Central, Hong Kong Island
I recently returned from a trip to Hong Kong, where I was able to combine some fun urban exploring with consulting work. After a brutal New York winter (which never seems to end!), the balmy spring weather in Hong Kong was incredibly welcomed.
I prefer traveling light even if it means doing laundry, so opted not to check any luggage. I also wanted to put my collection to the travel test, and was pleased (but not surprised) upon unpacking that nothing required ironing even after 24 hours or so of travel time crammed inside a carry-on bag! The styles comfortably transitioned from work meetings to evening dinner or swing dancing. (Yep, I was able to go out dancing one night, thanks to the incredibly networked global lindy hop community!)
Styles from the Nicole Lenzen Collection packed and ready to go
The consulting work I did this trip entailed training vendors for one of my apparel clients on a new product development software. They all came into Hong Kong for the meetings, and the office staff who hosted graciously took me out to amazing lunches every day. As a pescetarian I skipped out on the meat dishes but had so many other options I still managed to overeat at every meal! In my experiences, Hong Kong natives really know how to take care of their guests. They always serve you first, literally spooning dishes onto your plate like Mom would do!
We had everything from Cantonese dim sum to Shanghai-style noodles to deliciously fresh Thai food. Of course I couldn't read a thing on any of the menus but at dessert time when I saw this tiny picture of a bee and jokingly suggested we order one, we were all pleasantly surprised by the adorable fried custard goodness that came out!
One thing that I always find remarkable in Hong Kong is that so many of the restaurants are located in shopping malls, I guess because of the way real estate is developed in such a compact and dense area. It's funny how as they are disappearing in the US, they almost seem to be increasing as centers of activity for all ages there.
My all-time favorite eating experience in Hong Kong is at "Seafood Street" in Sai Kung, a fishing village on the water that's a short trip out of the city and a lovely escape from the high rises. They have huge aquariums of all types of sea critters from razor clams to green lobsters, served up family style al fresca with large bottles of Tsingtao, and finished off with a hilarious, but requisite mango/coconut fish perfectly formed in a dessert mold!
Lunchtime shared plates
Kiwi smoothie with a city view (albeit from a shopping mall!)
Delicious fried custard bumble bee dessert
Requisite mango/coconut dessert "fish" after decadent seafood at Tung Kee in Kai Sung
Hong Kong is a shopping destination for visitors of all nations, particularly the mainland Chinese. For the little bit of free time I had this trip, I wanted to escape the areas saturated with global fast-fashion and luxury brands and discover neighborhoods with independent boutiques.
I headed first to Soho, where the steepness of the streets reminded me with fondness of my days of living in San Francisco. I always find cities constructed on hillsides, and their associated alleyways and surprise viewpoints, to be much more fascinating than flat grids (sorry, NY!). Of course that means occasionally getting lost when your smartphone battery dies, or running up against geographically imposed dead-ends.
I had a lovely lunch with a friend from NY who had just moved back to HK, after which she brought me to her friend’s adorable gift shop Visionaire. I continued wandering the adjacent neighborhoods following inspiration, and probably spent an hour inside Mr. Blacksmith combing through their wide assortment of design wares. Not to mention that they have one of the coolest business cards I’ve ever seen, with a sandpaper backing! I found the Sun Street area of Wan Chai absolutely charming, with exceptionally curated shops like Kapok, and others carrying minimal but edgy Japanese menswear labels.
Geographically imposed dead-ends!
Street art in Sheung Wan
Kapok on Sun Street in Wan ChaiKiller sandpaper business cards at Mr. Blacksmith
I was shocked to see several trees in the most unlikely spots, literally growing on the sides of buildings with no apparent access to soil. A friend pointed out that "every living thing is fighting for space," which is true indeed. As one of the most densely populated cities in the world with a rather high cost of real estate, often families of five cohabit apartments of only a few hundred square feet!
There are areas of Hong Kong to escape the chaos, and where nature thrives more naturally, such as on the various islands around the city, which I was unfortunately unable to explore this time around. As a substitute, a group of us strolled up the top of Victoria Peak, where ridiculous mansions are nestled in the trees. The view from the peak, however, kindly reminds that business continues as usual in the harbor, with huge container ships of Chinese-made goods dispatching to various parts of the world, clouding the air with industry.
Every living thing fighting for space
Hong Kong Park, lush greenery surrounded by skycrapers
View of Hong Kong Harbor from Victoria's Peak
For my last night I ate a lovely vegetarian meal at Life Cafe with the windows open, overlooking the quiet but constant buzz of activity on the Central escalators featured in Wong Kar Wai's Chungking Express. I then happened across Quinary, where the passionate (and humble) bartenders mixed me special smoky cocktails and let me taste some of their homemade infusions. A little over a week is more than enough time to spend in Hong Kong, but every time I go I seem to find a new side of it.
Samuel skillfully making me a Black Pearl at Quinary