Our Cathay Pacific flight from NYC touched down a short time ago in Hong Kong, which is our all-time favorite Chinese city and the ultimate Chinatown. Half a world away from home and we don’t even have to reset our watches. All we have to remember that a 16 hour flight put us 12 hours ahead of EST. Huh ?? Anyway, we flew from daylight to daylight and it is 12 hours later than our bodies believe it to be.
But the timing is perfect – a walk around the old neighborhood, look for a bite to eat ( which turned out to be simmered pork belly with pickled vegetables in a dark, mahogany-lacquer soy sauce mainade ) and an early night. We want to wake up refreshed, energized and in-sync with the pulse of this dynamic city.
In Hong Kong we will conduct tea research and visit with a tea master; then we will fly to neighboring Tawian to observe the summer oolong tea harvest. Taiwan produces some stunning oolong teas, many of which are not available for sale in the US. So we hope to make some good connections here which will benefit our tea enthusiast customers.
We gave ourselves two days in NYC after the 2008 James Beard Awards to ‘acclimate’ to hot, steamy city streets, crowds of people and bus fumes. A trial run so to speak for Hong Kong. But the truth is that Hong Kong makes NYC seem like a small village, and the pace of Hong Kong is measured in in seconds where in NYC it is clocked in minutes. But the 95+ degree weather in NYC is making the 85+ here in Hong Kong seem cool by comparison.
The last time we were in Hong Kong we saw not a glimpse of blue sky – but today at the sky is blue and dotted with fluffy white clouds. In fact, the descent to the airport gave us a stunning panorama view of the islands and lands that constitute the territory of Hong Kong as well as numerous peaks and green spaces that surround the city and its harbors. Take away the freighters and container ships in the waterways and remove the skyscrapers and one can begin to envision how verdant and exotic this landscape it must have been a few centuries ago when the British were given title to the port of Hong Kong
We hopped on the airport shuttle which brought us right to our hotel, The Charterhouse Hotel in Wan Chi. The young man working the desk announced to us that we were receiving a room upgrade to their Signature floor. No reason why was given – could they be feeling our pain from the weekend in NYC ? I doubt that , but we are thrilled and decided not to press. We like this hotel because it is small, well-staffed and very accommodationg. It is clean, well kept up but not expensive or glamourous, and offers us a killer location where we want to be – in the heart of one of the more old-fashioned Chinese neighborhoods and also just one block away from the trolley line. It is a also just a short walk to the popular Causeway Bay shopping and dining area, so there is much to explore in the crowded old streets nearby.
Wan Chi neighborhood offers up bustling and colorful wet markets, tantalizing street foods and small restaurants and our favorite dim sum place. We took a quick look to see if it was still there – and we think it is. Same location, but new name. The inside looks the same – will investigate tomorrow. I have been waiting 4 years to savor a taste of one of their soft and tender custard buns and I have come too far to be disappointed.
Hong Kong supports a very large population. The ride from the airport to the city confronts one with an overwhelming number of high rise apartment buildings built up along the undulating hills and beyond until they are barely still visible. These building are huge – and quite tall – containing perhaps several thousand apartments in each building. There are hundreds of these buildings, and those are only the ones that one can see as far as the eye can follow. I imagine the numbers of people who live within – it is really more than most of us living in the west can easily comprehend.