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Day THREE!

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One of the most important errands I had to run while in Hong Kong was to see to the safe posting of Flo’s drone. After a few crashes, he decided it was time to send it to get cleaned up and fixed because its camera wasn’t moving the way it should and it had a few bumps and bruises on its armour. The Drone Clinic happens to be in Hong Kong so we thought it’d be better and more cost-effective to send it off from here.

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Just a short 5min walk away from my hotel was the post office. At 10.30am, it was quiet. So I managed to get the parcel registered and posted within a matter of minutes. Then it was back to the hotel to pack my last few bits and bobs before checking out.

I made sure to give myself ample time to get to Hotel Intercontinental where my lunch venue was. According to GoogleMaps, it was about a 10min walk away from GD Hotel. Just as well I left room for any hiccups because at 11.30am, I went down to check out and as soon as it was my turn, the staff who was supposed to attend to me decided that he colleague needed her help checking out the other guest. They got me waiting a good 10min with a curt apology at Minute 8, before taking 20 seconds to check me out. Nice.

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Took in the last of Hong Kong’s busy streets as I walked towards Salisbury Road.

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And enjoying the little scenes that just screamed ‘Hong Kong!’ – like trees growing with their roots tumbling down from concrete walls.

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And just by the harbour stood Hotel Intercontinental. It was a slightly muggy day and as with the two days before, visibility across the harbour wasn’t great.

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Lunch was at this Two-Michelin Starred Cantonese Restaurant, Yan Toh Heen. I wanted to try Hong Kong’s Three-Michelin Starred Lung King Heen but it was fully booked. No matter, that can be saved for another time with Flo!

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They had thoughtfully laid out a table for me facing the water, with their jade place settings arranged in perfect order. The ambiance of the restaurant calmed me with Chinese Instrumental music quietly playing in the background, and the scenic view stretched out before me.

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I was first presented with a small dish of Sesame Candied Walnuts to pick on. These were crazy addictive with their caramel coating shattering with each bite and giving way to the toasty, nuttiness of crunchy walnut and inflections of caramelised vanilla from the white sesame. I had to restrain myself from devouring the lot before my food arrived.

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Of course, I had to order the Yan Toh Heen Superior Dumplings. I was advised to eat them from Right to Left beginning with the Steamed King Crab Leg Dumpling with Green Vegetables. This was delicate to the tastebuds and the spinach encased within created some textural contrast.

The Steamed Lobster and Bird’s Nest Dumpling with Gold Leaf was so sweet and so fresh. The thin slice of asparagus that was placed on it was such a minimal touch, yet, what a difference it made by providing that refreshing crunch.

The third was the Steamed Scallop with Black Truffle and Vegetable Dumpling. Once again, chef controlled his seasoning well, allowing the sweetness of the scallop to shine while the hint of earthy truffle was just enough to balance off the crustacean flavour without overpowering it.

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Yan Toh Heen also served not one, not two, but SIX types of condiments to go with the food. They had three different types of chilli sauce ranging from mild to super spicy. That orangey-yellow one on the left looks innocent but let me tell you, it was fiery all right! But also damn shiok (inexplicably awesome)! The other three – soy sauce, plum sauce, and vinegar – I didn’t touch.

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I also ordered the Steamed Black Truffle, Pumpkin, Assorted Mushrooms and Vegetable Dumplings. This usually comes in a serving of three but the staff kindly agreed to serve (and charge) me two dumplings instead or it might have been too much.

I loved the natural sweetness from the pumpkin and the turnips were cooked to retain a slight crunch. Again, the truffle didn’t threaten to overwhelm the lightness of the flavours in these dumplings.

The little pouches of happiness were all excellently made with fabulously thin, resilient skins that gave way to luxuriant, generous fillings. Overall, they were all seasoned ever so lightly, allowing the freshness and quality of the ingredients to speak for themselves. In fact, I found that there was little need for the sauces.

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I had a bowl of Double-boiled Chinese Cabbage with Matsutake and Black Mushrooms Soup to finish. Sweet. Robust. Rich. All from the cabbage and mushrooms which is amazing the intensity of flavour you can get from vegetables alone.

I was thinking about my lunch the day before after this meal and although both Jade Dragon and Yan Toh Heen have been awarded 2-Michelin Stars, they can’t and shouldn’t be compared.

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Yan Toh Heen evokes this idea of refinement and subtlety both in its interior and in its food. It is beyond a doubt elegant and classy, but it does not display its grandness in a boisterous manner. Their food pleases the palate without the need for heavy seasoning, and it is in this way that I appreciated how Chef Lau allowed the ingredients to shine.

Jade Dragon on the other hand, is less reserved. From the moment you step in, you see their high ceilings and lush carpets, and you know that this is a place for the well-heeled. Similarly, their food is packed with more punch and flair.

Both restaurants must surely have their own group of followers. Perhaps, just perhaps, Yan Toh Heen may be more for the older, more sophisticated crowd, while Jade Dragon may attract more of the younger up-and-comers. I enjoyed both simply because they were so different even as they offered the same cuisine. They both displayed skill and creativity in their food, yet each had they own distinctive style.

By the way, this meal set me back HKD558.80.

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I left Hong Kong with a very happy belly that’s for sure. The ride home was not as bumpy – still a little bumpy but just about bearable. While on the plane, I reflected on my entire trip as short as it may have been. I guess I’m not as timid as I thought I was, and not as fearful of travelling around on my own in a country not too familiar to me. I realise I can have fun being by myself for days at a time even though some things are definitely more fun with a side kick.

