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Hong Kong: a City of Contrasts

Giant Buddha, Lantau, Hong Kong

A week in Hong Kong is not long enough to fully experience all that this island metropolis holds within its heart, but long enough to realize the contrasts in the old and new and marvel at how they co-exist in the 21st century. Indeed a city of contrasts, the idea that they exist in perfect harmony is somewhat romanticized, my conversations with long-time Hong Kong residents and reading local newspapers revealed an undercurrent of tension directly related to the influx of mainland Chinese people and its effect on their economy as well as strident disapproval of corrupt politicians and the status quo. How all that plays out will be interesting to follow (Chinese news and social media platforms are heavily censored), but I like to keep it light here and share that which caught my eye as I navigated crowded subways and ferries and zig-zagged along busy avenues absorbing, admiring, and learning.

Hong Kong, Star Ferry

Crossing Victoria Harbour from Tsim Sha Tsui on one of the Star Ferry boats which have taken passengers from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island and witnessed a century of changes in  Hong Kong,  then boarding a high-speed ferry it to visit the majestic Giant Buddha sitting serenely amidst the spectacular mountain scenery of Lantau island. Unveiled in December of 1993, the Giant Buddha attracts tourists from all over Asia – the 40-minute bus ride up the winding road was filled with tourists – many from the nearby Philippine islands.

Bodhisatvas, Lantau

Rushing back to change for dinner – not just any dinner, mind you; our guests that evening were highly esteemed clients from Shanghai and desiring to make an unforgettable impression, I made reservations and prior arrangements with Executive Chef Peter Kind at the elegant Tosca at Ritz Carlton Hong Kong. Occupying the 102 – 118 floors in the glistening new ICC Building, the fourth tallest building in the world, the Ritz Carlton Hong Kong is the highest hotel in the world.

Along with visiting a Chinese herbalist, trying pigeon was at the top of my must-do list. For the Chinese, pigeon is a prized food served at banquets and family celebrations, particularly pigeons from Chungshan, and is found on the menus of better restaurants. With pigeon on the menu at Tosca, there was no question about my selection for the first course, I also knew it was a good choice when each of our guests ordered the pigeon, too :) The small and tender bird was artfully presented with foie gras and cannelini beans in a pool of balsamic reduction and cubes of bright Campari gelee. Only the stratospheric view of the glittering city eclipsed the culinary talents of Chef de Cuisine Vittorio Lucariello that evening.

Tosca, Ritz Carlton Hong Kong, pigeon

 Tosca, Ritz Carlton Hong Kong

Ritz Carlton Hong Kong

At the other end of the dining spectrum is the array of street food which can be found all hours of the day and night, especially in the many markets of Mongkok or Temple Street: curry fish balls, grilled octopus, deep fried beef intestines, siu mai/shiu mai, fried tofu, noodles, and seafood (Temple Street).

Hong Kong Street food

Hong Kong street food, grilled octopus

Hong Kong, Temple Street Night Market Temple Street Night Market

Hong Kong street food

Hong Kong street food

Locals eat at small street cafes, each with their own specialty

Hong Kong street food, Hong Kong roast duck

Pidan, preserved egg, thousand year egg, hundred year egg

Pidan – also known as preserved egg, hundred year egg, and thousand year egg

Michelin-star restaurants, cuisines that span the world, and the array of street food is only one of the many contrasts you’ll find in Hong Kong. Skyscrapers towering over centuries-old markets, the ideals of Confucianism coexist with capitalism and blatant profiteering, Tai chi at dawn and tranquil tea ceremonies in a city with a thriving film industry and 5-star resorts alongside ancient temples, flower markets, and bird gardens.

Hong Kong skyscrapers

Hong Kong market

Hong Kong, Old Territories

Hong Kong temple, Man Mo Temple

Man Mo Temple

Hong Kong, Man Mo Temple

Thanks for joining me on my second photo essay of Hong Kong.:)  Have a great week!

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23 Responses to “Hong Kong: a City of Contrasts”

  1. Stephanie
    May 14 at 10:17 am #

    I love night market/street foods! I’ve also had pigeon in Vancouver Canada before too. =)

  2. Michelle
    May 14 at 4:31 pm #

    WOW!! Great shots, how exciting you are getting to visit that corner of the world :) can’t wait to see more.

  3. Rowena @ Apron and Sneakers
    May 14 at 5:01 pm #

    I love you post! It’s like traveling with you. Thank you for sharing the photos and your story.

