dimanche, septembre 29, 2013

Hong Kong with Anna (September 2012)

Anna and I at L'Atelier de Robuchon

Did I tell you I finally turned 40 last October? Just when I'm on the verge of turning 41... 

A long time ago 40 seemed like a long way away, but now even a day seemed like an hour.

Apart from the fact that I may become botak and bedridden, will need to visit the loo (even) more often and am getting closer to losing my dear parents, I have nothing much against me ageing.

The kids are growing up and it's wonderful seeing them do so. Ok, I know I will miss them as babies, but I'm trying to be brave. They have been so very cute and still are, I am blessed. 

I wasn't the only one I know turning 40 last year since I went to school every year with quite a number of kids my age over 2 decades. One of them choped me way back in anticipation of us turning 40 almost around the same time and it was decided that we would meet half way (me from Shanghai and she from Singapore) in Hong Kong to celebrate the occasion.

Anna and I went to Secondary school together. In Sec 1 we used to walk together after school she to the bus stop either to wait for the bus or for her mum to drive by and pick her up; me to my parents' flat not too far from our school. We were in the same class in upper Secondary.

At 17 she left Singapore to study in Canada and Australia and when she came home I left to do my Masters in France. But somehow we've always stayed in touch and she even attended my wedding in France many years ago. So we've come a long way.

Our 1st makan session

We met at HK airport one weekend in September last year and made our way to our very nice hotel in Causeway Bay. Once we've dumped our luggage we set out to eat and to eat where locals eat, of course. I think our first meal was at Ho Hung Kee where we had beef hor fun among other dishes. Over the next 3 days we also ate fish balls, dim sum, rice porridge, fried dough sticks, soy bean curd etc with/like the locals.

Dim sum!
Famous old-style bakery

The last time I was in HK I was a kid. Went with the parents to visit relatives (who owned a bicycle shop or 2) and eat dim sum every morning and never went back again before last September. I was therefore quite surprised to discover that HK should be so packed, filled with dripping air conditioners overhead and people literally rubbing shoulders with you as you walk.

When you think of the cost of any property within the CBD you are surprised at the state of most buildings around you. They could certainly do with a facelift. A few trees here and there wouldn't hurt either.

Having said that I liked HK. I liked being able to speak Cantonese, being able to eat Hongkongese, being able to say that Singapore is prettier after all :-). The city certainly is bustling, filled with eateries and restaurants and little shops, with a cheap and efficient public transportation system and also the most amazing boutiques.

Very good roast meats in this neighbourhood eatery

Anna and I celebrated in style. We dined at two Michelin-starred restaurants when we were there : L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon and The Chairman. I've dined at the former in Paris a few years ago so I knew what to expect, except I'm surprised that the HK branch actually has 3 stars. But Anna with her tiny waist couldn't do justice to even the tiny portions served at l'Atelier and I had to finish up most of her food for her.

The Chairman served fine Chinese cuisine in a residential area and we sat at a corner table wondering at first what possessed Michelin to give it a star. We ordered the tasting menu and were served fine Cantonese dishes that sometimes came with a foreign ingredient like balsamic vinegar; or with my favourite salted fish, yum yum. The waiters were better-natured than most you would find in HK so if you have reasonably deep pockets this would be a place to dine often in.

We took a tram up to The Peak to enjoy a view of HK though the skies were heavy and we risked being caught in a downpour. It was Sunday and the CBD was full of Filipino and Indonesian maids off duty which made you realise how essential these workers must be to help hardworking HK residents enjoy a good life in such an expensive city.

It was quite amazing to see greenery as you move uphill, even more amazing to see building after building as you climb higher up towards The Peak. It must be beautiful but also quite a challenge to live up there, what if you need a loaf of bread or some eggs and the supermarket is down in the plains?

There are a number of restaurants (and Madame Trussards) up there which made for  an interesting day out watching the world below if the skies were not covered.
View from The Peak

We took a taxi one afternoon to shop at Ap Lei Chau known for its branded outlets and unknowingly we found ourselves at the bottom of my neighbour J's block of flats! What a small world...

It was nice having time together like that after all these years. Higher studies, work, family, distance all conspired to make it difficult for old friends to meet so it was a precious weekend to treasure in the years to come. The kids survived the weekend alone with their father, the kitchen was a mess when I came home but it was not destroyed. 

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