Monthly Archives: September 2014

How should we love Hanoi?

Ok, Hong Kong was busy, busier than any place I’ve been before, but Hanoi is just crazy! The traffic is so condensed that crossing the road feels like taking your life in your hands everytime (although we did get more used to it as time went on). The streets are just as packed as the roads, there are so many people around sometimes it feels like you can’t move.

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We visited the Jade temple and the Turtle Pagoda, it costs about 20,000 dong each (so about 60p).

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The street food is very good, a bowl of noodle soup ‘Pho Ba’ costs about £1, and is plenty enough for dinner. You get hassled a lot by street sellers, everything from taxis, ricksaw rides, donuts, food… a man grabbed my foot the other day and started gluing my shoe!

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We went to a busy little street called Ma May for a beer one night. You sit on the side of the road on little plastic stools, it is very busy and very hot. See the lady in back left photobombing my pic!

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While we were there an old lady was walking the streets gathering scraps off the floor; food, cigarette ends, tin cans… it was horrible, people just ignored her. She must have been at least 60 and so thin. There was another man selling chewing gum, he had no legs. The streets are filthy.

Its awful and its so so sad. It does make me grateful for what I have, but I didn’t think I was ungrateful before. I was also aware before I came that I was travelling to a developing country where I would see this kind of thing. The shocking part was that hardly anyone there noticed the old woman or the man. I guess because no-one looks at what they would rather not see.

Hanoi is a city of extremes. Its fascinating but exhausting. Everything travels at a million miles an hour and if I’m honest I find it stressful. I think we are both getting eager to leave this city.

Dai Pai Dongs…

If you go up the central escalator and find Stanley Street you’ll find a succession of little street food stalls- we saw these on the ‘Hairy Biker’s Food Tour of Asia’ series and wanted to find them for ourselves. A ‘dai pai dong’ is a type of open-air food stall, and the name translates literally into ‘restuarant with a big license plate’. They were apparently once very popular, but have all but dissapeared today, although the term is used loosley for all open-air food stalsl there are less then 30 actual dai pai dongs left in current day Hong Kong.

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First impressions are dubious, the stalls are cramped, crooked and the street looks dingy. As we choose our stall something gets lost in translation and our lady takes the parasol away from our table while shouting at the man she’s working with (husband maybe?) in Cantonese. Now, I don’t speak Cantonese but I have been yelled at enough times by mother to know this woman was swearing liberally!!! Anyway, we wanted this stall because it looked exactly like the one we’d seen on the Hairy Bikers series. The cooking area is in view,  (I don’t know the correct term for the kind of cooker) but basically when the wok comes off the ring its sounds like a small jet engine blowing underneath- you can hear it all the way up the street!

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I had a squid dish and Jamie had beef with chilli and black bean, plus a plain rice dish to share. In all it was about £6 for the two of us. The food was great and our angry lady relaxed once we ordered and became very friendly-

It was an experience to remember but make no mistake you will sweat it out! I remember being sat there wondering at how it didn’t smell more or seems dirtier somehow- not a bug in sight and bearing in mind your basically sat in a back alley everywhere is meticulously clean. Jamie says its a ‘wet market’ which means the streets are washed down every night by law. I know I’ve already said but I do really love Hong Kong x

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Chi Lin Nunnery & Nan Lian Gardens…

Amongst high-rise apartment blocks, sky-scrapers, and a by-pass in Kowloon, are the Chi Lin temple halls and immaculate Nan Lian Gardens.

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The temple complex is made entirely from interlocking sections of wood- not a single nail in the whole thing! The architecture is incredibly elegant and surrounded by perfectly manicured gardens. Lotus ponds, bonsai trees, rockeries and water features all work to make you forget the city. Its strange: literally as you walk back out of the gates the noise of the streets comes back as if the spell’s been broken. I guess you must here it all inside the gardens too but somehow you phase it out.

Its certainly worth it if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle- If I’m honest though, I probably wouldn’t rush back, I can’t help it- I love this city xxx

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Michelin star Dim Sum at £4 pp!!!

