Happy Valley Racecourse

Happy Valley, Hong Kong

Since almost every local we have met warned us about the upcoming apocalypse aka summer heat, we decided to survey the racecourse before the temperature gets unbearable. Happy Valley Racecourse was first built in 1845 and is one of two racecourses used by the Hong Kong Jockey Club. It was originally built to provide horse racing for the British people of Hong Kong. Races usually take place on Wednesday nights and are open to the public as well as members of the Club.  It is located in the heart of Happy Valley.

rc1

walking from Times Square you will see this before the entrance

rc5

main entrance to the beer garden (Exit G). $10HKD pp for an entrance fee (can use your Octopus card)

rc7

look out for these signs to give you direction

Inside the beer garden you can find food and alcohol stands. They sell mostly beer, but you can find cocktails and other refreshments inside the pavilion.

rc10

you can buy pitchers of beer to share

rc4

there were many finger food options like hot dogs and french fries

rc2

By the end of the night, people were shouting at the TV monitors!

rc6

$20HKD ($2.50 USD) is the minimum betting amount

There are roughly two races per hour and each race lasts for about one minute. The first race starts at 7:15 pm and the last race ends at 11:00 pm. There are normally 7 to 8 races at each meeting.

rc9

2nd floor standing area overlooking the race track

rc3

The racetrack is hedged by apartment buildings.

The easiest and fastest way to get to the racetrack would be with a taxi. Average fares from Central to the racetrack will be around $42 HKD. Taking a tram would give you a more scenic and economical route: fares are $2 HKD a person. Make sure to get off at the Happy Valley Terminus. Taking the MTR will give you the longest route: it is about a 20-minute walk from the nearest Causeway Bay MTR line.

Junk season!

Clear Water Bay, Hong Kong, junk

The term “junk” was formerly associated with any traditional Chinese fishing boat, but now it refers to any motorized leisure vessel. These leisure vessels can be rented through a handful of companies: Saffron Cruises, IslandJunks, Hong Kong Junks, and for a fuller list HK Magazine. Typically junk season begins at the start of summer. The hot and humid weather makes junking a favorite past time for Hongkies.

junk1

Junks entering the pier to pick up their passengers

Most junk companies offer upgrades like banana boats, jet skis, parasailing, and floating bouncy houses to accompany you on the trip.

junk2

Our banana boat convoy

A plethora of alcoholic bottles lined our tables. Six hours on a boat with friends mean six hours of debauchery.

junk15

BYOB

junk17

catered Thai lunch

junk5

junk8

A group of junks docked in Clear Water Bay

Depending on the junk company, your captain, and the weather, junk destinations can be chosen beforehand. Lamma island, Deep Water Bay, Sai Kung, Clear Water Bay, and Turtle Cove are a few choices.

junk6

junk7

The water was extremely salty but very refreshing!

junk9

Enjoying a Somersby cider on the top deck.

junk10

Inside the cockpit

junk3

Tribal themed party

junk4

wild child!

junk12

Heading back to the city.

junk13

Most of the junks head back at the same time.

junk14

junk18

Enjoying the sunset

Photos courtesy of Ross Stovall

Bun Festival

Buddha's birthday, Bun Festival, Cheung Chau, Hong Kong

Held annually on Buddha’s birthday (a Hong Kong national holiday), the Bun Festival is the most famous Taoist ceremony in Hong Kong. The festival is held in May and is located on Cheung Chau island.

According to legend, origin of the festival started when a plague devastated Cheung Chau in the late Qing dynasty. The weakened island was further assaulted by pirates that ravaged the town and subsequently caused famine and poverty. The desperate locals built an alter for the god Pak Tai, paraded his statue around the village, and petitioned him to send away the evil spirits encompassing the island. Pak Tai listened; peace and fortune smiled once again on the people of Cheung Chau. One hundred years later the rituals are still performed with a week long event including parades, lion dances, Chinese opera, and a Bun scrambling competition.

***To be honest, we did not know about the Bun Festival until we arrived on Cheung Chau this past Sunday. Our plan was to meet a few friends for a seafood lunch and to explore the island. Luckily for us the festival was in full operation!***

We took the fast ferry from Central to Cheung Chau which ended up being around a 30 minute commute.

cc23

cc15

$37.2 HKD equals to roughly $4.80 USD for a one way ticket on the faster ferry

cc21

Cheung Chau island waterfront

Hoards of people lined the waterfront adjacent to the ferry exit. Flags, decorations, and food stalls sprinkled throughout the harbor. A particular stall caught our eye with its long line and a huge banner displaying mochi desserts.

cc16

durian, mango, and kiwi mochi

In the back of the stall was a kitchen where you can see them making the fresh mochi balls.

cc19

This reminded me of myself when I was a teenager helping my mom with her catering business.

cc10

Fresh pureed mango inside a moist and chewy mochi skin. Really good!

After wetting our appetite with the mochi dessert, we were eager to fill our empty stomachs. We walked around the harbor and randomly chose the busiest looking restaurant.

cc20

The waitress/owner of this restaurant was quite loud and domineering. She was definitely the mother hen of this establishment.

