2011 South East Asia

2011 South East Asia #9 Hong Kong – Food

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Flying from Kota Kinabalu to Hong Kong took roughly 3 hours and costed me about €50 since I booked like the day before, as I’ve done during this trip. I could probably get it cheaper if I had booked in advance, but I like the flexibility. I arrvied in the evening to Hong Kong, about 9 pm and then the immigration process and getting out from the station took maybe 30 minutes or so. It all went very smooth. I had gotten an advice from one of the other passengers on the plane to get a Octopus Card for the tube and pay with money on trams and buses. I don’t remember the reason why now but I think in the end it would save me some money. So I got myself a Octupus card and then got on the tube into central Hong Kong. First train ride was easy, it was when I changed line that things got complicated. The train from the airport was not crowded, but the new line I wanted to get on was full. So I missed the first train. No biggie, next train came just minutes later.

I managed to squeeze myself in and then ride to Wan Chai station somehow, getting up to the street level I found a McDonalds which offered free Wifi which was good. I needed to check where my hotel was, I know it was somewhere on Queens Road which is not too far away from Wan Chai station.  So I managed to figure out which way to Queens Road and I started walking. Then I found Queens Road and it’s here things got messy. I started walking in the wrong direction. After having walked for a while I started to suspect I was walking in the wrong direction. Trying to find a cab proved to harder than I thought but finally I found one and he could confirm that I was walking in the wrong direction. I had almost made it to the end of Queens Road, the wrong end that is. My hotel was located in the other end.

I decided to not walk so I let the taxi take me there, he even offered to wait in case I had gotten to the wrong hotel. Turned out it was the right hotel (Cosmopolitan Hotel) so I waved at the taxi and he drove off. Checking in was quickly done, they asked if it was the first time in Hong Kong and I said yes, so they gave me a room with a view. On the 26th floor or something like that. I had a very nice view of Hong Kong by night. The next day, a friend of mine, let’s call him Howard picked me up in the lobby. He had made great plans for my first day in Hong Kong. We were to explore the hong Kong cuisine and all aspects of it. We started by walking to a nearby breakfast restaurant. There we had some tea and a pinapple bun. It was a quite noisy place despite not many people where there. Then we proceeded to another place to have fishball soup and some kind of fried bread. Next stop, a dessert restaurant and some black and white sesame soup.

Howard had thought of it very well, we only went to restaurants that didn’t have menus in English, only in cantonese which made it very hard for me to figure out what we were going to eat. Then we took the tram somewhere and into another restaurant. This time it was some kind of fast food restaurant that served noodles. Howard wrote a note for me on this place, because he said it was a good place to have lunch and with the note I could order what we had for the moment. Nice, was my thought, this was a really good lunch. But it turned out to be only a pre-lunch meal. Next restaurant we entered was a dim sum restaurant and the noise in there was immense. Howard showed me how to clean the chopsticks with the tea, and then we started to order stuff! Everything was delicious but some things was also very strange. I guess the chicken feets was the most strange.

After the dim sum restaurant we felt kind of stuffed so we decided to walk around for a while and do some sight seeing instead. We came by the college and Howard showed me the “panic flowers” that always bloomed in the end of spring semester, thus the name; panic flowers since everyone had their finals to think about! After having explored parts of Hong Kong by foot it was time to eat again. This time we aimed at another fast food place. A window in a wall that sold fried stuff mostly. My stomach didn’t like the fried stuff so much, I had a very “interesting” hour there. When things had calmed down we aimed for a more fashionable restaurant where we had Peking duck for example. And a dish with boiled cabbage and some salt pork. Also very tasty.

