Le Dumpling

NY Scenester takes on the world. 4 months in Paris, 5 months in Hong Kong. Have a suggestion for WWW.LeDumpling.com? Email: zacds91@gmail.com

The End.

There are two signs that symbolized I was ready to leave Hong Kong. The first was at lunch last week at Kau Kee Restaurant, a local joint in Sheung Wan famous for its brisket noodle soup. I walked in, a complete foreigner, and knew exactly what to do. I knew to sit down at a table with others; I knew to wash my own dishes in the provided pot of boiling water; I knew how to pick up the noodles with chopsticks; I knew it all. I have become a “local,” a Hong Kong resident. I had my national identification card, but the recognition of customs truly solidified my position as a local.

The other sign was the next day when I went for drinks with some friends at Sevva in Central. It’s a fancy rooftop cocktail bar with a grand view of the Hong Kong skyline. I looked out over the flashing lights and skyscrapers and was captivated by the movement and commotion of the city, but was not necessarily moved. It confirmed my belief that my time in Hong Kong was up. It was a good run while it lasted, but I am so ready to come home to the USA.

Greetings from the Guanxi Province of China. My internet here in Mainland China has been limited, so I have not been able to update my blog regularly. I started off the week bidding adieu to my dearest Hong Kong after my five month stay. It felt right and I knew it was my time to leave, though I was sad to say good bye.

This blog post shows photos of Tai Long Wan Beach, Hong Kong’s most beautiful and untouched beach in Sai Kung, New Territories. It was a two hour hike there and a two hour hike back, so a full day trip (in addition to the three buses and two metro rides each way. It was one of my favorite funtivities in HK and was a great way to say good-bye. The next day, I took the ferry to Cheung Chau Island to soak up some Chinese sun and fishing culture. My last night, I went to a fabulous pool party on the rooftop of the W Hotel with my expat friends. It was a great farewell last night, swimming and dancing over the Hong Kong skyline.

This beautiful place is Sai Kung Town in the eastern New Territories. About an hour away from Central Hong Kong via three busses and a MTR subway ride, Sai Kung is where Saint Tropez meets the South China Sea. Expats move here to benefit from the seaside town’s peace and quiet, and locals move here to fish. I came to enjoy the scenery of the town, and then go on a two hour hike to a pristine beach (blog post to follow soon). If I permanently lived in HK and had a boatload of money, I would reside in Sheung Wan on Hong Kong Island, but have a yacht docked in Sai Kung.

One lesson I’ve learned from traveling this year is that you can never plan your travels to a T. Some things must be left up to chance, i.e. your car breaks down on the French-German border, you get food poisoning in Singapore, etc. What’s the latest travel hiccup? A rather large one, I must say. The Chinese government has rejected my entry permit to Tibet. I am really disappointed that I will no longer be visiting Lhasa, but I must roll with the punches, and those punches are bringing me to Guilin, Yangshuo, and Beijing (again). My one-week Chinese backpacking trip with two friends will be the adventure of a lifetime, and I am so excited to encounter what lies ahead!

One thing I have been wanting to do since I arrived in Hong Kong is see a famed Cantonese opera, and I finally got the oppurtunity earlier this week. Originating from Canton (Guangzhou), Cantonese operas are one of the three oldest art forms in the world. To a westerner’s ear, it’s a cacophony of bangs, shrieks, and howls. The vocal performers exaggerate the Chinese spoken language with long, drawn out declarations and sing-songy soliloquies. The performances are dramatic and the music is quite harsh, and all lyrics are subtitled in English. The set was a romantic Asian scenery, likely to Hangzhou’s West Lake, and the costumes and makeup were inconceivably ornate, typical of traditional Chinese operas. The “broadway” I saw was called Guan Yu. To be honest, even after sitting through the opera with subtitles, I still have zero clue what the performance was about. I will provide you with the short summary, and you can determine the meaning for yourselves.

"Cao Cao sent Diao Chan to seduce Guan Yu in hope of keeping Guan at his court. Guan was unmoved and he fled with his brother’s wives. Cao chased after them but Guan finally escaped at the Ba Ling Bridge. Guan went straight to meet his brothers at Gu Cheng. However, his second brother Zhang Fei was convinced that Guan had betrayed them by surrendering to Cao Cao and refused to let Guan inside the gates."

SAY WHAT?!?!

Remember I went to the FIAC in Paris, France? Well I just went to the equivalent in Asia: Art HK 12. It’s an impressive showcase of prestigious art galleries representing the world’s most famous international modern and contemporary artists. It’s a great opportunity for Hong Kong to host this event every year, given its somewhat lack of art culture. The stand out artist was Choi Jeong Hwa from Korea. His artwork entails massive blow up lotus flowers that deflate and inflate, representing the blooming and dying of the flower. His artwork was stellar!

