Category Archives: Hong Kong

The One With Dim Sum Square At Sheung Wan

It is common folklore among food bloggers that the best food are often found in ma-and-pop shops at little known alleyways. With the advance of social media, such gems are now easier to be discovered, thanks to snap-happy friends who upload and comment on every other thing under the sun.

That’s how I discovered Dim Sum Square, a small, probably family-run outlet located at 88 Jervois Street. There are a couple of reasons why I love this place:

1) It is very near to my home
2) The price is insanely cheap
3) The service is usually good, depends on the time of the day
4) I always, always manage to get seats, whether on my own or with friends

Dim Sum Square, Jervois Street

Most importantly, the menu is offered in both English and Chinese! That is very important for “banana” like me; yellow on the outside, white on the inside. Ordering dim sum has always been a challenge for me wherever I go in Hong Kong. At Dim Sum Square, getting my favorite dishes is a breeze; just check the box and pass it to the passing wait staff. They will first present you with the bill (that’s rather common here) and then the dishes will start to arrive.

Here are my favorites.

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The One With The Sushi One @ Causeway Bay

The adventure began in the cab ride while we were on our way to South Bay for the afternoon.

“I am craving for steamboat”, I quipped.

“Oh no, Raz… not steamboat. Not in summer. Maybe sushi?”

“Okay,” I pouted. “Sushi will do fine. But I know nothing about sushi in Hong Kong unless it’s prepacked at Park ‘n Shop”.

“There is this place at Causeway Bay, which is pretty good. I think it is called… Sushi First? First Sushi?”

I snorted. “A culinary offshoot of Fitness First?”

We quibbled more, and I fired up the mobile version of Open Rice to discover the place she was referring to was actually Sushi One, located at Leighton Road nearby my office.

Making reservation was a breeze, as long as it is before 8 p.m. Knowing how fashionably late we all can be, I made the reservation for a table of six on the dot.

Dinner at Sushi One, Causeway Bay

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The One With Solo Indonesian Restaurant – Awesome Roti Prata & Gado-Gado

It was the end of a long week. My mind was focused resolutely on one thing – beer. A pint of foaming beer in a chilled glass, sipped slowly with my eyes closed.

Hmmmm….

So as I ascend to the second floor where Solo Indonesian Restaurant is located at, to join my friends for a birthday dinner, you can say my mind was a little disengaged from my surroundings.

Which happens more often than you think.

Solo Indonesian Restaurant @ Sheung Wan

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The One With 7 Reasons Why Summer Is Fabulous At Hong Kong Beaches

When I first moved to Hong Kong in mid of summer 2009, I couldn’t understand why the locals were overjoyed with the soaring temperature. What was so great with stinky armpits and sweaty foreheads? Perhaps I have lived in Singapore for too long, summer is a “year-long” season for me.

Then came winter, of which I enjoyed tremendously. Donning outfit after outfit of winter bests, seeing your own breathe fogging up right in your face were new experiences to me.

Too soon winter was over, and suddenly it is hot all over again in Hong Kong. But this time round, I start to see this season of holiday through a Hong Kong-er’s eyes, and begin to understand why summer in Hong Kong can only be described as fabulous.

It is the beaches. With over 200 outlying islands, and a long coastline full of spectacular bays and beaches, there are more than enough beautiful beaches in Hong Kong to frolic your days away at.

So I don my new swimming trunk (thanks Dennis!) and slap on luxurious amount of sun block, and off to the beaches I went to explore.

Lazy Afternoon at South Bay Beach

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The One With A Triple O Deluxe – Finger Licking Good

Before your imagination starts to run wild, a Triple O is not, you know, the sexual advantage a woman has over a man.

If you really want to me to explicit… to quote Ross on how a woman triumphs over a man: “Multiple orgasms!”

Alright, my point is, Triple O is nothing of the sexual connation sort. But rather, it is a little known burger chain located all over Hong Kong.

Roast Beef Deluxe Combo at Triple O, Pacific Place

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The One With The Foodie Day in Sheung Wan

Dim Sum Square, Jervois Street

Living in Hong Kong comes with many pros and cons… or at least, it depends from the way you look at it. For me, anchoring myself in the western town of Sheung Wan comes with both, but I am rather undecided on one aspect – it’s food culture.

You see, Sheung Wan is brimming with food outlets both good and bad, big and small, east and west. There are so many choices available, you can eat your way through your life here… or at least in theory.

But I did some of the groundwork for you and came out with a compelling food itinerary (as published on Sparklette.net) on how you can spend a day in my “hometown” sampling some of the best food Hong Kong has to offer.

Now while you are it, excuse me while I give my treadmill some loving.

