October 3, 2008

Hong Kong is Chinese

So I mentioned earlier that Hong Kong is, in so many ways, everything I expected Beijing to be. It is very Chinese. If you didn't know it had been a British colony from the middle of the 19th century until 1997 it would not be immediately obvious.

Yes, English is an official language, but very few people speak it. In many neighborhoods, especially outside the financial district, there are very few Westerners. The open air markets, called "wet" markets because they are hosed down at the end of the day, are filled with butchered parts of animals and live fish in bowls and tanks and exotic fruits and dried mushrooms and assorted odoriferous unknowns.

I saw none of this in Beijing, which is striving so hard to be Western I wonder if it has lost all of its Chinese-ness, or it was just hidden for the Olympics.

Hong Kong blends the cosmopolitan with the Eastern. It's foreign and familiar at the same time. It's a huge, fabulous city with skyscrapers nestled between the hills on the island and old cobblers setting up shop on the sidewalk. I want to walk slowly to take in all the sights but there are too many places to look and too many things to see. (And too many people in the way, but again, another post)

Here, I know I am in China. There is no doubt. I don't know how the people in Hong Kong feel about this; there is a sense of separateness from China. Maybe they were an English colony for so long they believe they are different. But, far as I can tell, they are more Chinese than the striving and status-seeking Chinese in Beijing.

Diddle Diddle Dumpling

Did you all know I like dumplings? I think I might have mentioned it.

Hong Kong, so far, has been everything -- in so many ways -- that I had hoped Beijing would be. But this post is just about food.

In just a short time I've enjoyed Dim Sum of barbecued pork bao buns and sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves. I've had won ton soup with noodles and Singapore style noodles. We had gigantic mushrooms in sauce on top of Chinese cabbage. And seafood spring rolls.

And me without my camera.

An IHT colleague is a foodie and promised to take me for soup dumplings, which I first had with my friend Ursula at a Shanghainese restaurant in Marin. We have passed by tiny little shops with barbecued ducks and pork in the windows, and pictures of Dim Sum of every kind.

I'm trying to get to as many places as I can before Paul goes to work on Monday ... He'll be working 2-10 and right through dinner, and I'll have to fend for myself. If we have a stove (see previous post) I might cook, but groceries are expensive and takeout is less so.

And I don't know how to make dumplings.

And so it Begins

After a little more than 36 hours in Hong Kong, we've already had a week's worth of activity and adventure.

Mostly, we've been playing the home version of HGTV's "House Hunter:" Will they choose the "cozy" (300 sq ft) apartment on a market street with a view of Victoria Harbour? Or the 2-bedroom Chinese-style, dungeon-like apartment in a warren of shops? How about the high-rise with a magnificent harbour view and the bathroom of a youth hostel?

We've seen eight apartments in two days and each one had at least one good thing about it ... and at least a half-dozen bad things. We will probably see at least two more Saturday, and have made inquiries about three others.

Space is precious here, and people build up, not out. Some of the apartments are devilishly clever -- fitting so much into such small spaces. Others are merely small. We hear the market is ready to dive, that prices are coming down and that everything is negotiable.

But first we have to pick the right place.

September 28, 2008

Packing, Part II

Last night, someone asked me if I was all packed.

Didn't you hear me laughing??

It was Saturday night, and I don't leave until Tuesday night. Those of you familiar with me, and this blog, know I'm a last-minute packer, and 72 hours doesn't count, even if I do have to pack for a four-month trip.

So I got to thinking about people who pack early and, moreso, people who unpack. Does everyone unpack as soon as they get back? Really? I'm preparing for the moment I look into my rolling duffel -- the one I took to Beijing -- and discover there's still a lot of crap in there that I never put away.

I'm sure I meant to; it's just so.hard.to.get.around to some things. Unpacking, apparently, is one of those things.

What is it they say? You have to crawl before you walk? Or unpack before you pack?