  4. Lisa
    May 14 at 6:51 pm #

    What a beautiful, vibrant post. From shows I’ve seen, and friends who have visited China, some of the the street food is certainly ambitious! I must admit, I can’t eat pigeon. I think it stems from the pigeon ‘friends’ I had, that used to perch on the window of my grandmother’s kitchen in the city, when I was a child lol It does look delicious, though!

    • Priscilla
      May 14 at 10:30 pm #

      Think quail, Lisa. The pigeons are specially raised, not the street pigeons that we know :)

    • Priscilla
      May 14 at 10:30 pm #

      Think quail, Lisa. The pigeons are specially raised – not the street pigeons we know :)

  5. Laura (Tutti Dolci)
    May 14 at 7:29 pm #

    Great photos, Priscilla! It’s nice to take a mini vacation with you!

  6. Great post – I felt as though I was there with you! I have never been to Hong King but must add to my bucket list. Love the photo of the view upon the city from the tall building. You and your hubby look great together!!

  7. Suzanne
    May 14 at 8:49 pm #

    Beautiful photos, I would love to go visit this city someday. My mom has gone and she loved it. So glad you have shared your trip with us.

  8. Sandra's Easy Cooking
    May 14 at 9:47 pm #

    Once again you delivered a great post, Priscilla! You brought the Hong Kong on the plate to us from extraordinary restaurant presented food to street food. Love every single of your shots. Well done!!!

  9. I’ve not been back to HK since the handover in ’97. ’95 might have been the last year I set foot in this city. I did hear about complaints of Mainland Chinese coming over and how it’s the the same anymore, etc. I have friends here who are from HK who moved here to Toronto, Canada because they didn’t want to be governed by the Chinese government. I think many British-passport-holder-HK’er opted to move to Canada for that reason. So now, we have one of the biggest Chinese (Cantonese) communities outside of HK.

    I do miss Star Ferry, though. It used to be $1.50 HKD for the 7-minute ride across the harbour! This is my fave transportation! Very photogenic boat ride, especially in the night time when the lights are all bright and shiny!

    • Priscilla
      May 14 at 10:34 pm #

      Jen, I heard this over and over. The Star Ferry was fun – I think the ride is $5 HK now – I wish I’d gotten a photo of the crew in their sailor outfits :)

  10. Nami | Just One Cookbook
    May 15 at 1:14 am #

    I’ve been to HK only for transfer to Thailand before. I enjoyed shopping at the airport but I have to say it’s completely DIFFERENT! We had to miss so many weddings in HK and that would been a great chance to explore the city. Thank you for showing us – I especially love the dining experience at Ritz!!

  11. Erin @ Dinners, Dishes, and Desserts
    May 15 at 2:17 pm #

    Great pictures! What an amazing trip, one you will remember forever!

  12. Marsha @ The Harried Cook
    May 15 at 7:43 pm #

    Gorgeous pictures! I feel like I visited HK after going through this post :) it reminds me so much of our time in Singapore and all the gorgeous street food we sampled! The food you tried looks delicious! Thanks for sharing :)

  13. Nancy
    May 16 at 12:06 pm #

    Another great H.K. article Priscilla. I love the contrast of that city. Can’t wait to go some time soon.

  14. Patty
    May 16 at 9:01 pm #

    Thanks for the reporting Priscilla! Sounds like a wonderful adventure, the street food looks exotic;-)

  15. Looks like the view from that restaurant was pretty amazing!

  16. Victoria
    May 17 at 11:36 am #

    Wow, Priscilla! What an experience! Looks and sounds like you had a spectacular time. Glad you got to try that pigeon, it really looks amazing!

  17. MM
    May 18 at 2:06 am #

    Tosca at Ritz Carlton it’s the best restaurant in Hong Kong with best italian chef Lucariello Vittorio
    I was last week wow what a place
    Thank you fro your post lovely’
    Love Hong Kong food

  18. Liren
    May 18 at 8:57 pm #

    Thank you for taking me along! My husband loves Hong Kong, and one day I hope to travel there, too!

  19. Magic of Spice
    May 19 at 2:53 pm #

    Love that photo of you guys! Such a fantastic trip…and love these photos :)

  20. rebecca
    July 12 at 8:21 pm #

    great post oh hong kong visited a number of years back and so agree lots of contrasts India is also like that loved the night market

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