Day Two in Hong Kong: Closed Doors, Starbucks, and Historical Stuff.

Day 2 started out frustrating. OK, maybe just different than we had planned. We headed north to the fabric and electronic markets in Sham Shui Po only to discover that most shops were closed on Sunday. And, coming from the Philippines, where there are munchies galore on every street corner, the search for food was more challenging than expected. We were under the impression that food was abundant and cheap. We passed closed stalls until we found a small market area that was selling uncooked meat, not really my choice for breakfast. But as the stomach growls set in (unfortunately the Acqua Panna didn’t magically fill our stomachs overnight), it looked more appealing. Finally, we passed a stall selling steamed buns, which can be like a fun food grab bag. What’s inside?! Sweet paste? Pig? Egg? Chicken? It’s like a box of chocolates, with a higher level of fear. The sweet lady selling them spoke zero English, so I handed over about $2 for four mystery rolls. Another customer came up who spoke a little English, and told us, “It’s OK, it’s sweet!” We had to trust him, and he was right. These had bean paste filling, which yes, sounds weird, but it’s delicious, and so much better than many of the alternatives.

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Walls of apartments rise into the sky above Sham Shui Po Any guesses on how much lost laundry lies on the corrugated roofing above each set of windows?

After traveling to the edge of town for bean paste buns, we returned to our hood, to the Starbucks on Duddell St. Duddell St. has a staircase lined with historic gas lamps that are still operational. I love the mix of the old and the new, the eastern and western (mainly British) cultures, down to the “Please Mind the Gap” announcements in the subway stations. The Starbucks embraces this cultural clash with what they call a “Bing Sutt” coffeehouse. Go ahead…giggle at the name…get it out. “Bing Sutt” is a type of traditional coffee house in Hong Kong. Commonly found in 1950s and 1960s-era, it is characterized by old furniture and settings such as the small tiled floors, hanging fans, folding chairs and so on. (thanks Wikipedia!) The vintage decor and furniture felt very vintage far east, but was definitely still a Starbucks. We were more excited to actually have choices in tables, instead of running to the one single table that just freed up after the large group of students/novelists/campers left after sitting there with one empty drink cup for six hours. Hypothetically of course, that would never, ever happen where we live. I’m not bitter, I swear. Just still burned out.

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Andrew and I trying to look all cool and local at the Duddell St. Starbucks.

We checked out Times Square, had Swedish Meatballs at IKEA for lunch (standing room only), and were fascinated by the legions of Indonesian domestic workers who gather in the area on the weekends. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of ladies come there when they’re off on Saturday and Sunday. Since most can’t afford the high costs of buying, well, anything in Hong Kong, they share home cooked meals, play games, and catch up on the news and gossip from home. Some stay overnight, sleeping on the street on cardboard in huge groups. It’s a very unique, pretty cool form of community. We saw the same thing the night before in Central, only it was huge groups of Filipina ladies.

Since we had some strikes earlier in the day, we finished the day on a high note by going to Victoria Peak. Victoria Peak sits on Hong Kong Island, and offers a gorgeous view of the city. You can take a taxi or bus to the top…but why do that when you can stand in line for two hours to take a rickety tram to the top? Gotta embrace that history, right? The official website assured us that “the only way to truly experience the beauty of Hong Kong’s natural wonders” is by riding the tram, not in a taxi like a lazy hack. so, it’s what we did, along with every other tourist in town. It wasn’t too bad, people watching can speed up a long wait.  I pictured the top like most peaks or buttes in the United States, untouched, natural, because after all, you’re there for the view, right? Well, Victoria Peak has two malls, a Burger King (which yes…we ate dinner at…), along with the view. It started to rain, which in the Philippines would clear people faster than a fire would, but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case here. We actually had to share the space, who knew there were crowds in Asia?

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Nope, not crowded sidewalks, just the line to get on the tram.

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Even with the rain, the view was worth it. We tried for a family shot here…we failed.

As expected, the line for the tram back down the hill was just as long, so we decided to get Starbucks again and wait for it to die down. No luck. We gave up and after another wait, probably only an hour this time, we were back near the hotel, and walked up (and up and up) the hill back to the hotel. After the caffeine buzz wore off from double tapping Starbucks that day, we crashed out again.

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The 125+ year old tram has more endurance that we did, still chugging along well into the night.

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