Periscope Depth

hong kong, part 2

(Part 1)

  • Between Tsim Sha Tsui, Central and Wan Chai, about one of every forty people you pass on the street is Caucasian. If they’re not wearing a tailored suit, they’re tourists. The ratio gets even lower once you get out of downtown. I had never been to a city where I was that much of an ethnic minority, so it was fascinating*. No one pointed and stared, although we got a few odd glances on Sunday morning.

  • … which may have been because we were up too early. Almost nothing in Hong Kong opens before 10:00 AM. Sylvia and I would frequently wander through vast malls, peeking in the windows of shuttered establishments and checking our watches. It’s odd, being the only two people in a shopping center. Once 10:00 AM rolls around, however, the population goes from zero to millions in a few minutes.

  • The leisurely hours made finding breakfast hard. Sylvia and I usually found a corner bakery to satiate us. The food was decent but heavy, a legacy of 99 years of British rule. Hong Kong pastries follow the British rule of taking any two meats, adding cheese and stuffing it in a roll. I had a tuna/salmon roll in a croissant one morning; Sylvia had “special ham toast.”

  • I thought I was avoiding the worst of typhoon season when I booked, but we got intermittent showers all week. Also the humidity that that implies. Bring a bottle of water with you if you plan to do any walking outdoors.

  • Everything is in English. Everyone speaks enough English to do their job for a couple of polite Westerners. The currency is intuitive: colorful bills, change that goes from small to large in value. Flagging down a server can be difficult, though. Waiters don’t hover as they do in the States: you have to wave one over and start making demands. And if your waiter isn’t sure of her English skills, she might find an excuse to hit other tables first.

  • If you tire of Chinese food, it’s easy enough to find a Western franchise on your block. McCafe’s are everywhere, all open 24 hours. Burger King, KFC and Pizza Hut are popular too. I was curious about Kowloon’s interpretation of the Whopper but Sylvia insisted we stick to local cuisine. I relented, but under duress. Though I can’t prove it, I have a strong suspicion that the meat in your typical yum cha chain is no more “local” than the meat in your typical Burger King. It all rolled off the same COSCO container.

Crowds filling the streets for National Day in Kowloon.

* Making a connecting flight in Atlanta doesn’t count.

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