Destination: Hong Kong – Day 1

[Warning: super long post – some of the photos are ones I’ve gotten from my friend’s FB accounts – because I misplaced the cellphone memory card with my pics on it!! Luckily I had a few on my camera and posted some]

I started the new year with a trip to Hong Kong with a bunch of friends. We started planning this trip some time last year and ir was originally going to be 6 of us but at the last-minute, Lien wasn’t able to go as he had to “defend the nation” (i.e. national service – reservists) but his wife Berry still came along hahahaha. We then heard that another friend of ours, Chris, was coming back to Singapore from a working stint in China and that he would meet us in Hong Kong while “en route” home.

In the early morning of Jan 15, Berry, Judy, Wendy, Yass and I met at the airport to start our little adventure.

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We were in Hong Kong for 5 days and 4 nights. We flew up on Singapore Airlines (got a good price because we booked a couple of months in advance) and stayed at Cosmo Hotel in Wan Chai. Wendy and I had stayed there before and fell in love with the hotel.

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After landing, going through immigration, getting our luggage and clearing customs, we split up into two groups – Yass, Berry and I went to hunt down a pre-paid SIM card I had heard about, while Wendy and Judy got our MTR and Airport Express passes.

Before our trip I had looked into whether there were any prepaid sim cards with data available and I came across the One2Free Power Prepaid card from 1010 [link here]. For HK$88 (which is about US$11 or S$14), you get 1GB of data valid for 30 days and local calls as well as IDD calls to select countries are at a low flat rate (provided you recharge the card). I didn’t recharge the card though because I was using it mainly for the data (for my apps) and our group was going to keep in contract via Whatsapp. If I needed or wanted to make a call, I could use Facetime, Viber or Line. While some people may feel that 1GB is not enough, it was enough for me as all I needed it for was to check my emails, and for apps like Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram, Foursquare, Google maps and the occasional web surfing to look for something. I thought it was really worth it because my telco charges me S$15 a day (plus tax) for data roaming. Yass and I got one each for our phones while Berry got one for her iPad – the cost of the sim card for the iPad was slightly more, I think by HK$10.

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Once we got our prepaid sim cards sorted out, we went to meet up with Judy and Wendy to catch the Airport Express to Hong Kong station. Given that we would be using the MTR a lot during our trip, we purchased the Airport Express Travel card for tourists for HK$300 (about US$38 or S$49) which covered the cost of the two trips on the Airport Express as well as 3 days unlimited rides on the MTR and MTR buses. The 3 days starts from the first MTR train journey you take. I think you can use the card for the trams on Hong Kong island and possibly the Star Ferry but I’m not sure. Those were cheap anyway so we just paid for them lol..

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Once we got to Hong Kong station, we decided to grab a cab to the hotel rather than wait for the free shuttle bus our hotel offered mainly because Chris was waiting for us at the hotel and we were all dying to get some lunch! After a short ride, we reached our hotel and happily checked in. Had a quick break to freshen up and then headed out in search of food. Berry recommended a beef noodle shop in Sheung Wan called Kau Kee, so we all hopped on the tram and made our way to Sheung Wan. After a short walk from the tram stop and a climb up a “killer” hill, we found Kau Kee. We were lucky that it was mid-week and sort of after the lunch crowd so we didn’t have to wait too long for a table.

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left to right: me, Chris, Judy, Berry and Yass – Wendy’s taking the pic

If your the type of person who only eats at restaurants then this is probably not the place for you. Kau Kee is what I would call a typical Hong Kong “coffee shop” style place – not to be mistake for coffee shops like say Starbucks or Coffee Bean. It’s a bit difficult to describe it given that I’ve never come across an Asian-style coffee shops in the US or in Australia (sorry never been to Europe so I can’t comment on that) but if you live or have every been to Asia then you should know what I mean.

Just in case you don’t live in or have never been to Asia, let me try to explain what I mean – in quick points. Definitely not fancy. Decor is minimal. More likely to have stools than chairs with backs for seats. If you need an extra seat for your handbag, don’t ask the staff for one (you’re likely to be scolded), get it yourself. Sometimes there’s a little self-service involved – cutlery is usually on the table in a pot or something. Don’t be surprised if you hear the staff shouting out your order to the kitchen for your table. Food and drinks will most likely just be placed on the table and for you to sort out which belongs to which person in your group. Given that space may be limited, you may have to squeeze onto a small table or share your table with complete strangers. While they may not look fancy and don’t stand up to the usual definition of a restaurant in western society, you should definitely give them a try because more often than not, the food is great and reasonably priced – I’ve surprised a number of friends bringing them to a place like this only for them to leave raving about how great the food was. If the store has a queue of locals waiting to get in, then that’s a definite indicator that the food is delicious!!!

If you’re wondering why I felt the need to say all that, it was because I read a Tripadvisor review of Kau Kee and the person complained about all of the above, I think she was expecting it to be a 4 star restaurant.

Anyways, back to our experience. Given that I spoke Cantonese and used to live in Hong Kong, the gang let me placed the order. Hehehe our “waiter” and the owner who was sitting at the cashier counter near our table found it funny that for a table of 6 people, 4 of whom were Chinese, it was the lone “Caucasian” (I’m actually half Chinese half English) who was placing the order and in Cantonese no less lol. To be clear, I am not the only one in the group who can speak Cantonese and to be honest the best way to order food when in a foreign country is to say the number of the item you want to order lol – provided of course there are numbers on the menu lol. I ordered the sliced beef with rice noodles in broth [sic]. I wanted something soupy given that it was chilly out. Most of the dishes at Kau Kee costs about HK$40 (about US$5 or S$6.50) and the serving portion is pretty decent.

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1. Outside Kau Kee; 2. Sliced beef with rice noodles in broth

After getting our fill, we made our way to the nearest MTR station where we split up. Berry went to meet up with her sis while the rest of us headed over to Kowloon station to check out Elements shopping mall. Elements is this huge mall that’s divided into 5 zones with each zone being represented by an element. The mall is so huge that it has its own ice skating rink. So what were we doing there? Shopping of course! Wendy, Judy and I managed to score some good deals at the H&M outlet there. We also checked out their Chinese New Year decorations. The new year is going to be the year of the horse so of course there were horses everywhere. Elements was no exception. They had an area where they had a number of horses all decorated differently. Some were painted, there was one that was covered in faux grass and one covered in bling. They also had this huge horse head that at first glance just looked to be textured and painted in an orange-gold colour but when I took a closer look, I realised it was covered in small plastic painted horses. That was what was giving it its texture.

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1. Bling Bling horse; 2. large horse head made of many little ones

After a while, we decided to make our way to Tsim Sha Tsui to look for some dinner. We ended up near Star Ferry and ate at one of my old favourites, Spaghetti House. I’m sure from the name you can kind of guess what they serve. The portions are American sizing and the pricing is pretty reasonable too. After stuffing ourselves with pasta, we decided to take the Star Ferry over to Hong Kong Island and then a cab back to the hotel. And so ends our first day and night in Hong Kong!

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1. Group selfie with Victoria Harbour in the background; 2. riding the Star Ferry; 3. Wendy and me on the ferry – nice pic by Judy

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