You’ll often hear tourists say about temples, churches, or synagogues: you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all. I’m “temple’d” out is also a common phrase. I love a good temple more than most, and have been known to temple-hop from time to time in my day, but I must say I really am temple’d out, probably because I actually have seen every temple in the New Territories. I didn’t think it was possible, but my dabbling in Buddhist and Daoist temples has led to a temple overdose. The photos above are from the Western Monastery in Tsuen Wan, Man Mo Temple in Tai Po, and Fung Sing Seen Koon in Fanling. Consider this my LAST temple post until further notice.

Gone are the days of plain fro-yo at Bloomie’s and steak frites at Le Relais de l’Entrecôte. I recently dined at a dai pai dong in Central for my first time with some local Hong Kong friends. A dai pai dong is an outdoor restaurant where a person with a cooking stall sets up shop in the middle of the street and cooks Cantonese food for hungry patrons. The health and legal standards are questionable, but the food tastes great and the price is right. My friends did the ordering, as they speak Cantonese, and I told them to order whatever they wanted. That might have been a mistake because they ordered fried pigeon, steamed squid, and chicken liver. The meat in HK generally grosses me out, but I had to suck it up for this meal and be a trooper, taking small bites and swallowing it down with cold beer. It was definitely an authentically Hong Kong experience, though I’m not sure it was worth eating seafood and pheasants on the street. When in China, do as the Chinese do I guess…

The Yuen Yuen Institute is a large Confucian / Daoist / Buddhist temple complex in Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong. It is slightly off the beaten path, but absolutely worth the visit to the New Territories. The temple is a real reflection of Chinese traditional culture, religion, and architecture in Hong Kong. It reminded me of the temples I saw in Beijing and Shanghai. There is aslo an amazing six-story pagoda as well as several prayer halls with interesting paintings and statues. The Yuen Yuen Institute is a sensory and religious treat.

As I’ve mentioned in a past post, hair styles in HK are crazy. I’m not talking perms, braids, or pigtails. I’m talking bleach blonde, teased, and contorted in a quaffed fashion you can’t imagine. Oh, and I’m also talking about guys, not girls. The men of Hong Kong, as well as many other Asian cities, are striving for individualism in modern day Asian society. They’re breaking free of traditionalism and conformity, whether through art, music, or personal style. 
I decided to get to the bottom of this hairy trend through some firsthand ethnographic research at a local hair salon in Kennedy Town called China Town. I walked in and told the half-blond mohawked barber to give me whatever he wanted, whatever is popular amongst the high-maintenance hommes these days. I was obviously nervous, would he give me blue hair? Extensions? Frosted tips?? Well, the proof is in the pudding. Check out the pics and see what you think of my new haircut. It’s what many of the Hong Kong hipsters are wearing these days: short on the sides, longer and slicked back on top. 

The fam is at it again - from France to Morocco, Hong Kong to Thailand, it has been a wonderful year of traveling together. It was so special to show my family (well, most of my family) my home in Asia. We did dim sum at Tim Ho Wan and mango sticky rice at the Chiang Mai night market, the Temple of 10,000 Buddha’s and Wat Doi Suthep, Shek-O Beach and Koh Samui Beaches, and more. It was the best holiday ever! I can’t believe I will return home in 2 weeks, but am looking forward to it!

Some photos I took of the incredible Koh Samui, Thailand sunsets. This is my last Thailand post. From now on, I will update you on my final weeks in Hong Kong, then my trip to Lhasa, Tibet, and finally my grand return Stateside to New York. 

Take a moment to gush at these photos… Okay, moment’s up! Have you ever seen such a beautiful place? This is the Intercontinental Koh Samui, a hotel ranked as one of the 1000 places you must see before you die. It is probably the most beautiful place I have ever visited. The hotel looks right out of a Travel and Leisure Magazine Thai spread, and the surrounding natural environment of dense palm jungles, untouched rocky beaches, and archipelago clusters doesn’t hurt either.

My final Chiang Mai post, a quick one on Wat Suan Dok. Chiang Mai is packed with temples, but Wat Suan Dok on the edge of the city center stands out. The main temple is a large room with a colorful interior and a few big golden Buddha’s. The property around this temple is particularly spectacular. There is a huge gold chedi as well as a majestic white cemetery for royals. If you are planning a trip to Chiang Mai, I highly recommend visiting.

PS It’s funny to think back on my time in Paris where I visited gothic architecture Catholic churches every day, and now I’m visiting Buddhist temples in Hong Kong and Thailand all the time. Big difference, but essentially the same concept!