The One With The Surprising Chocolate Cake At Zelo Bar

Indulge me in this.

It was a quiet afternoon, and you were meeting someone new. Someone you do not know much about, and spoken to only once or twice before. You were meeting up because both of you are craving for companionship, and… to be perfectly honest, you were slightly more than intrigued by this new persona who was, at that moment, a blank canvass to you.

What is the socially acceptable (read: not making yourself to be a complete dork in the process) thing to do in such a situation?

Zelo Bar & Restaurant at Pacific Place Mall

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The One With The Day Trip To Mui Wo

Welcome to Mui Wo

Hong Kong outlying islands provide an endless supply of fascinating spots for the newcomers (like yours truly) to visit. This sunny afternoon I decided to sail for Mui Wo, located some 30 minutes by fast ferry from Central Hong Kong Island.

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An Island Experience in Cheung Chau

If you are like me who grew up watching Hong Kong TVB Cantonese drama series, undoubtedly you would have come cross the name of the place “Cheung Chau“. Ever since I have moved to Hong Kong, more than twenty years after my TVB-influenced childhood days, I had always wanted to visit this island, one of the very few inhabited outlying islands of Hong Kong.

Today was the day I made my own wish come true.

The Streets of Cheung Chau

Cheung Chau may look tiny on Hong Kong map, but it has far more to offer than it appears. With coastal trails, beaches, small rural valleys and temple-dotted villages, Cheung Chau boasts plenty to see and do in a day; and plenty to eat once you have seen and done.

The Fishing Village at Cheung Chau

After a 45-minute journey from Central Ferry Pier No. 5 (costing some HKD12), I arrived at Cheung Chang at 10 a.m. in the morning. From afar, the waterfront of Cheung Chau looked like something out of an European postcard. Quaint-looking buildings lined the waterfront, while multi-colored fishing boats bobbed up and down with the gentle waves.

San Hing Praya Street, Cheung Chau

You’ll hit the main street of Cheung Chau, simply known as the Praya, once you come out from the ferry pier. From here I turned left, walking along the waterfront being snap-happy (Cheung Chau is among the last fishing communities in Hong Kong, and is definitely the largest) towards my first destination, which was some 200 metres away.

At Pak Tai Temple, Cheung Chau

Pak Tai Temple is the oldest temple in Cheung Chau. Every April/May, this temple is the focus of the annual Cheung Chau Bun Festival, which is a dedication to the Taoist deity Pak Tai, translated as the “Supreme Emperor of the Dark Heaven”.

At Pak Tai Temple, Cheung Chau

Legend has it that the early settlers of Cheung Chau brought an image of Pak Tai with them from Guang Dong. When the statue was carried through the village, Cheung Chau was spared the plague that has decimated the populations of nearby island. The temple was a dedication to the deity, built some years after the incident.

Tricycle for Rent in Cheung Chau

From here, you can approach one of the smaller shops in front of the temple to rent a bicycle. I rented one (no, not the tricycle above, but that would have been fun!) which I rode the whole time I was in Cheung Chau. It was HKD10 for an hour, HKD15 for two, and HKD20 for unlimited ride until 6 p.m. I think the rate is much cheaper than those touts along the waterfront. Do note, though, that you are not allowed to ride the bike at the ferry pier area and along the beaches from 12 p.m. on Saturday to midnight Sunday.

Northern Part of Cheung Chau

To my immense enjoyment, I do remember how to ride a bicycle (hehe) and the trails around Cheung Chau is definitely easy. Oh, did I mention that no cars or motorbikes are allowed on the island? Which is not surprising, considering the narrow alleyways and crowded side walk that made up the roads of Cheung Chau. Save for one police car, one ambulance and one fire engine (all mini-sized, and yes I saw all of them), the roads were free from annoying horns and traffic jam. What a relief.

Cheung Chau Tung Wan Beach

Without much effort, I hit the Tung Wan Beach, which is definitely the most popular strip of beach in Cheung Chau though far from being pristine. From the coastline, I can see the Kwun Yam Beach (also called the Afternoon Beach) and the one large hotel on the island, Warwick Hotel. From here I also get to see some windsurfers – apparently this was where Hong Kong’s only Olympic gold medalist was born and trained.

Really, Cheung Chau is so small that within an hour you can literally get everything within sight, even if you didn’t get to visit them one by one.

A Break at Tung Wan Beach

By then, the sun was scorching hot and I can feel my back was drenched with sweat. Time for a break, and what else would be a better choice than ice cold beer! This bottle of Heineken cost me a mere HKD22. I was a happy boy sipping on the deliciously cold beer while watching athletic looking folks running up and down the beach. Nuts, I called them, but damn their tan looked good.