After that late dinner we were absolutly full. We could not squeeze down anything more so we decided it was time to round up the day. We walked down to a pier somewhere and took some pictures of Hong Kong by night and then we split up. Me going back to the hotel and Howard going back home. The following day I tried to get up early but I over slept. I skipped breakfast at the hotel and set out to a fast food restaurant, the same kind that Howard took me to the day before (where he wrote down what we had) and I walked in, happy as ever after and showed them my note from Howard, paid, sat down at a table and waited. The waitress came in with a hughe bowl of the same kind of noodle soup we had had the day before. But it was even bigger than the one we had shared. So there I am with a bowl of noodle soup for a whole family. Obviously something went wrong with my order (I called Howard afterwards and asked him, he said that probably she wasn’t so good at reading and misread the size or something).

To my rescue came a man in suit who asked if he could sit at my table, sure I said. “Have some noodle soup if you like, I seem to have ordered more than I can eat!” I replied. Sharing food with strangers is nice, you get to talk to people and learn a bit about their life. When we were done eating there was still like a 3rd of soup left but I think we did a good job! I started to move through town, I was on my way down to central pier 4 where the ferries to the nearby islands are. Howard said I should visit Lamma Island which was supposed to be very beautiful so I wanted to go there. The ferry ride didn’t take too long and soon I found myself in a very cozy place. I just walked around on Lamma Island for some hours before I started to get hungry. I found a restaurant not so far from where I had landed earlier and sat down to have something to eat. I ended up ordering fish soup which was delicious. And I had a beer to that. I was sitting in the sun and one beer quickly became 4 beers and I felt that life was generally very good.

After returning to Hong Kong and my hotel I felt I was not entierly done with my day. So I took a walk from the hotel towards the Hong Kong Jockey Club. When I arrived there it wasn’t as exciting as I first thought it was so I decided to walk in another direction. After a while I started to feel hungry again so I just walked in to the first place I found which turned out to be a sports bar. I ordered the only food they had, a hamburger with fries and a large beer. I had more or less just finished my plate when a man next to me started talking to me. “Names Kevin, I’m a flight mechanic from California!”. And then I ended up having a long conversation with a man I didn’t know about more or less everything and nothing. We decided to met again in the afternoon the next day to go and listen to some jazz music at a place called Ned Kellys Last Stand.

2011 South East Asia

2011 South East Asia #7 Malaysia – Borneo, week 1, People, rivers and jungle

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The flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Borneo went smooth. But not everything in the world went so smooth. While in the air there was a earthquake outside the coast of the Philippines. It had a magnitude of 6.4 on the Richter scale and there was also a tsunami warning issued. Luckily no tsunami came but I remember seeing this on the news when I had landed. After a smaller stray on the airport in search of an ATM I finally was on my way to my hotel. Turned out I had struck a real deal on the hotel. Turned out to be a 5 star hotel, called Sutera Harbor Resort. At first I thought the taxi took me to the wrong place but it turned out to be the right place. I had a small suite with a fantastic view of the golf course, if you are interested in golf that is. That evening I had dinner at the hotel, I kind of regretted that because it was not a good deal for me. I guess getting good deals on expensive hotels has it’s downsides sometimes. After dinner I texted Zera (whom I met in Thailand some weeks ago) telling her that I had arrived.

The next day I spent the morning and mid-day with doing nothing more or less around the hotel pool. Reading the newspaper, drinking a beer and just enjoying life. In the afternoon Zera called and asked if I wanted to join her and some friends on a trip to a nearby island. Sure, why not I thought. She picked me up at the hotel an hour later or so and off we went. Turns out that tourists pay the double fee on the ferry to the island, so we made a temporary arrangement so I became a Malaysian citizen through marriage. We arrived on a small pier and from there it was just a quick walk to a very nice beach. After a couple of hours there we went out for food on a fancy restaurant, it was one of Zeras friends birthday, but she did not tell me that before hand. After dinner we went out for some drinks in a karaoke bar and NAME HERE asked if I wanted a beer. Sure I said, why not. He asked if a beer tower was okay. “What is that?” I asked. I was soon to find out.

