3 December 2013
Today was the Big Shopping day. From travel blogging perspective, it may not be the most exciting event ever, but since we’re all human and nothing human is alien to us, it’s still worth touching this topic.
All guidebooks scream that Hong Kong is a great place for shopping, primarily due to the free trade regime. So people flock here from all over the world. In particular, I doubt that anywhere in the world one can find as many jewellery stores as there are here, and none of them stays empty and clientless. Literally on every corner in the central areas there is a Chow Tai Fook store, with slightly less stores of the competing Luk Fook and Chow Sang Sang chains.
If Singapore created the impression that the main idea was to feed as much people as possible, so there were all kinds of eateries pretty much at every turn, it looks like Hong Kong’s ‘task’ is, of course, selling as many goods as possible, so almost at every step you come across malls, shops, stores, outlets etc.
We ended up heading to Harbour City, which is one of the biggest malls. It’s probably that we didn’t have much time to understand how it was all structured there, but we were left with a feeling of randomness – for example, in comparison with Westfield in London. There everything is crystal clear with high fashion brands being concentrated in one section and more democratic brands in a totally different one. Here everything is mixed, and the logic of locating the stores remained totally unclear to us. All the stores were very nicely decorated (Christmas is coming up!) and Christmas songs sounded everywhere, most of which, though, with the exception of the famous Jingle Bells, seemed too schmaltzy and cloying.
One of the must-do things planned for this trip was having a proper dim sum lunch, and we found that the best place to do so was Tim Ho Wan – it is a chain of restaurants, looking more like small eateries, but with a Michelin star, and by the way, being the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant. At lunchtime there are always lots of people queuing outside. Everyone gets an order sheet with their number in the queue, so while waiting they could decide what they are getting and tick off those items. When seats become available, the waiters shout out the numbers – not necessarily in order, but rather depending on how many seats there are – in Cantonese, but if they see any non-Chinese among the people waiting, it can be repeated in English too.
Many people think of dim sum as a variety of dumplings, while in reality it is not just dumplings, but rather a general assortment of small snacks to be consumed together with pu er tea. Originally it was part of the tea ceremony in southern China, and this traditional tea drinking, or “yum cha”, took place in tea houses in the morning. Now “yum cha” has moved to special dim sum restaurants, like Tim Ho Wan, and not necessarily happens in the morning, but still mostly before mid-afternoon.
We absolutely loved everything we ordered, which included prawn dumplings (har gow), rice noodle rolls (cheong fun) with Cantonese BBQ pork (char siu), steamed egg cake, medlar & osmanthus jelly. We ate until we were totally full, and it cost only HK $ 112 for two (which makes U.S. $14-15 or 11-12 AZN).