Monday, April 28, 2014

Return to Hong Kong

Though it was one of my favorite destinations from my world tour in 2010, I unbelievably took 1.5 years of living in Korea before making my return to Hong Kong early this month. In my first visit as a tourist, I had been dazzled my Hong Kong’s buzz and excitement. Now I wanted to return to see old friends and escape Seoul for a long weekend.

Little Liam really is "the bee's knees"
The flight from Seoul was straightforward, 3.5 hours, and Hong Kong was every bit as accessible to the foreign tourist as I had remembered it. Just as 4 years prior, I transported myself directly from the airport to the Central District to reconnect with my expat friends Evan and Kathy, still going strong in HK after almost 5 years! But times are a-changin’ and my friends now have a 1-year-old son, Liam, who is quite the happy clam. We met for afternoon tea at the Mandarin Oriental with Kathy’s sister who was also in town. Delicious and I loved the accompanying food – small cakes and quiches and sandwiches even. Delightfully colonial! Evan and Kathy were surprisingly fascinated about life in Korea and I tried hard to convince them to visit.

I also caught up on the weekend with my Korean and B-school friend Yunki and his wife, as well as my old Samsung work colleague Han who sounded thrilled with his new lifestyle, even if he needs to make the dreadful 2-hour-each-way commute to Shenzhen. “Suwon on steroids” he called it, in reference to Samsung Electronics’ less-than-flattering hometown.

I took Monday to finally tour Macau – easy to reach from Hong Kong via ferry. Thanks to compulsive mainland Chinese tourists, Macau is the world’s largest casino town. However, it lacks the glitz and style of Las Vegas, even making shameless (and uninteresting) replicas of Vegas casinos like the Venetian. The town has clearly chosen to embrace the casinos over glorifying its colonial heritage – aside from a clean and glitzy pedestrian shopping area the ruins of Portuguese times gone by looked somewhat shabby. I came away less than impressed.

Best "selfie" I could muster in Macau's Senado Square

My eye was also drawn to more of the grittier aspects of Hong Kong than I had observed on my first visit – the claustrophobic neighborhoods and the concrete jungle of pedestrian bridges and tunnels. Hong Kong possesses a wealth of natural beauty in its harbor and the lush green hills around all of its tall buildings, but day-to-day I would probably be overwhelmed by meandering to-and-fro through the maze. My mood was probably not helped by the fact that the weather rained the whole time during my 4-day visit.

At least I found real dim sum – courtesy of a couple friendly local ladies (married!!) who I met while stuck waiting out a torrential flooding downpour in Soho on Sunday evening. So good! Even when the weather is dreary in Hong Kong, at least you can always eat well.

Authentic dim sum always satisfies

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