This month, lifestyle journalist Theresa Harold implores us to take a chance on proper street food and get back to nature in the city’s lush neighbouring islands.
It’s tricky writing about your hometown when you haven’t been back for three years. You feel like an outdated guidebook. You wonder what’s changed (it’s Hong Kong, everything’s changed). You wonder what’s stayed the same.
But nevertheless, if you’re going to go to the Pearl of the Orient, or Fragrant Harbour, or whatever ludicrous nickname you wish to use (just don’t call it Honkers), here are a few things I’d love you to know.
Embrace the food. This is street food at its most genuine – not a couple of bearded men in East London selling you a sushi burrito for £10. It’s cheap, it’s good, and yes, it’s a bit dirty. Us Hong Kongers have a saying that translates literally to ‘big germs eat small germs’. I’m not sure it would hold up to much scientific scrutiny, but, you will live. Get some curry fish balls of dubious hygiene standards. Try the stinky tofu. Don’t just stay on Hong Kong Island and brunch at some Aussie café that will sell you the same avo on sourdough that you can get back home.
Go to the New Territories, and Tai Long Wan, Sai Kung specifically. Even most of my family haven’t been there, because it’s inconvenient by HK standards, which just means you can’t get a cab all the way. From Sai Kung, take a taxi to Sai Wan Pavilion and then hike along clearly marked paths for 45 minutes. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you spot little shacks selling fresh coconuts, which the shopkeepers will split open and stick a straw in for you to drink. Ask for a spoon to scoop out the flesh too. Then, sit on the white sandy beach and dip your toes in startlingly clear waters.
If you have time on your trip, also head to Tai O. This old fishing village is often called the ‘Venice of Hong Kong’ because the houses sit on stilts in the Pearl River estuary. It’s famed for its prawn paste, dried seafood, and the number of cats this attracts. Eager tour guides will convince you to jump on their boats, promising you’ll spot Hong Kong’s endangered pink dolphins with them. I’ve never seen one, but the boat trip is good fun anyway.
There’s a reason none of my suggestions have been on Hong Kong Island, and that’s because the view of Hong Kong harbour from Victoria Peak is better on Google. Plus, you won’t have to put up with the crowds or the new tannoy system they’ve installed. Head to one of the many outlying islands instead and explore sea god temples and eat fresh tofu fa – maybe you’ll even catch the annual Bun Festival on Cheung Chau.
Theresa Harold is a journalist, copywriter, social media manager and editor of pretairporter.com. She was born in Hong Kong and currently lives in London