There is no ‘bucket list’ - Lynne and I are both well, thank you – but we have arrived at a point in our lives where we have the time, the money and the good health to indulge in a passion for travel. We know how lucky and privileged we are to be able to do this, and we know it won’t last for ever, but while it does…..

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Delights Revisited, The Sheraton at Dusk and Woo Sung Street: Part 1 of Hong Kong and Macau

Xiamen to Hong Kong

After a leisurely breakfast, we made our way to Xiamen airport.

Flights to Hong Kong are short (80mins), but with the usual waiting and then a delay caused by the blustery conditions it was early afternoon before we reached Hong Kong. We completed the formalities and boarded the Airport Express which whisked us from the airport to Kowloon Station in 20 minutes.
Kowloon spreads further west and south than it appears from this map.
Kowloon Station is west of  Nathan Road which runs from Mongkok through Yau Ma Teu to Tsim Sha Tsui at the tip of the Kowloon Peninsula
Thank you to the good people at TravelChinaGuide who organised several of our China trips with commendable efficiency

We first visited Hong Kong in 2004, on our way to see our daughter, then teaching English across the border on the Chinese mainland. It was our first visit to east Asia and Hong Kong’s enduring British legacy (they drive on the left down thoroughfares called Temple St and Austin Rd) allowed us a gentle orientation before crossing the border and plunging into the maelstrom that was Luohu bus station. We returned in 2005 and again in 2010 (by then I had started this blog so you can read about that here.)

This seven-day trip was planned to cover different ground, but started in familiar surroundings, the evening involving two contrasting pleasures we have enjoyed on every visit.
But first we had to find our way to our hotel. From Kowloon Station free shuttle buses do the rounds of the main hotels. We got on the right bus, but got off at the wrong stop and had to trundle our cases along two or three hundred metres of a drizzle bespattered Nathan Road.

Nathan Road, Kowloon

Hong Kong island became British territory by the Treaty of Nanking in 1842 after the First Opium War. Kowloon was added to the Crown Colony in 1860 and a straight road 3.6km long was built north from the harbour to Boundary Street, the limit of British territory (until the New Territories were leased from China in 1898). Originally called Robinson Road it was renamed Nathan Road in 1909, after Sir Matthew Nathan, Governor of Hong Kong 1904-7. As Kowloon’s ‘High Street’ it is always crowded, and not the best place for dragging two bulky suitcases – with or without drizzle.

We checked in, settled in and dried out. Just before dusk, in a now dry and surprisingly warm evening, we set out on the 20min stroll to the end of Nathan Road. We always enjoy this walk, checking out the jewellers shops...
Idiosyncratic jewellery, Nathan Road, Hong Kong

and counting the touts offering to make an almost instant suit, or sell a 'copy' watch (it looks like a Rolex, but...) and threading our way through the crowds around Chunking Mansions. Built in 1961 as a residential block, the 17 storeys now house some 3,000 people and dozens of cheap guesthouses, curry restaurants, African bistros and sari shops.
Chunking Mansions, Nathan Road, Hong Kong

Dusk at the Sheraton Hotel, Kowloon

Entering the Sheraton Hotel, near the tip of the Kowloon Peninsula, we took the lift up to the Sky Lounge and settled ourselves at one of the big windows overlooking the narrow stretch of water between Kowloon and Hong Kong island.
Dusk, Hong Kong Island

Watching darkness fall and the lights come up across the water is as fine a free show as I know.
Darkness falling on Hiong Kong Island

Like many free shows there is a cost; in fairness to the hotel, you should buy a drink to ‘rent’ your table. A dry martini and a Singapore sling are not cheap options (not that there many) but the Hong Kong Sheraton's dry Martini has long been the standard by which I judge all others.
A Singapore sling and a dry martini, Hong Kong Sheraton, Sky Lounge

Meanwhile, outside the window darkness fell.
Darkness has fallen on Hong Kong Island

By 7 o’clock it was fully dark and time to leave. There is a laser show later, but dinner was calling, and we knew where we wanted to eat it.

Woo Sung Street Temporary Cooked Food Hawker Bazaar

We walk back up Nathan Road...
Nathan Road, Hong Kong

… and not far from our hotel diverted left for the second part of the evening. Compared to the opulence of the Sheraton Sky Lounge the Woo Sung Street Temporary Cooked Food Hawker Bazaar (snappy title!) looks a little ramshackle – alright, very ramshackle. After 30+ years in business it is still 'temporary', but it is permanently a joy. We discovered the bazaar in 2004 and every time we return I fret that, like many of Hong Kong’s dai pai dong’s, it will have disappeared, tidied away in the name of progress, hygiene and modernity. We were relieved and delighted to find it still there and still thriving.
Woo Sung Street Temporary Cooked Food Hawker Bazaar (photographed in the afternoon a few days later)
Clams in black bean sauce are always our favourite here…
Clams in black bean sauce, Woo Sung Street Bazzar
….and with an old favourite, something new, fried mottled spinefoot with salt and chilli. I had never heard of spinefoot but, Wikipedia tells me, there are 29 species of spinefoot (or ‘rabbitfish’) living among coral in the shallower waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The more colourful species are popular in aquariums, the duller, like our mottled friend, Siganus Fuscescens, are fished for food – and excellent they were, too.
Mottled Spinefoot, Woo Sung Street Bazaar
Dinner and a couple of beers - Hong Kong brewed San Miguel - cost considerably less than two cocktails at the Sheraton. The quality at both is excellent and the surroundings make a pleasing contrast.

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