We had a spectacular first day in Hong Kong. Breakfast began at a dim sum restaurant called Lin Heung Tea House. The novel thing about this restaurant is how the food is served. People roll around on carts topped with food. You either flag them down or walk over in order to grab some of what they have, then they stamp your ticket. Every few minutes a new cart is coming out of the kitchen and people go over to see what food is on it. Chaotic, intimidating (we were the only Americans there), but we ended up having loads of fun.
Next we headed to Hong Kong's famous Victoria Peak, known for the best views of the city, over 1,400 feet above sea level. For less than $10 you can ride a tram up to the top and check it out. It's gorgeous, photos don't to it justice.
Next we did a lot of walking around in Hong Kong's Central neighborhood, known for shopping and such. The IFC mall has over 200 stores and is spread out among 2 buildings ... pretty stunning place with every store you can imagine. Since we couldn't afford any of them, we headed for more dim sum.
This wasn't your average dim sum, but what's commonly referred to as the world's best. Tim Ho Wan lives up to the hype. People say it's the world least expensive Michelin star restraunt. We over-ate like kings for $20. Their pork barbecue buns are one of the best things I've ever tasted.
Next up was a ferry to nearby Lantau Island, home to the Big Buddha (officially the Tian Tan Buddha). This 250-ton bronze buddha sits atop a mountain that can be seen from miles away. It was a fun site and we also enjoyed visiting the nearby monastery.
Day 2 in Hong Kong
Our second day of wandering around Hong Kong lead us to a neighborhood called Causeway Bay. They've got a Times Square and everything, it's like a taste of Manhattan in Asia. Priority one was bubble tea, which took a while but we finally found.
That evening, we headed to Kowloon (just across the river) and started with the skyline light show that they put on every night around 8pm. There's no way to capture the amazing skyline, but I did my best with the panoramic photo below.
We also got to spend a couple hours in Hong Kong's famous night market, full of stall after stall of anything from headphones to silk. We enjoyed ourselves and got a couple of knick knacks.
One last note I wanted to make is how beautiful Hong Kong's currency is. It not only looks amazing, but is incredibly practical, what I'd call user-friendly. All the bills have slightly different shapes. The coins have different sizes, outer textures and thicknesses so that even a blind person would have no trouble at all grabbing the money they need. I really appreciate the thought that went into their currency and think the US could learn a lot from how they do it.
Before heading back to Hong Kong we made our last stop of the trip in Singapore. I pushed really hard for Singapore when we planned the trip and I'm so glad I did. For me at least, it was by far the highlight.
Those that know me well have experienced my perfectionist side, probably all too many times. I'm easily upset by a product or process that fails to be as great as it should be. I'm equally enamored by craftsmanship and attention to detail. Because of these traits, I've come to believe Singapore is the perfect place. It's a city/state built with an incredible sense for attention to detail and a demand for high standards in the care of it's surroundings and the conduct of it's people.
A Singapore Primer
It's only about 225 square miles, including many surrounding small islands. Marina Bay (where the photo above was taken) is built on landfill, so the country is actually growing in physical size.
Singapore is like the startup of world government, as it's only been independent for about 50 years. It is small (over 5m people), ambitious and forward-thinking. Some things they've accomplished so far:
World's 4th leading financial center
Seven years running, the World Bank has named Singapore the best place in the world to run a busines
3rd highest per capita income in the world, one in six families has over $1m USD in disposable income excluding their home, business and luxury goods
The World Justice Project ranked Singapore at or near the top in "Order and Security", "Absence of Corruption", and "Effective Criminal Justice"
Income tax is never higher than 20%, yet Singapore maintains one of the highest government cash reserves in the world
Widely known as the world's cleanest city, it arguably has the best airport too.
World Health Report ranks the healthcare system 6th, above the US who stands at 38th despite the highest per capita spending
Some controversial things they've done that I personally agree with:
They can and sometimes do censor things like television and internet. I can't help but agree with their principles, which are in no way politically motivated.
It costs about $75k at present for the right to drive a car for 10 years. I love this because the city has no traffic or pollution issues. Public transportation is incredible and taxis are very affordable.
Although they have one active gambling licensee for tourism purposes, they charge their own citizens $100 to enter the casino because they believe gambling is a bad thing for their society.
They toe the line on a number of government "control" issues (freedom of press, capital punishment). I don't agree with all of them, but I like a government with strong principles and the courage to enforce them. I use Apple products, so clearly I don't have a problem with a controlled ecosystem as long as it's not abused.
Unfortunately we only had two days to explore. Other than the overall cleanliness, the most incredible thing about the city is the green. It must be 35% green, every single sidewalk paved with lush, manicured greenery, hundred-year-old trees towering overhead and beautiful flowers on every corner. Surroundings like that made the smile never leave my face.
Day one commenced with several hours at the Botanic Gardens; 183 acres of 100% lush greenery, including a National Orchid Garden. t was spectacular. I love New York's Central Park, but it is no comparison to this place. Some photos of what we saw:
Another thing we really enjoyed was the food. Not only is it diverse, but it's also very affordable. Classic Singapore style, the government thought that food carts were too messy and unsanitary, so they built what they call hawker centres that are essentially indoor food stalls. The food is cheap (all the food you can handle for less than $8 US for two) and always outstanding. We enjoyed a couple of them during our stay and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Quite possibly the best meal I had on the trip was from an establishment alled Samy's Curry. They are well-known for fish head curry, which I know sounds gross but is absolutely amazing. They serve everything on a banana leaf (no plates or napkins). Along with a couple of fresh squeezed lime drinks (refreshing in 90 degree heat), it was a memorable meal!
On day two we ventured to the Marina Bay area, which includes arguably the most stunning building in the world at present. he 1.3 million-square-foot hotel and casino boasts 2,561 rooms, an infinity pool on the top SkyPark and a $6.5 billion US price tag. The building is worth the trip. Curious folks should watch this National Geographic Documentary about how they built this magnificent structure.
So enough gushing, we had a really great time in Singapore. That concluded our final stop and we had a spectacular time. Thanks so much for reading along the way!