By Naomi Wong 3:30 PM asia, culinary, hong kong, mongkok, restaurant, travel, yum cha
One thing exciting about travelling is the opportunity to meet new people, both local and travelers alike. One of these people was a sun-kissed Floridian girl that Tiffany and I met on the plane during our 14 hour flight to Hong Kong. The moment we got on the flight, she turned to us and said "this flight is only 6 hours right?".
Honey, I wish.
One thing that I love about Hong Kong is the dim sum culture that binds people together. Like the Spanish tapas experience, but Cantonese. For many new travelers to Hong Kong, it's also a unique opportunity to sample a bit of our tea culture. When she wanted to taste a bit of the local life, I knew a trip over Mong Kok for dim sum would be the perfect destination.
For me, Hong Kong is a place I stumble around in. Mainly because getting lost in the city is half the fun of actually being in it. I know which district I would like to go, and wander around until I find what I want. There is something of everything within a 10 minute walking distance in any direction. For us, we found ourselves in a shiny restaurant, high above the busy streets of MK. We sat down and shared the table with another family - another quirk of Hong Kong culture - and quickly grabbed the menu only to realize that there was no English.
Thankfully, the family we were seated with, along with our servers were nice enough to walk us through what we wanted. The order was placed and soon the waiters balanced piping hot little steamers over to our table, filled with delicious pieces of tiny dim sum.
Agreeing that we ordered for 10 instead of 2, she and I tried our best to work through all the dishes, tasting a tiny bit of everything.
Feeling extremely stuffed, we decided to stroll along the streets in the area, which tripadvisor has deemed a tourist attraction. It's pretty much the most non-local 'local' thing you can do, and an experience in itself.
One of the most popular streets in MK is Ladies Street, where sellers arduously set up their stalls each morning and fill them with everything from jewelry to model toy cars. Every knick-knack that you could ever want is probably found on this street.
Half the fun is the sheer amount of goods available in such a tiny area, and the other half is haggling with the store keeper, who will often curse at you in Cantonese if she feels you don't understand what she's saying. Yes, that happened to us, and yes, I fully understood what she was saying behind my back - or rather, to my face.
My friend who had probably never haggled in her life, left this street a bargain master. The best transaction experience came at a jewelry store, where she managed to get a bracelet down to 150HKD from 500HKD, because the owner was desperately trying to get us to leave her stall since the authorities were dropping by to check up on her. #onlyinAsia
Mong Kok and Ladies Market is definitely a unique part of Hong Kong. As a semi-local, it's a place I may drop by once every trip, but not a place that I find myself actively visiting, simply because of the crowds, the outdoor nature of the market, and the fact that even after haggling, I could probably find the same thing on ebay, but for a fraction of a fraction of the cost.
For new travelers to Hong Kong, +852 is a cash society, but even more so in these areas. Try to resist the lure of the sellers, enticing you with low prices, and physically dragging you back to the stall saying that 'only for you' they will charge you less - yes, this happened -.Also, it's better to visit on cool and cloudy days because most of it is located in an open air market. If you are an A/C monster like I am, the close by Langham place is better for mid-ranged goods, and New Town Mall for cheaper goods. All of this can be accessed through the Mong Kok MTR station.