Hong Kong was four days of whirlwind activity. We were lucky enough to be hosted by my cousin Kirsten (mom's side) and her family, and also to be joined for a day by my cousin Jason (dad's side) who lives across the border in mainland China in the city of Shenzhen. Today's blog is a sample of our favorite activities and observations from Hong Kong.
Goldfish are considered lucky in Chinese culture, which means that large numbers of people keep them at home as pets. In Hong Kong, the place to buy them is the Goldfish Market, a street in downtown where brightly colored tropical and fresh fish are sold in bags hanging outside of aquarium shops. We spent several hours ducking in and out of these shops and I was mesmerized by the color and variety of species available. My favorite were the little highlighter fish with the neon pink, yellow, orange, green, and blue strikes along their backs.
There are around 140,000 Filipinos (mostly women) who live and work in Hong Kong, primarily as foreign domestic helpers. On Sundays, all of the helpers have a day off and form miniature encampments using cardboard boxes in the skywalks of Hong Kong Central (a district). Since helpers live in the same home as their employer, they do not have space of their own to meet up and thus they meetup in Central. Most of the women pass the day chatting, texting, painting their nails, lunching, reading books, perusing the Bible, and hanging out. It was such a surprise to hear Tagalog spoken all over Hong Kong that day!
Hong Kong Disneyland
As homage to Andrew’s childhood, we spent a day visiting Hong Kong Disneyland. We managed to score cheaper tickets to the park when my cousin’s housekeeper took us to a Filipina-only travel agency in Hong Kong and bought our tickets while we waited at the shop next door. To our pleasant surprise, the park was fairly empty that day and we never had to wait in line more than 5 minutes to see any of the attractions. Unlike the parks we knew from California and Florida, there are some cultural differences: the jungle cruise is offered in English, Cantonese, and Mandarin; the park was designed using feng shui techniques, the “Haunted House” was replaced with “Mystic Manor” which has a distinctly British colonialism/explorer theme, and Toy Story Land is one of the several worlds featured in the park. Hong Kong Disneyland also has its own subway line where the windows on the cars are shaped like mouse heads. Overall, the park was smaller in terms of number and size of attractions, but we had a fun day nonetheless.
Dim sum is a style of Cantonese food prepared as small bites, typically served in steamer baskets or on small plates. It's our favorite go-to brunch options in Boston's Chinatown. We had dim sum twice in Hong Kong, the city in China where the dim sum tradition is most famous. With my cousin Kirsten’s family we went to a place that specializes in soup dumplings, which meant that I got to satisfy my longtime curiosity about how soup dumplings are actually made. Do you just put the soup in the dumpling wrapper and fold them really, really, really fast? Do you pinch the dumpling together and then inject the soup with a syringe? Both my guesses were wrong. Instead, broth is solidified into a gelatinous form, mixed with the meat and vegetables for the filling, and then placed as a solid mass into a dumpling wrapper which is then folded. When the dumplings are steamed, the gelatin melts and you have a richly flavored and decadent bite. The best technique is to wait until the dumpling cools a bit so you can put it in your mouth whole and let the soup gush out into your mouth. Soooo good!
The following morning we went to a more locally dim sum restaurant with Jason that also didn’t disappoint, despite our almost hour-long wait. Here, we found all of our favorite dim sum treats from eating dim sum in Boston: long rolled noodles with shrimp, barbecue pork dumplings, spring rolls, and my favorite, steamed custard buns.
Mystery Escape Room
Jason had the fun idea of taking us on a Mystery Escape Room, a type of experiential adventure where a group of friends is trapped in a multi-room set with a different scenario (space, jungle, prison, etc.) and 45 minutes to solve puzzles in order to progress through the rooms and escape before time runs out. We did one that was pirate themed. While the production and puzzle quality was a bit lower than what Jason had experienced at other places in China, it made for a really fun afternoon activity. Sorry there's just one photo - cameras were not allowed inside.
Trick or Treating
We enjoyed a fun Halloween evening by going trick-or-treating with Kirsten, her husband Joe, and their kids Hayden and Cameron.