There is no room for being squeamish in Hong Kong. As I quickly discovered, certain parts of this city are not for the faint-hearted.
I woke up early on 18th December, having arrived at my brother Jean-Pierre’s flat in Kennedy Town at 2am and not gone to sleep until after 3am.
Rolling over in bed, here’s the wonderful view I woke up to:
On arrival, despite all the careful instructions, map printing and translating, neither the taxi driver nor the building attendant knew where Jean-Pierre’s flat could be. It took the taxi driver a phone call to his English speaking colleague and the night guard 2 walks around the block (with a helpful passerby in tow) in order to locate my destination.
Once on course, it all seemed so simple and the flat was, it turned out, right where we had started in the first place. Right where the night guard actually worked!
In the morning, navigating the neighbourhood in the light of day, the whole ordeal felt laughable. Hong Kong isn’t difficult to get your head around. Everything is well sign-posted and the city isn’t sprawling like London - although it is densely populated vertically speaking. The city teeters over the harbour like a bather dipping her toes in the water, her back turned to the hills behind her.
But Hong Kong is not for the squeamish. My breakfast was in a local cafe - triangular ham and triangular bread with slimey fried egg, beef soup with spaghetti (yes, spaghetti!) and instant coffee. Not too bad but you didn’t want to think too hard about what you were eating or where it came from… or for that matter under what conditions it had been cooked.
The night before in Shanghai airport, I ate the most delicious ‘8 treasure soup’. I identified some of the treasures - egg, beef, mushrooms, tofu… - but I couldn’t identify the rest and decided it was probably best not to.
Exploring the areas to the East of Kennedy Town, I found myself passing through the traditional medicine / dried seafood districts. Shop after shop of gruesome sights: dried snakes and seahorses, pig faces deboned but eyes intact, caterpillar fungus, deer foetuses. One shop seemed to sell nothing but shark fins. Another specialised in funghi: a big ginger cat perched on a toadstool greeting customers at its entrance.
I walked all morning down long avenues lined with interesting food shops, street markets selling antiques and trinkets, finally ending in Central where shopping malls and familiar brands took over.
After lunch in another ‘don’t-think-just-eat’ cafe, my legs were ready for a rest back at the flat where I watched The World of Suzie Wong and soaked in the scenes of Hong Kong past.
Here’s my don’t-think-just-eat aubergine with fish flake lunch:
My brother Jean-Pierre and his wife Tuti arrived around 10pm and it was soon to bed as we had to get up early for our flight to Beijing in the morning.