Our day 4 in Hong Kong was a Monday, and we headed to Central during the morning rush hour. The MTR was a lot fun – like a Times Square bound 7 Train at Long Island City at 8:45 in the morning – maybe worse. The lines on the platform weren’t even that long, but we had to wait till the third train before being able to barely squeeze on. We didn’t even bring the stroller (put Xuan Xuan on the back), otherwise we could just forget it for the next hour or so. It was the worst public transit rush hour I had seen, but I enjoyed it. I believe that only highly demanded public transportation systems get enough public resources to keep them running efficiently and keep cars off the roads.
Our breakfast destination was Honolulu Coffee Shop, an HK-styled cafe. Not sure what Hawaii had to do with this place, but we came for its tied-for-the-best-in-the-world egg tarts. Depending on how you interpret the reviews, this place wasn’t hyped as “the best” but was the most respected flaky crust alternative. We tried it and hot damn, sorry Golden Gate Bakery of San Francisco, we did love you once.
Leaving Honolulu in awe, we waited for the famous Escalators to reverse in direction. The “Blah-and-Blah Escalator Systems”, known as the world’s longest escalator system, had a pretty descriptive but lame name so it was commonly known just as the Escalators. Starting from the center of Central, its many sections of moving walkways and escalators took people up and down the steep hills. They ran only a single direction at a time, though, so we had to wait for the official end of morning commute hours, before they started sending people upward.
The “stone road”, parallel to the Escalators near the bottom. Given its ancient looks, a lot of big movies supposedly filmed here
Climbing was a lot of fun
Random stuff that we found while waiting for the Escalators
The Escalators were a big tourist attraction that primarily served a functional purpose. We rode them through downtown, colonial streets, and eventually into the residential areas. It was a nice experience of the “local” lifestyle, although we did recognize that whoever lived in these neighborhoods probably shopped at those malls that we avoided. Walked by a realtor’s office and took a peek at the listings. 400 square feet apartment further up the hill for over $3 million USD??? People with this kind of money in Beverly Hills were all driving multiple Bentley’s, but those here still had to climb stairs.
The first section
One of the very old streets, home to some iconic HK foods.
One of those words more easily spelled backwards.
Top of the Escalators!
Looking down the foot bridge to the cars that have to take the very windy route down the hill.
Back near the bottom of the Escalators, we got more egg tarts from Tai Cheong, supposedly the best in the world. Turned out that we didn’t enjoy the pie crust variety as much, so Honolulu (flaky crust) remained our favorite. Both were amazing, though, and seriously raised the bar of egg tarts for us.
Did not have to pay 10 cents for this bag 🙂
This is pie crust
Around the corner was yet another holy grail of Hong Kong snack foods – Lan Fong Yuen, the original creator of Hong Kong styled milk tea and yuan yang, the coffee-tea blend. For a period of time, Hong and I had a ritual of getting these drinks twice per week (milk tea for her; yy for me), so the idea of being able to taste the original version was very exciting to us. We only got one cup to share (and dang it was small), but wow the flavor was unforgettable!
Some mafia guy ordering the original of the original.
Such a small cup!
Next up, we visited a tailor at the bottom of the Escalators. Note that given the vertical nature of Hong Kong, a lot of places could be very hard to find even if you had the complete street address. This place wasn’t too bad, though it was still odd to walk through an unmarked building and hop into its elevator. Getting custom suits made was supposedly a big thing to do in HK, and Cynthia recommended this place as her family’s tailor of choice. An experienced (over 40 years!!!) man took careful measures for me and collected a flat fee of under $200 USD. Yup, the price tag was that outrageously low.
Address looked about right…
So exited! New clothes!
After our nap today, we headed toward our last major attraction in Hong Kong – the Victoria Peak. The walk from the MTR station to the Peak Tram station wasn’t the most straightforward, but we managed. The historic tram itself, however, turned out to be the biggest surprise of the trip… there was a huge line that wrapped around the street corner! It was like a Disney World experience, taking up so much time that we almost considered not visiting the Peak. Oh well, we were stubborn people who persevered.
The Lippo Centre was among the oddest looking buildings in HK, while not being ugly like the HSBC Main Building. The roof top of this building was where the evil restaurant empire’s chef meetings, in the movie God of Cookery, took place.
The actual tram was pretty neat. It was a short but very steep ride, with what certainly wasn’t the most cutting-edge technology dragging us up the mountain. Many of us didn’t have a seat and trying to hold on was tricky at times. Can I say that I experienced the largest G force in a moving vehicle? Like sin(theta)*G where theta is the incline of the hill.
Those who got a seat (damn tourists who didn’t wait in line and pushed to get on) probably enjoyed the tram ride more than we did.
ICC (lots of lights), The Center (pink), and IFC 2 (very tall but only top is brightly lit)
IFC 2, Bank of China, and Central Plaza (not very clear, to the right)
The point of Victoria Peak was about getting an amazing view, and we enjoyed it. But it was also after sunset and high on a mountain, which meant that it was more than just a little breezy. Hence, we did our obligatory picture snaps, entirely skipped the audio tour, and looked for food. We were pretty happy to end up at Cafe Deco, a Western restaurant that had a kiddy area that Xuan Xuan enjoyed while we ate. The restaurant made everything from steaks to Indian curry, and the two of us ordered an entree from each extreme. It was a satisfying dinner but also one of the most expensive meals that we had ever paid for.
Can’t remember what these were. Good though.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the returning tram ride had an equally long line. It was more unfortunate because everyone was exhausted and it was cold. The wait was so long that we almost gave up… oh wait, we couldn’t just not leave the Peak, huh?
Look at these pathetic tourists… oh yeah we were part of them.
Bank of China, my absolute favorite building in HK.