It’s been 15 years when I was in Hong Kong last. On a 5 hour layover, I thought I pop in and see what I see…come on, lets go explore.

There is a train ($100HK round-trip) that takes you straight from the airport into the city. Back in 2000, the airport was still new, an extension of the island made from landfill and coral. The asphalt was not thick enough on the runway and the planes would occasionally puncture their tires on the sharp coral on landing. The only way to get into town was by taxi. I remember spending most my budget on the cab ride to and fro the airpot back then.

 

View of the bay, Hong Kong, by Charlie Grosso

Hong Kong has always been cosmopolitan but not necessarily modern. Now, it is both. The skyline is filled metal and steel.

Sky Scrapper, Hong Kong, by Charlie Grosso

But Old Hong Kong is hanging on. History is tenacious.

Old and New Hong Kong, by Charlie Grosso

I pinged Daisy to see what I should do while I’m here Hong Kong. Eat of course, she says. There is a hole-in-the-wall place, I don’t remember where it is but if you find it, order the toast with sweet condensed milk. She send me a picture of the shop front with address unknown.

What are the chances of me ever finding this mysterious hole in the wall in a plave I haven’t been to in 15 years? And for what? Toast? Seriously?

Wait! That is the shop Daisy send me a picture of. My oh my!

French Toast with bits of coconut and sweet condensed milk. It is so good!!! I will never doubt you again Daisy!

Sweet Condensed Milk Toast, Hong Kong, by Charlie Grosso

 

I shared a table with some fascinating Hong Kong youth. He is channeling an Asian version of 90’s Hip Hop with the jersey and side way baseball cap and she is a caricature of Asian talk show personalities with a high pitched laugh and exaggerated gestures.

Sharing tables, Hong Kong, by Charlie Grosso

This is the Hong Kong of my youth. A Chinese lady sitting at the cash register, reading the paper. The shop small and dingy, full of bustle, food delicious, cheap, served right quick and without ceremony. Red. The shop is always covered in auspicious red.

Lady at the cash register, Hong Kong, by Charlie Grosso

The toast is yummy but I need more. Next stop, shrimp dumplings with noodles. Its lunch hour, she is catching up on her soap opera via her cell phone.

Lunch Break, Hong Kong, by Charlie Grosso

The belly full, now we wander through the back streets, looking at food. The Chinese are truly imaginative eaters and cooks. There is a thousand and one ways to turn a single ingredient into edible magic.

Quail Eggs, by Charlie Grosso

Razor Clams, by Charlie Grosso

Butcher, Hong Kong 2014, by Charlie Grosso

Roasted Goose, Hong Kong, by Charlie Grosso

Red Lychees, by Charlie Grosso

There are people, women specifically, sitting on top of cardboards, with packed lunches, nail polish, iPads and phones, shielding themselves from the sun, all along the street and through sections of the skywalk. What are they doing? I asked a security guard, “They are just hanging out.” he replied. Still baffled. Why would you want to hang out on the sidewalk? I stopped a Dutch girl handing out flyers on the street and asked if she knew.

“They are Philippin maids and on their day off, they hang out here or at the park. They are live-in maids and don’t have homes of their own here in Hong Kong.”

That explains why they are taking photos of each other and painting nails in a cardboard corral on the sidewalk.


Philippine Maids Hanging Out, Hong Kong, by Charlie Grosso

Sometimes there isn’t time to dig deep and suck up the psychosphere of a place. Sometimes all you can manage is a brief, random wandering and see what you see, taste what you taste. It doesn’t make it any less wondrous.

 

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