We decided to eat an all seafood meal and ordered mantis shrimps, spicy crab, fried calamari, and razor clams.

cc12

These mantis shrimps were a little small compared to others we have tried. They taste like shrimp but the texture is more akin to lobster. They were a little difficult to eat but the fried garlic, shallots, and onions added a nice flavor profile to the dish.

cc18

Small, slightly soft shelled crabs sauteed with Sichuan peppercorns and dried chili peppers. The crabs were nicely salted and the Sichuan peppercorns added that slight tongue numbing effect.

cc22

Fresh and tender razor clams sauteed in a sweet black bean sauce with onions and bell peppers.

 Our meal was pleasantly interrupted by several lion dancing processions.

cc17

 Seeing that our hunger had been quenched, we headed out to explore the island and join in on the festivities. Our first stop was the Pak Tai temple.

cc24

The temple was built in 1783.

cc26

cc5

cc25

Incense along with fruits and flowers represent gifts that practitioners offer to the Buddha during prayers.

cc9

cc4

cc3

Spiral incense offers a longer burning time and a more pleasant scent.

cc6

Adjacent to the temple was an open air stage with a live Chinese opera performance.

cc2

 Bordering the festival grounds, lied the enormous 60 ft Bun tower. Originally the tower was made of bamboo and used real edible buns. But in 1978 one of the towers collapsed, resulting in over 100 people injured. After that fiasco, government officials ordered the tower to have a metallic framework, used only plastic buns (fear for risk of contamination), and all competitors had to use safety harnesses. Historically, young men would compete to grab the highest buns on the towers; the higher the buns, the better fortune they would bring to their family.

cc11

 Traditionally the edible buns were kept on the tower for 3 days, then knocked down and distributed to the islanders. Most islanders did not eat the buns but some have used small amounts for medicinal benefits.

cc27

This bun was imprinted with Chinese characters for “peace” and “bean paste”.

  Unfortunately for us, we did not get a chance to see the Bun scrambling competition. It is held on the last night of the festival, which this year was on a Monday night. I was, however, able to find a clip of the competition on Youtube.


cc28

Sadie, the diva of the group.

Kowloon food tour

Hong Kong, Jordan, Kowloon, Tsim Sha Tsui, Yau Ma Tei

Due to Hong Kong’s past as a British colony and a long history of being a city of international commerce, its cuisine is a vibrant mixture of eastern and western flavors. With its vast influences from Cantonese, Japanese, mainland China (Teochew, Hakka, and Hokkien), Southeast Asian, and western cuisine, the variety of food Hong Kong has collected is astounding.

Since Hong Kongers are considered one of the most food-obsessed people in the world, we were eager to join them and start eating our way through our new city. On a rainy Friday night, our friend Andrew from Funemployment was kind enough to give us newbs a food tour to quench our local eats appetite. We decided to focus on local eateries on the Kowloon side. We started in Jordan, made our way through Yau Ma Tei, and then ended our night in Tsim Sha Tsui.

Mak Man Kee Noodle (51 Parkes St, Jordan, Hong Kong)

History: Mak Man Kee is a Guangdong restaurant that is known for their homemade egg noodles and fried fish bone broth. It is very popular with locals and tourists, especially after being featured on Anthony Bourdain, No Reservations. 

What we ordered: Shrimp and pork wontons with egg noodles (dry). (Since we decided not to wait for a table, we chose dry noodles for easier consumption on the sidewalk. Next time I will make sure to grab a table and try their famous noodle soups!)

ft29

less intimidating with an English menu posted outside their window

ft21

The noodles had a light and chewy texture. The wontons were delicious with a firm yet bouncy bite.

Australian Dairy Co. (G/F 47-49 Parkes Street, Jordan)

History: Despite its name, there is nothing “Australian” about the place. It is a well-known cha chaan teng (tea house) in Hong Kong that supposedly serves the best-scrambled eggs, steamed milk pudding, and rude service.

What we ordered: steamed milk pudding (You can order the pudding cold or hot)

ft26

Not sure about the timing of the queue, but there were a lot of people waiting to get in!

ft27

One of the best desserts I have had. It was smooth and creamy with an intense egg custard flavor. Yummy!

Spicy Mama (7a-7b Tak Hing Street, Jordan)

History: Located on the quieter end of Temple St, Spicy Mama has a feisty storefront with an animal circus-themed decor. Their menu consists of items full of chili peppers either in fried, deep fried or soupy format.

What we ordered: Sichuan boiled chili fish stew (The stew had three types of peppers: Sichuan peppercorns, Thai red peppers, and dried chili red peppers.)

ft20

ft23

The dish came with fish, vegetables, noodles and of course tons of peppers! The broth was flavorful and gave your tongue a numbing after effect.

Mido Cafe: 63 Temple Street, Yau Ma Tei

History: Much beloved by art directors for its preserved 1950s decor, Mido  cafe is the oldest cha chan teng in Hong Kong. Its menu is extensive, with almost over 200 items available. Their most famous dish is the Baked Pork chops or Baked Spareribs Rice.