We met a newbie at our lunch at Cheung Chau that recommended a Dim Sum place at Sham Shui Po… What a find! Tim Ho Wan’s held a Michelin star in 2012, and unbelievably you can still easily get lunch here for £7 between two people. We got the MTR to Sham Shui Po, there you walk through a toy market for about 500 yards, I was sure we were lost because there isn’t another restuarant or eatery in sight. One thing I’ve noticed about Hong Kong- you read a blog post about an opticians or a bar dated this year only to find it boarded up or gone completely; I guess property has a high turn-over in an area so short on space. Anyway… I can say that Tim Ho Wan’s can be found at Sham Shui Po, September 2014- and the place was heaving. You queue to be seated at busy times but we were always lucky. When there was only Jamie and I, we were seated with another couple on a table for four. You get handed a check list and a menu:

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We ordered Shrimp Chueng Fun, Glutinous Rice Dumpling, Steamed Lettuce and their famous Cha Siu Bao. All are flavours from my childhood. The only thing we weren’t that struck on were the Cha Siu Bao, instead of the white rice dough they normally come in, these were in a sweet flaky pastry- it was a bit like a pork cake- nice but a bit weird. Neither of us have a particularly sweet tooth, our friends loved them though.

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Cheung Chau and Seafood Street…

Compared with the power suits and full-on-pace of Central, a day trip to Cheung Chau feels exactly like you’ve found the time to catch up with yourself. The island feels more traditional, there is still an active fishing fleet, the traffic consists of bicycles and that shuffle rush walk that we adopt in the city becomes a stroll.

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We had an incredible alfresco lunch on Seafood Street; crab, grouper, scallops and broccoli and freshly steamed catch of the day. A 750ml tsingtao was about £2.10, the food was about as fresh as you’ll get it and cost around £9 per head. You could easily spend less-

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The fish tanks in the photos are outside the restuarant so you can pick your lunch! DSCF2099DSCF2106 DSCF2107 IMG_2305 IMG_0674 IMG_0675

After lunch we had a hot walk over the island to the beach so we could swim off lunch x

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The ferry back to Central offers some beautiful views of the city. If its a hot day I would definitely say that paying a little extra for the deluxe (air-conditioned seating) ticket is worth it x

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Fantastic street food in Mong Kok!!!!

Jamie and I spotted this place and decided to give it a go- so glad we did, I think this is one of the best meals I’ve had in Hong Kong yet (especially with value for money). On the corner of Portland street and Soy street is a little open fronted shop that offers various grilled foods on skewers. The skewers only have about three little things on each so its great for trying different things, and its so cheap it doesn’t really matter if you don’t like it. I hate wasting food but sometimes when you’re being adventurous doesn’t always work out! Luckily I like pretty much anything so haven’t wasted much yet.

You queue up and get handed what looks exactly like a metal dog’s bowl, in it you pick whatever you fancy, a lady adds it up and then you get seated and wait while someone grills it for you. The seating is literally plonked down on the side of the street, other tables get made to stand up and move over if there isn’t enough room and if you want a beer you go next door to the 7 Eleven and buy your own.

IMG_0811 We had a mantis shrimp (a huge 6″ prawn), squid, beef, green peppers & spring onion. Most things are about HK $10 per skewer (about 8p!), the big prawn was more but not much. The good news is that people say Hong Kong Street food is expensive compared with Vietnam!!

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Air BnB and the View from our apartment…

We booked this through Air BnB, its such a brilliant website. You can rent property all over the world directly from the property owner, its way cheaper than any other site we looked at. The money you pay is held by Air BnB until you have satisfactorily completed your stay, only then is the money passed on to the landlord. We are all completely happy with our apartment, our contact met us at the underground at walked us to the address and she is contactable any time of day if we need her.

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The Star Ferry…..

Jamie and I had a day on our own last Sunday but I haven’t had much time to blog until today so bear with me for posts being out of sync x

We caught the underground down to the Peninsula where it promtly began to spit with rain- not so bad, actually kind of refreshing!

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We boarded the Star Ferry across to Central and it absolutely threw it down! A memorable first trip. Its so hot though that it really doesn’t matter.

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Jamie took me for ‘the best club sandwich’ in the world at the Mariner’s Club in Tsim Sha Tsui, we had to blag our way in as British Airways staff (hehehe) and just about got away with it! I think they like me a bit because I look Chinese! Hand on heart, although it doesn’t look too special, it was one of the nicest sandwiches I’ve had- except when she came out I thought she was bringing a tray of sandwiches for a group of people and turned out it was just ours!

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We went up the central escalator- hot, hot, hot- and had a cold cider at Stauntons

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and back home to Mong Kok…..            IMG_0775