I used to be a pretty good walker. Particularly on short trips abroad when we had to get a lot done in a short amount of time. Even “crew” who accompanied us on trips in my “younger days” used to freak out at the blistering pace we kept. When I worked in New York eons ago, I walked like a New Yorker, and to do otherwise was to risk being run over on some busy midtown sidewalk at rush hour. No longer. A combination of the beginnings of self-diagnosed plantar fasciitis, probably brought on by the flattest feet on this side of the Pacific and being 25+ pounds heavier than my ideal Bond weight are the primary culprits of my current misery. Secondary contributors were the 55 kilometers of walking (some uphill and downhill), intense heat and humidity in Hong Kong and China that resulted in foot pain and general exhaustion, leading to a lowered immune system that was then attacked by a nasty flu bug. I haven’t been sick in nearly two years other than allergies that I can’t avoid. I barely made it home to our couch in Manila with serious chills and fever that could only be assuaged by this dark blue warm cashmere throw, good enough for an Alaskan igloo safari, if there was ever such a thing. :) The daughter thought I looked dead, to which I retorted, “cashmere wrap over body bag, any time…”.
The daughter was home for just over a week between her summer job and returning back to college, so we were trying to make the most of every minute of her visit… After all the check-ups and tune-ups in Manila (doctors, dentists, hair, brows, etc. — the important things, you understand, after 8 months away…) we headed to Hong Kong for a few days, me mostly for business, she to meet with friends for a food crawl through a few Michelin starred restaurants, interspersed with street food breaks. She immediately spotted a Pierre Herme shop after we got off the Airport Express train and rushed in to buy a single macaron, a throwback to this series we did on tasting as many Parisian macarons as we could manage in one trip, only to find out that the shop only sold them by 7 pieces or more (and exorbitantly priced at that)… so now a more prudent spender (she had a paid summer job), she passed on the macaron and saved her money for some other delight.
They’ve only been giving Michelin stars in Hong Kong since 2009, but in this year’s list (2016), there are roughy 40+ restaurants with single stars rated as “a very good restaurant in its category”… add to that 14 two-star restaurants and 6 three-star places and Hong Kong is CHOCK-FULL of good places to eat. And amazingly, many of them are good for a meal costing below $20 per person. Our whole group lined up for say 10 minutes (usually 20-30+ minutes) to get into Tim Ho Wan for a casual lunch of baked pork buns, spicy dumplings (utterly superb with the sting of szechuan peppercorns), some vegetables, siomai, hakao, pork ribs, etc. with a pot of tea and that amazing meal (albeit NOT at the specific branch location that was awarded the single star) which cost us less than $10 per person!
Meanwhile on another day, Mrs. MM was wandering on her own and got lost and spied a line at a nondescript place, and famished, she got on the line, asked for a single seat, was immediately seated with others and she leaned over to the Pinoy couple next to her to ask what the big deal was with the place, and they laughed and said… “didn’t you know this place got a Michelin Star and the lines are crazy long?” so she proceeded to order the house specialty of some roast goose and rice (which she thought was incredibly good) and was shocked when presented with the bill, a whopping HK$53 or some $8! Yipes, that’s two stars worth of food for less than $20 total, wow! Look up Yatlok, here. We have never chased Michelin stars before, but I think I am liking this “eat at as many Michelin starred restaurants as you can for less than $10 per person”… :) Photo above is of a simple but wonderful flower shop in the mall, how I wish we had this breadth of selection in our malls in Manila…
Early one day, three colleagues from work and I made our way up to Shenzhen to get some supplies for the restaurants, and after a day long trip of traveling, walking, haggling, keeping one’s temper in check with obnoxious touts, calculating, buying, and carrying it all across the border, we were SIMPLY EXHAUSTED. But we did stop for a WONDERFUL lunch that included superb dim sum, some roast pork, noodles, greens, fried rice, etc.
This hearty lunch for four with tea and sodas cost just over $20 per person, another relative bargain, I thought. A meal later in the day at KFC (for convenience) near the train station was far, far less interesting and it was pricey to boot. Note to self, do not eat KFC in China. The day after China, we had to walk around HK and obtain lighting fixtures and kitchen supplies for the restaurants and filled taxi cab trunks with purchases that were hauled back to the apartment of a friend, who was out of town, and graciously offered the use of her wonderful abode.
Our meals (mostly breakfast and one dinner) at her place were casually served on Astier de Villatte plates. Read that again, on Astier de Villatte plates. If there is one line of ceramics I have absolutely admired over the years, it is Astier de Villatte. I have just admired. I have visited multiple shop locations, but I never actually purchased an item. I was just amused that our spam, egg and rice was sitting on Astier, but then again, THAT’S PRECISELY how one should enjoy their finer things, every single day. Thanks P for the luxurious feel of every meal in your home. Then again, this was the friend that had this dressing room in a previous apartment that got so many comments at the time. :)
Roughly 60 hours after we arrived, we were assembling this ginormous balikbayan box, a “extra-large” size that was pre-purchased for us and left in the apartment so we could pack away some of our purchases/supplies/equipment and send them by sea cargo home. The box was so enormous that COS (Chief of Stuff) could literally fit in it with room to spare. It was picked up a day after we left the apartment, and should be in Cebu within a month’s time. I may be slower these days, but we still managed to get a lot done. And if my phone is to be believed, we clocked some 55 kilometers in 3 days, nearly a kilometer for every waking hour in Hong Kong… I am feeling much better now, and hit the markets at 6am this morning, spent the day making 40 cups of homemade chicken broth from scratch, preserved some jackfruit for future use, made a sigarilyas (winged bean) salad for lunch and baked a large eggplant parmigiana for dinner… :)