What we ordered: egg battered toast (We were getting full and wanted a “lighter” Hong Kong dish to nibble on since we were only half way through the tour!)

ft30

Very popular with locals and tourists due to its proximity to Tin Hau temple.

ft19

The toast was soft and had a delicate butter and egg flavor. Unfortunately, it was a little too greasy for me.

Four Seasons(46-58 Arthur Street, Yau Ma Tei)

History: Complete with long lines, Four Seasons is a Temple Street celebrity. This is a BYOB establishment so you can grab some drinks at the nearby 7 eleven and go wild with their signature clay pot rice dishes.

What we ordered: sausage/chicken clay pot rice and ginger eel clay pot rice

ft18

using the traditional charcoal cooking method for a smoky flavor

ft14

Sweet Chinese sausage cooked with chicken on top of white rice.

ft11

Delicate eel cooked with pickled vegetables on top of white rice.

Tim Kee French Sandwiches (30 Man Yuen St, Jordan)

History: This small shop has been open for 30 years, attracting locals, tourists, and food bloggers. So popular, in fact, local celeb gastronomer Chua Lam declared it to be the best banh mi in Hong Kong and even better than those sold in Vietnam.

What we ordered: Combination meat banh mi

ft10

You can choose from ingredients like pate, Vietnamese ham, pork belly, and pickled ham hock.

ft13

Not the best banh mi I have had but it was better than expected for Hong Kong. The baguette was light, airy, and crispy. The sandwich could have used more pate and pickled vegetables to balance the flavor.

Yau Yuen Siu Tsui:  (36 Man Yuen Street, Jordan)

History: This restaurant specializes in Shanxi cuisine and they are known for their biang biang noodle dishes. The character for “biang” is the most complicated character in the Chinese language!

biang

It is made of 58 strokes and is not even found in modern dictionaries!

What we ordered: deep fried glutinous rice balls and biang biang noodles (thick flat noodles served in spicy sauce)

ft5

The noodles were delicious with a thick and chewy texture. The dish itself, however, could have used a bit more of the spicy sauce.

ft4

This pastry was delicately fried and filled with sesame paste. Pretty good!

Royal Dessert: (23 Man Wai Street, Jordan)

History: Located at two locations, one at Jordan and the other in Kowloon City, Royal dessert has an extensive dessert menu written in Chinese and English.

What we ordered: Mango tapioca bowl

ft1

ft2

A light and refreshing tapioca dessert! Bits of sweet mango mixed with longan, grapefruit, and tapioca balls.

Lab Made: (132 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui)

History: Lab Made claims to be Asia’s first liquid nitrogen laboratory. They use extremely cold liquid nitrogen at -196° Celsius to rapidly freeze the ice cream, resulting in smaller ice crystals and a creamier texture.

What we ordered: liquid nitrogen Hong Kong custard and black sesame ice cream

ft6

ft7

The custard flavor was creamy and rich. The black sesame was too overwhelmingly smoky and left a slight bitter after taste.

By the end of the night, we went to nine restaurants and devoured eleven dishes! It was a great affordable feast with the total tally being only $230HKD ($29USD) per person. We got home feeling fat and happy like this cat right here!

ft31

Alfred staring into the far distance… thinking about his next meal.

Kennedy Town

Hong Kong, Kennedy Town


hkh20

Kennedy Town is a charming inner city neighborhood located at the western end of Sai Wan on Hong Kong island.  For 100 years Kennedy Town served as a cattle depot and slaughterhouse for Hong Kong island. The slaughterhouses closed in 1993 and for the next decade it became a sleepy suburb. The quiet residential area quickly changed when the MTR (Mass Transit Railway) line opened in Kennedy Town in December 2014.

We chose Kennedy Town because of its perfect mix of old and new. It is home to one of the last undeveloped waterfronts in Hong Kong. It has beautiful sweeping views from Hong Kong harbor to Kowloon.

looking towards Tsing Yi

looking towards Tsing Yi

hkh8

looking towards Central from the promenade

hkh3

Shing Sai Road borders the harbor

hkh21

view of Green Island at sunset from our balcony

Kennedy Town is an up and coming hot spot for restaurants and bars. The district is comparable to the Mission in San Francisco; new restaurants and bars are popping up every month. It has a good mixture of western restaurants and local cheap eats.

hkh13

a pretty decent Mexican restaurant (nothing beats Mexican food in CA though)

Many restaurants offer cheap lunch specials. At $88 HKD ($11.35 USD), you get an appetizer, entree, and drink!

lots of open air restaurants

local dim sum spot

Like most neighborhoods on Hong Kong island, Kennedy Town has a mixture of new and old buildings. It is a bustling suburb with very few commercial buildings.

apartment buildings

apartment buildings and shopping centers

older building housing two restaurants and a brokerage company

hkh25

There are little pockets of parks and playgrounds scattered throughout the city. However, none of them allow dogs!

hkh26

Des Voeux Road from the Tram (the oldest public transportation in Hong Kong)

 

Although it still feels like a dream, after two weeks, we are finally starting to settle into our new home.

 

hanselsleeping

Hansel loves the cool marble floors but not the cramped spaces.