Signboards at Cheung Chau

From here, I cycled back towards the main street of Cheung Chau in search for the venerable Banyan Tree, supposed located at Tung Wan Road although I didn’t managed to find it. The tree was so revered by the islanders that in recent years a restaurant opposite was knocked down instead of the tree to make way for a road extension.

The Town of Sai Wan

Moving southwards, I cycled my way towards the small “town” of Sai Wan… if you can call a collection of short buildings and a small sampan pier a town. This is where the famous Cheung Po Tsai Cave and the Reclining Rock are located at.

The Reclining Rock of Cheung Chau

The trail towards this spot is uphill, so I had to leave my bicycle behind. By then I was severely sunburnt and half wishing for another bottle of beer. But I pushed on, climbed the steep trail… only to be faced with a daunting-looking stairs leading downwards into some forest, where the reclining rock is supposed to be at. I took one look at the weed-infested stairs, and moved on.

The Cheung Po Tsai Trail

The Cheung Po Tsai trail is another 150 metres away from the reclining rock. The walk was not that unpleasant despite the scorching weather, what with the public toilet (ah, water, I love ya!) and family picnic area (deserted, of course). The sea view from this high vista is pretty lovely. And so I took the trail eager for some cave action…

At Cheung Po Tsai Cave

… only to be confronted by this dismal sight. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Cheung Po Tsai cave. Said to be the favorite hiding place for the notorious pirate Cheung Po Tsai, the cave is nothing more than a hole in the rock. Not sure if you can climb in – apparently you can rent torches from somewhere – but I am not going in there. Sore with disappointment, I made my way back to my bicycle and rode as quickly as possible back to the Praya for food.

Yes, I was starving! :D

New Baccarat Seafood Restaurant

There are many seafood restaurants lined up the waterfront near the Praya. The usual rule of thumb applies – look at where the locals are dining at. Also for Cheung Chau, where the islanders take their seafood very seriously, never ever order from a set menu. The cheaper price means frozen seafood, which is a far cry from the fresh, swimming variety in tanks. Pay a bit more for superior quality. In my case, I choose the way further away from the pier, a charming little place called New Baccarat Seafood Restaurant.

Steamed Fresh Fish - HK$100

Don’t be daunted by the Chinese menu; there’s an English version, just ask for it. This streamed fresh fish cost HKD100 and was pretty good. Not fantastic, but good enough I am not complaining on the price. Actually the prices here are pretty similar from one stall to another. You can check by looking at their displayed menu at the store front.

Deep Fried Squid with Special Sauce - HK$48

This deep fried squid was worth every penny. At HKD48, it is crunchy without making your lips oiled all over, and the meat was fresh, succulent and juicy. This was served with a special kind of salt and soya sauce. Use them sparingly; a little too much of these might spoil the taste.

Stir Fried Spinach with Shrimp Paste - HK$35

Shrimp paste is yet another specialty of Cheung Chau, and I just have to order a third dish. This stir fried spinach is pretty good but the portion is just too huge… or maybe I should have the sense not to order the dishes for one person. LOL. The vegetable dish, good for two meals, was priced at HKD35.

After such a satisfying meal, it was close to one p.m. Yes, because of the scorching weather, I only managed to last all of three hours on Cheung Chau. Nevertheless, I think I have seen most of what this island has to offer, and for a return visit I will definitely NOT do so during summer, and to come with friends for the company.

Deluxe Class in First Ferry

Oh, on the way back I took the First Ferry. There are two types of ferries servicing the Central – Cheung Chau route. The fast ferry is not airconditioned but will shorten your journey 15 minutes. The ordinary ferry will take 45 minutes and you have choice for either a general class, or deluxe class. I went for the Deluxe Class, of course, which cost a mere HKD18 for the trip back to Central.

Now excuse me while I go nurse my sunburnt :(

Click here for the full set of photos I took at Cheung Chau today.

A Saturday Excursion to Lantau Island

Over the weekend one of my BFFs came over to Hong Kong for a visit. I left the planning to her, and to my surprise she wanted to visit Lantau Island, a place I had always vowed to go but never did.

Lantau is a Cantonese word that means “broken head”, but Chinese call Hong Kong’s largest island Tai Yue San (Big Island Mountain), a name that refers both to its size and elevation.

Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car - Crystal Cabin

(Actually, “Lantau” also means something else in Cantonese, but I am too much of a good boy to explain it here, hehe.)

Our original plan was to visit the island at noon, but due to some mishap (a distressing combination of failed telco connection, excessive shopping, late sleep in and general miscommunication), we spent hours trying to get our troop together, during which Cheryl was evidently getting more and more anxious by the minute.

