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.
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.
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.
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).
Locals eat at small street cafes, each with their own specialty
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.
Man Mo Temple
Thanks for joining me on my second photo essay of Hong Kong. Have a great week!