Here I am, January 6, back to Europe. It feels like a late evening, sitting in this cafè downtown Malmö. It’s just three in the afternoon — I guess I have to get used to Scandinavian winters, once again.
The city of Malmö is quite nice, actually. Despite all the shit I have been reading on Swedish media — crime, homicides, antisemitism — it feels definitively safe, clean and friendly. Indeed, Malmö is the most multicultural human ensemble you can find up in the North. And yes, Swedes — here — talk with a funny accent, a strong “r” and a lower tone of voice. It all adds up to a lovely place. Oh, well, also the fact that finally we have an apartment right in the city centre — yes, this helps too!
An unexpected journey (Hong Kong)
Have you ever been in Hong Kong? This former colony of the British Empire has been for a long time on my travel-to-do-list. I did not really know what to expect. I imagined skyscrapers, neon lights, cute girls with short skirts, Chinese restaurants, British pubs, cheap electronics, Taoist temples, traffic, smog. Kinda Tokyo-feeling, just with some English tea-house, here and there. I was somehow (quite) wrong.
The air is blue, in Hong Kong — this is the first thing that we noticed, once we got out of the airport. Not a dark blue, like a night of summer, but rather a bright light-blue. A thin fog of smog particles, scattering the light around in a permanent morning haze. I have been always amazed by Akif Hakan Celebi’s colors — now I got the answer: it is not Photoshop, it is the natural polluted light of Hong Kong.
Or rather, the stink
And then the smell. Or rather the stink of the traditional Chinese herbal medicines emanating from the shops in Ko Shing street. Oh, I have to mention it: “herbal” is just an euphemism, or a deception. Dried seafood — including jellyfish, octopus and sharks — lay side by side with poisonous-looking mushrooms, ill-looking chicken feet, and not-so-inviting dried flying-lizards — on a stick!
Criticize Facebook as much as you want. But FB is the best resource, for contemporary travelers. We posted a couple of photos of Hong Kong, and friends popped out: “Hey, I am in HK, too!” — So, there we were, sitting in a nice cafè with H. and her lovely boyfriend, enjoying some traditional HK afternoon-tea. And then, few days later, meeting S. — visiting HK in her journey from Canada to London.
Hunting for food, in Hong Kong would be a challenge also for Katniss Everdeen. We woke up around midnight, or so, the first day. The flight with KLM has been a disaster: the smallest and most uncomfortable seats I ever got on an intercontinental economy class, so far. Becoming 40, this year, I decided I will never fly economy again, on a long haul. The price difference do not justify that torture. (And definitively not with KLM again! Despite seeing Swedish writer and celebrity Camilla Läckberg on the same flight with us!)
So, we woke up at midnight, after sleeping all the first day, and out we were, hunting for food. In cities like NY, or Tokyo, this would have not been a problem. And HK, too, offered some late night diners. Serving Chinese food, in dirty plates. So we crashed in a McDonalds: not much cleaner, but at least serving some recognizable meal. Not a globe-trotter start, rather a survival one.
Four places to eat in Hong Kong
In the next days we split our meals between some daring Chinese adventures, and some safe Western harbors. Cheap the first ones (excluding the cost of Imodium) and definitively expensive the second ones. If you read these lines, hunting for survival food in Hong Kong, here is our recommended list:
- for some excellent Shanghai food, go to the Crystal Jade, second floor of the IFC mall, Hong Kong MTR station; really popular — there is a long waiting list!
- a quick meal, sharing the table with some Italians (they are all there!): Il Panino Giusto, IFC mall, is serving prosciutto crudo, bresaola, and mozzarella di bufala.
- for a taste of Middle East, head to SoHo!
- the best meal we had in Hong Kong: Japanese wagyu meat, at Dondonya, Elements, Kowloon MTR station!
None of these will come really cheap — expect Swedish prices (that is, more than you would pay in Italy for an Italian sandwich, or in Japan for a Japanese meal). But believe me, to eat in a clean place has no price.
Two things I did not find in Hong Kong
Cheap electronics? It’s a lie! I was planning to buy a Nikon D800, or maybe the new vintage-looking Dx — despite not having sales taxes, the prices were the same of those offered on Amazon, here in Europe.
Cute girls? Hong Kong is not Japan — and there is no kawaii-ness in the streets of this small island, nor in Kowloon or in the New Territories.
A long way home
So here I am, back home. Flying from HK to Amsterdam (oh, yeah, I booked seats with extra legroom!), a night at the Sheraton there, an early morning connection to Brussels — where our car was waiting for us. And then an 11 hour drive to Sweden — ferry link included. It’s nice to be home. But where are we going to travel, next?
These photos were taken by me and Bella. See more of our photography work on Fried Oranges Photography!