A beer tower is a portable beer keg with a tap more or less. Filled with 4.6 liter of beer. I thought it was for all of us, but it turned out it was just for me. I didn’t want to be rude so I drank it all. Well, the others helped a bit, with one glass each or so. Then we went for a “Chinese McDonalds” as Zera called it. Chinese fast food which was very nice.  It was a good night out, the day after I skipped breakfast and tried to stay in bed as long as possible until I really had to go up since I needed to check out from my hotel. Ove was due to arrive in Borneo the next day and we was to change location to something little more affordable. I found a nice hostel called Borneo Gaya Lodge along Jalan Gaya, or Gaya Street. This place, the street that is, was according to various sites on the internet a popular location for backpackers.

That night Zera brought me out to a pier where there was a lot of small restaurants with very much food. Some of the dishes I remember, like “fish fingers” which was some kind of pepper fruit stuffed with minced fish and cooked. Extremely spicy. Then we had some fried chicken, rice of some kind, some satay-like chicken and some more spicy stuff. All in all, very good, but very hot!

When Ove arrived the day after we mostly chilled and had a couple of beers in a nearby pub, playing pool. I still have some of the tokens from the pool table at home. The next day me and Ove went out to explore the town a bit and to find us some adventure. We had heard there was good white water rafting to be had so we sought out an agency that could book us for some the next day. Eventually we found one more or less right next door to our hostel and we booked for the next day!

The following day we had to get up early. First we had a couple of hours of bus trip, then we changed from bus to a clunky old diesel powered train that ran on very thin tracks through Borneo’s jungle. Finally we arrived at the white water rafting site and got our safety instruction, some testing of the raft and some final instructions before our adventure on the river begun. That was a full day of pure fun! We got to know a danish girl called Nathja, who stayed at a hostel next to ours and we decided to meet after the rafting for some beer. Our guide on the river also wanted to join, bragging about how good beer drinker he was. Who are we to resist such a challenge?

During the evening some guy from Brazil turned up with his didgeridoo, that was totally random but it turned in to an unforgettable evening in the end. The day after me and Ove set out on a quest to find some hiking outfit since we had decided to climb Mount Kinabalu. We booked the climbing same day as we booked the white water rafting. We found a store in a shopping mall that had what we needed, and if we joined their customer club we would get some discount on some items, so we gladly signed up. In the end we managed to reach a premium level as customer and was awarded 5 watches. Probably not the best watches in the world. We gave away those watches to people at the hostel.

Next day we left Kota Kinabalu for a place called Sabah Tea Garden, a tea plantation not to far from Mount Kinabalu national park. To get there we took a taxi, it proved to be a quite long journey that took several hours on snaky roads. Finally we arrived at Sabah Tea Garden, or so we thought. Turned out there was a good 2 kilometer of walking before we actually arrived at the actual place. I didn’t mind, the scenery was nice and we could see Mount Kinabalu looming on the horizon. After checking in to our small cottage named Alfred Dent. Nothing much happen that evening, but in the morning we went up early to see the sunrise that was said to be beautiful. Unlucky for us it rained in the morning. After breakfast we went on a guided tour on the tea factory and in the afternoon we took a small jungle trek up on a nearby peak. It was a good opportunity to see if our trekking outfits would do the job. And they did. During the trek we got to see a gigantic caterpillar and the flower Rafflesia, the worlds largest flower.

The following day we decided to relocate to a place called Poring Hot Springs which was a quite odd place to arrive in. The road just abruptly ended (I’ve heard it’s completed now). Then there was some hotels around the hot springs and not so much else. We checked out the hot springs but didn’t bath in them because the place was crowded. Instead we set out on a small trek again to find a cave that we had seen signs about. Turned out the cave was quite hard to access so we abandoned that idea and went back to have dinner. Before we went to Poring Hot Springs we briefly visited the small town of Ranau in search for internet connection to check some flights, but internet was down for the moment, that happens sometimes.