Enroute to Lantau Island

Nevertheless yours truly managed to elicit a smile from her for the camera, even while she was frantically trying to reach out to her travelmates at the end point of the MTR line, at the Tung Chung station. This is the point where we were to board the cable car up to the peak of Lantau Island.

At Tung Chung MTR

The 5.7 km Ngong Ping 360 is a cable car system linking Ngong Ping with the centre of Tung Chung, where the MTR station is located at. The two of us bought the most expensive package, which include a return trip in a crystal cabin and entry to some shoes at Ngong Ping.

Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car

So, what is a crystal cabin?

Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car - Crystal Cabin

You got it right – it’s a glass-bottomed cabin! Those close to me will know I am terrified by heights, so it was a downright reckless decision for me to even consider boarding this cabin. But board I did, and to be honest, the ride up wasn’t as terrifying as the ride down. The floor cabin felt fake somehow, like a large LCD display.

The scenery on the way up was amazing. We saw the famous Lantau Trail, which takes hours to hike from the Ngong Ping plateau to the peak of Ngong Ping Village. Every now and then we also saw some lone tombs (perhaps of famous people) which were reasonably well kept. They made me wonder, how on earth the relatives of the deceased come to visit every year? There was no visible trail, no flat ground for helipad of any sort… that remains a mystery to us.

Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car - Crystal Cabin

Finally we reached the upper cable car station is the 1.5-hectare Ngong Ping Village, just west of the Po Lin Monastery complex (under renovation during our visit) and includes several themed attractions; Walking with Buddha and the Monkey’s Tale Theatre. These were included in our package but due to the short time we had for the trip, we couldn’t make it for either shows.

At Ngong Ping Village

To be honest, I found that Ngong Ping Village is a perplexing mix of Chinese architecture with Western modernity. Although the buildings were definitely oriental, the shops are not. You get to see some Western cafe, popcorn stall, even a Starbucks. Which kind of a bummer for those looking for an authentic Chinese experience, especially with the gigantic Buddha statue nearby.

At Ngong Ping Village

On the hill above the monastery sits the Tian Tan Buddha, a seated representation of Lord Gautama some 23 m high (or 26.4m with the lotus or just under 34 m if you include the podium). There are bigger Buddha status elsewhere, but apparently these are not seated, outdoors or made of bronze.

Tian Tan Buddha Statue at Ngong Ping Village

It weighs 202 tonnes, by the way. The large bell within the Buddha (in which you are not allowed to take photos) is controlled by computer and rings 108 times during the day to symbolise escape from what Buddhism terms the ‘108 troubles of mankind’.

Tian Tan Buddha Statue at Ngong Ping Village

The podium is composed of separate chambers on three different levels. In the first level are the six statues of Bodhisattvas, each of which weights around two tonnes.

Statues of Bodhisattvas at the Tian Tan Buddha

On the second level is a small museum containing oil paintings and ceramic plaques of the Buddha’s life and teachings. No photography is allowed at the museum. Entry is free if you eat at the monastery’s vegetarian restaurant, Po Lin Vegetarian Restaurant. However, you can also opt for a cheaper ticket which allows you some vegetarian snacks (redeemable at the monastery at the foot of the hill), or exchange it for a bottle of water and an ice cream of your choice.

Tian Tan Buddha Statue at Ngong Ping Village

Cheryl and I opted for the later, of course. The weather was scorching hot, and the climb was decidedly arduous. However, it’s well worth climbing the 260 steps for a closer look at the statue and surrounding views, which was breathtaking for city dwellers like us.

Tian Tan Buddha Statue at Ngong Ping Village

After such an exhausting hike, Cheryl and I made our way down the hill and made a beeline to Ngong Ping Tea House for some authentic tea cultural experience, of which we were not disappointed.

Tea House at Ngong Ping Village

Okay, not to say I am not a cultured person, but I do think one has to go through a lot of trouble just for a tiny cup of tea.

Like Cheryl said, we should have culture with convenience. LOL.

That marks the end of our excursion to Lantau. How much did I spend? Well, we spent about HKD290 for the cable car package, about HKD50 for entry to the Tian Tan Buddha exhibition hall, and another HKD100 for the experience at tea house.

A bit steep, you say? Well, here’s a recommendation for you:

"Budget Cabin" at Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car

The budget cabin! Just make sure you remain perfectly stationary during the 25 minutes ride, failing which the fall will not make a pleasant experience…

… I am joking of course. The said “cabin” is probably for some maintenance work, but it cracked us up nonetheless.

Click here for the full set of photos of Cheryl’s trip to Hong Kong. Hope you had a blast, girl… and thanks for listening to my endless problems. I told you, your turn will come! Hehe.