hong kong at night \\ a photo diary
I couldn't wipe the smile off my face.
The last time I had been in Hong Kong was five years ago. I had spent six days in the bustling country - six long and bittersweet days.
Part of me had wanted to immerse myself fully in the fast-paced culture, but another part of me had wished that Phuc - the guy I'd started dating, and to whom I'd desperately wanted to confess my love - was right by my side. On Day Three of my trip, my parents had taken me to Hong Kong's highest point, The Peak, where a monument - known for bestowing good luck - had beckoned me. Shyly, I'd written his and my names on a heart-shaped card and tied it to the monument. Three days later, Phuc asked me via Whatsapp whether I'd be his girlfriend. Another two days later, when I had returned to Melbourne, he was the first to say, "I love you."
Needless to say, returning to Hong Kong was significant to me - especially given that, this time, I would be returning with Phuc, who was no longer my boyfriend, but my fiance. As we sat in the back seat of the cab and made our way from the airport to our hotel, he stared absentmindedly out of the window. I, on the other hand, couldn't wipe the smile off my face. I squeezed his hand excitedly. He turned to smile back at me, his eyes shining in the dark.
We hadn't eaten since we'd departed from Saigon that morning and we were hungry. As soon as we had checked into our hotel, our first priority was to find dinner. My parents, with whom we were traveling, suggested that we take a cab to Mongkok, a dynamic hub of night markets, restaurants and shops. Famished, we agreed.
It was there on a street corner of Mongkok that this first photo was taken. We had been waiting to cross the road. I'd tip-toed to get closer to Phuc's ear and said to him, "I'm so happy to be here with you. Five years ago, I was here and missing you. And now, we're here! Together!"
Phuc had kissed my forehead, gently squeezed my hand and then raised our camera to his eye to take the following picture. Understandably, this photo has become one of my favourite pictures of our trip.
Nights in Mongkok are crazy. People are everywhere. Cars are everywhere. From every direction - above, around and seemingly below - there are colours, smells, lights and sounds. The pace is super fast. There are a plethora of restaurants and street-side eateries, such as these ones pictured below:
1 - At this corner store, you can choose from a variety of pre-marinated skewers and stuffed vegetables. Your selection is char-grilled to order, then placed - piping hot - into small paper bags. They make a great little snack as you wander the night markets. (Scroll L-R.)
2 - Congee restaurants are pretty common, too. If you haven't tried it before, congee is a savoury rice porridge that can be flavoured with just about anything - ham hock, preserved egg and vegetables, for example. Often, people use freshly-baked bread or Chinese donuts to mop up the broth, which is why this restaurant sells the stuff right beside their front door - smart!
3 - One of the more interesting eateries we spotted was this one, below. A man had literally set up several stove tops on the footpath and was selling food that he was cooking in clay pots. Whatever he was preparing, it smelled really good. I can't imagine how long it must take for him to pack up at closing time, though!
As we tried to decide where to eat, the crowded streets became a bit of a shock. I'd completely forgotten how overpopulated the footpaths could get, and Phuc couldn't believe how many people were out and about on a regular weeknight! (Scroll L-R.)
We eventually sought refuge from the masses by slipping into a congee restaurant (pictured above). Phuc was, for lack of a better description, completely overjoyed.
Because I am gluten-intolerant and therefore can't eat certain foods, the poor guy rarely gets to satisfy his cravings for dumplings, wontons or Chinese donuts. Now that we were traveling with my parents, however, he could eat whatever he wanted without having to worry about food wastage. My mum - whose Cantonese is most fluent - ordered for the four of us, and when the waitress appeared with plates piled high with the good stuff, Phuc's face totally lit up. He was happier than a kid in a candy store.
After we'd filled our bellies with warm congee and freshly-made soy milk, we braved the crowds and wandered to the street markets. It was pretty late at this point, and most of the stalls had started to pack up. The only stalls remaining were ones that sold fruit. Fortunately for me, I adore fruit. I marveled at the head-sized pomegranates and gushed over the prices - exotic fruit is so much cheaper in Asia than it is back home in Melbourne. (Scroll L-R.)
We purchased some grapefruit and papaya to eat for breakfast the next morning, then caught a cab back to our harbour-front hotel. Content but knackered, we climbed into bed and fell asleep in - oh, you know - about five seconds.
On our to-do list for the next day: To find (and eat) some of the best Yum Cha that Hong Kong had the offer. Stay tuned!