooker” so let’s go with the staff’s suggestion.
The restaurant couldn’t get any authentic: we had to wash our plates with hot tea and the local customers were screaming at each other one minute and patting each other’s backs in the next. Our table was also provided a rack of spices–no matter how clueless you are about them, I guarantee you’d still end up with a tasty sauce however you mix and match them. Perhaps it’s the broth from the pot which you are supposed to add to your concoction:
It would be best to have a local navigate you through the menu as it has neither English translations nor photos.
The place is open 24 hours. Expect to pay between HK$150 and HK$200 per person; everything served is assured fresh, says our local guide.
We would end our day really late, so by the time we wanted to have dinner, most of the restaurants were already closed. Twenty-hour places we could find were mostly on Hong Kong Island, which makes it more challenging for those staying in Kowloon.
Our hotel concierge actually recommended the restaurant across this, but Tatin found Tai Hing looking more cozy and accommodating (read: affordable). The staff was pleasant and ordering was no sweat. (One of the challenges was to ask for an extra serving of the sauce they used on one of the rice toppings—they got it.)
This is where I found the most beautiful soy chicken I’ve ever encountered in my life:
Look at how that skin glistens. It was so rich and fatty, it almost tasted like goose. My tummy is growling as I type this.
The restaurant is also known for its iced milk tea, which it serves with a wry sense of humor. I ordered the hot variant, which was thick and smooth; the consistency was similar to brewed coffee.
Shop G25, G/F, Grand Tower, 625 Nathan Road, Mongkok
Swedish meatballs, FTW. Oh, and these chicken wings weren’t bad either. Perfect for a quick stopover should you find yourself in Causeway Bay. The place gets pretty crowded (and there are no seats) so extra patience is required. But I thought it was worth it. This came to about HK$20 and it was enough to tide me over until… wait, this was in fact, dinner.
The other branches feature a larger food space, but they’re far from the centers of action.
Park Lane Hotel Basement,310 Gloucester Road
Bee Cheng Hiang
When you’re on a tight schedule and have no time to even sit down for a proper meal, then Bee Cheng Hiang’s barbecued pork (beef jerky) should help you go through your itinerary. It tastes like our good old tocino, but not as messy or sweet. Originally from Singapore, this brand has branched out to other countries (including in Robinson’s Place, Manila) and is seen in most shops in Hong Kong, including at its airport shops.
Next post: shopping, places to visit, a review of Grindr in Hong Kong (lol), and currency exchange tips