I’m up in the air on a plane again, hovering over Java once more. Oddly enough the last three weekends have been spent commuting to and fro various destinations around the world – Melbourne, Kuala Lumpur, Bangalore, Delhi, Bombay, Pune, Bangalore, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and now I am making my way back to Bangalore.
So many cities, varying diverse cultures, customs, traditions, languages and most important to me – unique food-ways, yet one defining commonality remains – the ubiquitous shopping mall phenomenon that has captured the world by storm. Unfortunately for me this has been where I have spent most of my time on every recent trip.
While shopping is something I am passionate about second only to food, be it fashion, home-wares, cookware or gifts, the globalised mall concept irks me beyond belief. The sterile, safe interiors, the concrete confinement and the lack of local vibrancy robs you completely of the ‘authentic’ local travel experience.
Lucky for me – Delhi, Pune, Kuala Lumpur or Hong Kong all have massive street food cultures that makes eating on the go an easy-breezy pleasure, especially when travelling with persistent shoppers with an intensive list of items and stores (i.e. My mum and sister – travel companions during the Indian cities for my cousins wedding and likewise with my best friends Swetha and Sharmishta to Hong Kong on bacholerette celebrations).
Lucky for me, I have managed to fit in stops for chaat in Delhi and Pune and ducked into various dim sum eateries for quick bites amidst their hectic shopping itineraries. The unfortunate part however, is travelling with blinders I missed Lan Tau Island and the cable car ride up to see the Big Bronze Sitting Outdoor Budha, sighting the rare and beautiful famed Pink Dolphins of the Pacific Sea and exploring HK's volcanic past.
My first ever trip to Hong Kong and I was excited about exploring the deep rooted Chinese tea house culture, sampling off the beaten road yum-cha fare, savouring aromatic cups of tea, stopping curiously at food carts on the roadside and I was determined to try abalone, something I had never done until two days ago and a something I personally feel is totally overrated.
In a whirlwind of four days and three nights we managed to fit in every shopping district with their gigantic malls all featuring obscenely priced high end fashion none of could dream of buying anytime soon and endless nights of fabulous partying exploring Hong Kong’s buzzing nightlife scene.
Each area has its own definitive vibe – and each one is well worth checking out. Landing on a Thursday, we hit up Lan Kwai Fong – possibly HK’s most reputable nightspot known for its many numerous bars spread across the bending road. We did a fair bit of pub hopping, since Happy Hour was in full swing (5-9pm) and then moving on to Ladies Night offers of free cosmos etc – possibly our most economic night on the whole.
Our next night out we learned what real HK prices are like. We went down to Soho for a Greek meal – Mezze platter of dips, pitta, olives and peppers stuffed with marinated feta and a Seafood platter of Sardines, Octopus, Soft Shell Crab and Prawns, rounded off with a pitcher of Sangria. After our suitable feed we decided to ride the famed escalators that are ‘supposed’ to take you up and down according to your whim and fancy – but low and behold the damn things were shut off and instead we had to trek up and down in stilettos to get to the next venue – Dragon i – a hell of a walk away, but nonetheless worth it – hot rocking nightclub for the young and hip. This place was packed with the most incredibly gorgeous men I have ever come across in one space – still stunned from that night!
Having nursed our heavy heads, the next day consisted of more promising shopping along Mon Kok’s street vendors selling various bags, purses, key chains and knick-knacks in downtown Kowloon. Several shopping bags later we ventured to Discovery Bay – a residential island reached only by ferry from the mainland. It is truly a place worth visiting - everyone moves around the island on foot or golf buggy – it reminds me of the Jetsons only golf buggy instead of space hovering crafts! The entire gated community island concept blew me away – something that I think would take a hell of a lot of adjusting to do!
Returning to HK mainland later that evening after enjoying dinner at a friend’s house we took up a local recommendation and hit up The Pawn, Wan Chai for relaxed drinks. I must say it is a perfect spot for a quiet drink and nibbles with city views. The entire building stands as a testimony to the 1800’s when it was built originally as a pawn shop – therefore the name. The place is so much an institution that having come back to Bangalore only two weeks ago, I was watching a travelogue on HK on the discovery channel where The Pawn was featured. So don’t take my word – try it out yourself.