Chinese New Year in Hong Kong
Happy Year of the Horse! Chinese new year is one of the biggest holidays in Asia. Because of that, Alex had Thursday and Friday off (and he took the following Monday off). We flew to Hong Kong to spend the holidays with my mom. We booked these tickets months in advance, because many people travel home for the holidays. Although quite a few restaurants and stores were closed for the holidays, Alex, my mom, and I still had a wonderful time!
Thursday, New Year’s Eve:
Alex and I flew to Hong Kong. It was much hotter in Hong Kong than Seoul (so it was a nice escape from winter in Korea)! It never ceases to amaze me how quickly (24 minutes) you can get from the airport to downtown (it takes about 2 hours in Seoul). The three of us took the Star Ferry across to Kowloon, to Tsim Sha Tsui, where we had dimsum for dinner. We then boarded a Chinese junk ship, Aqua Luna, for a 45 minute tour around
Victoria Harbor. We sat on really comfortable lounge seats on the top deck, and enjoyed a complimentary drink (included in the ticket price). Blankets were readily available, which I thought was a really nice touch. The three of us had a relaxing time, looking at the Hong Kong and Kowloon skylines, as the building lights came on and the sun set. I kept on thinking, “THIS is the life!” After the tour, we went home to watch CCTV’s annual Spring Gala show, a variety show that ushers in the new year. I remember watching the show every year, from when I was a very little girl. But, back then, we had to go to Chinatown to rent a VHS copy of the show! I don’t think Alex understood much of the show, but I actually understood most of the comedy acts. 🙂 And, as an added bonus, my favorite Korean actor, Lee Min Ho, sang a duet (in both Chinese and Korean!) on stage!
Friday, New Year’s Day:
Alex and I woke up early to use the gym, and then make our way up to the Peak. The first 10 minutes of the hike is EXTREMELY steep, and I was breathing very hard, but you kind of get used to it after a while. Plus, it is an incredible feeling to be at “eye level” with all the tall buildings, and then be “above” them at the Peak. Alex and I always reward ourselves with a coffee from Pacific Coffee at the top. We share a cup of coffee and enjoy one of the best views in the world!
One of the best things about Hong Kong is the variety (and quality) of food available. We have had a craving for good Indian food for a while, so the three of us had Indian food in Wan Chai. Later in the afternoon, we started preparing the dough (for making fresh dumpling wrappers) and stuffing (a combination of minced shrimp, chives, cabbage, to put inside the dumplings). Three of my mom’s friends came over to make dumplings together. One of my mom’s friends was very skilled in making dumpling wrappers (that you have to roll out by hand). The rest of us sat down and stuffed over 200 dumplings! After dinner, we went to Kowloon to see the New Year’s Parade. There were a variety of floats, including one from the Korean tourism board! Alex and I then went to the ICC to meet up with his coworker Patrick, and his wife, Bridget, who also happened to be in Hong Kong. Two years ago, Alex and I went up to the Observation Deck of the ICC on the 100th floor. We had an amazing view of the Hong Kong skyline. This time, we went to the 118th floor, to the Ritz’s Ozone Bar, the “tallest bar in the world.” The windows were kind of dirty, so the view actually wasn’t that great. After having a couple overpriced drinks, we headed down to the Ritz lobby bar… at a “measly” 103 floors. The view was much better!
Saturday, 2nd Day of Horse Year:
Another hike to the Peak. Another shared iced coffee! Alex’s former Samsung coworker (who speaks really good Mandarin!) now lives in Hong Kong, so we visited him, his wife, and his in-laws, in Wan Chai. The in-laws made hand-pulled noodles (you make dough, and “split” the dough in half, with your hands, until you’re left with a pile of thin noodles) and traditional XinJiang lamb topping. It was very delicious, and of course, we ate TOO MUCH!
Alex, my mom, and I went to the deli in the IFC building and picked up some dinner (including some of the best sushi I’ve had in a while) before walking along the harbor (Hong Kong side). We had wanted to view the New Year’s fireworks from the Kowloon side (so that we could see the Hong Kong skyline in the background), but the Kowloon side was PACKED, so we decided to just stay on the Hong Kong side. We staked a spot along the fence (so that people couldn’t fall in the harbor) behind a line of photographers. We ate, and then waited for the show to start. The fireworks show started promptly at 8 (thanks to the British for instilling the importance of punctuality!). Four barges shot fireworks into the sky, in unison. It was a fantastic show! My favorite design was a lotus blossom, composed of 3 colors! It was odd listening to the sounds of the fireworks, ricocheting off all the tall buildings in front of and behind us!
Sunday, 3rd Day of Horse Year:
Third morning started off by hiking up to the Peak… We video-chatted with Alex’s parents, then had dimsim, before heading to Kam Shan (Gold Mountain) Country Park. When my mom said that there were monkeys in this park, Alex and I thought she meant a handful of very shy monkeys… this was not the case! We saw monkeys (big, small, old, baby) everywhere, and they were NOT shy. I learned the hard way not to stare directly into the eyes of a monkey… They tend to get really aggressive and show their fangs and are ready to attack! I seriously thought I was going to be attacked by a wild monkey!! Everywhere we walked, we saw monkeys sitting around grooming each other, or climbing trees.
We then headed to Wong Tai Sin Temple, which is an active shrine. Many locals were there, burning incense, praying, and giving offerings of cash. It was especially busy because of the New Year. There were also general fortunes posted, for each zodiac sign. Apparently, this year of the horse should be approached carefully by those who were born in the years of the dog, rat, rabbit and horse. So even if you were born in the year of the horse, it may not be a “good” year for you… After the temple, we went to the Nan Lian Garden and the Chi Lin Nunnery, at Diamond Hill.
This beautiful garden, full of well manicured bonsais and small fish ponds, was the complete opposite of the Temple we had just been to. While the Temple had been loud and crowded, the Gardens were quiet and peaceful. It was a little bit of serenity right in the center of Hong Kong!
After a delicious Thai dinner, we headed to the crowded streets of Ladies’ Market. Alex wanted some Year of the Horse decorations that we could put on our front door. Sometimes, I think he’s more Asian than I am… 🙂
Monday, 4th Day of Horse Year:
Alex and I enjoyed our final hike of this trip. While there are mountains in Seoul, they a). are harder to get to, b). don’t afford breathtaking views of one of the most metropolitan cities in the world!
My mom, Alex and I headed to the airport together. We enjoyed some (bubble) tea and then we parted ways. We had a wonderful time in Hong Kong with my mom. Can’t wait to do it again!