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I’m glad that Flo encouraged me to take that step to travel alone for my first time. It made me learn that I am stronger, smarter and more determined that I thought myself to be. I say ‘more determined’ because by hook or by crook, I made sure I got to all my dining destinations regardless of circumstances, and I also refused to travel by taxi, sticking to the MTR and my good ol’ trusty feet. I will admit that after lunch at Yan Toh Heen, I had to take a cab to Kowloon Station where I then transferred onto the Airport Express, but that’s because time was tight and I had a plane to catch.

I came home with quite a bit of money leftover, but more than that, I came back feeling enriched and fulfilled. I was made happier still when Flo surprised me just as I left the Arrivals Hall! And off we went for a delicious dinner of SASHIMI!!!!!!

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Day 2 in City of Dragons!

Ok. So I booked this restaurant that’s been awarded 2 Michelin Stars and for some reason, I assumed it was in Hong Kong. While planning my itinerary, I realised that the restaurant is actually located in Macau’s City of Dreams. I almost panicked when I decided to turn a moment of folly on my part, into something positive – instead of missing out on what was supposed to be awesome Cantonese cuisine, I decided to make a day of it and visit Macau. After all, I’d never been!

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Woke up Sunday morning and prettied myself up. I packed along my dress and new shoes to change into because ain’t nobody got time for running around Macau in heels! Then, I headed straight out into the outdoor sauna Hong Kong was turning out to be, towards the Hong Kong China Ferry Terminal.

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It took me about 15min to get there from the hotel but it was a straightforward walk so no time lost going in the wrong direction on the way there. It was really fast going through immigration and took no more than 10min from the main entrance of the building to get to the berth.

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I used Cotai Water Jet which can be booked online. They’re quite organised and everyone is assigned a seat on board. STILL! When the ferry was open for boarding, there was a huge group of people (I won’t say where they’re from but I’m thinking that the first thought in your head may be correct) who jumped up from their seats with such rapid synchrony that I could only gape in awe at their coordination.

Within seconds, they were jostling to get ahead of the queue which just totally boggled me since we had allocated seats! I got so annoyed with this one lady who keep grinding against me trying to push past while yelling to her husband to ‘go go go!‘ that without thinking, I actually said “Stop Pushing!” in my basic mandarin. The lady looked momentarily shocked before pulling herself together and backing off just a little although you could so tell that she was dying to scramble ahead.

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The seats were quite comfortable and the ferry was really clean, proving to be a pleasant 1 hour ride from Hong Kong to Macau. Funny how I’m perfectly fine with the bobbing of the waves while being at sea compared to when there’s turbulence up in the air. It was so soothing I slept most of the way there.

Funny story: When we docked at Taipa Ferry Terminal, the First Class passengers alighted first and were quick to step onto the travellator leading to the immigration counters. They happily stood there travelling along, while I decided that I didn’t want to get stuck behind them, so I carried on walking and just as I was passing them, this one woman saw me and panicked, quickly pulling her trolley bag behind her. Only, her fellow travelling companion yelled something out to her and she had to turn back while I zoomed ahead and made it FIRST to the immigration booth. Talk about the power of Singapore Kiasuism (Fear of losing).

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From the ferry terminal, I took the shuttle bus to The Venetian where I then crossed the road to City of Dreams, which is really this incredibly plush mall housing all the world’s top brands.

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It’s quite a new building so everything looked sparkly and pretty. It also has a casino somewhere on the inside but it was nowhere as exposed compared to the casinos at The Venetian and Galaxy Casino.

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Dressed and ready for lunch!!

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Bad angle of me but I haaaad to take a picture with this giant ornamental thing.

Service from the minute I stepped into the reception area of Jade Dragon, until the moment I departed, was top-notch.

They’d set a lovely table for me facing an open area where I could delight in the opulent furnishings of the high-ceilinged restaurant. I chose to forgo the Set Menu knowing that it might be a bit too much for me and settled for their ala-carte menu.

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Before my orders were served, I was presented with an amuse bouche. I was to start on the right with their hot appetiser of Prawn Dumpling which had a touch of Sour Plum Sauce to accentuate the flavour of the sweet crustacean. On the left was a refreshing one-bite ‘salad’ of lightly pickled Cucumber and Yuzu.

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The first dish served to me was the Steamed White Truffle Crabmeat Dumpling. This turned out to be my favourite of the meal with the infusion of truffle perfuming the dainty dumpling, yet not quite overshadowing the fresh, tasty filling of crabmeat. There were tiny cubes of daikon I believe, cooked to retain a crisp crunch that not only added texture, but also enhanced the overall natural sweetness of this dumpling.

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With its beautiful Jade green hue, this Jade Dragon Dumpling was like an elevated version of the more humble, traditional Har Gao (shrimp dumpling). With its thin, elastic skin coloured with Spinach Juice to achieve that beautiful colour, and that gentle speck of gold leaf, it was definitely a sight to behold. Held within were plump, juicy morsels of prawns and blue lobster.

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This was the Steamed Kagani Crabmeat Dumpling which was also the priciest piece of dim sum on the menu. Sadly, the delicate skin broke when it was picked up so the sweet broth that whispered tales of the sea flowed out, thankfully into the bowl so I managed to spoon some up. Still, I felt denied of maximum satisfaction from this elite form of Xiao Long Bao. Was it tasty? Yes. Would I pay for it again? No. Personally, I would much prefer to have the Truffle Crabmeat Dumpling again and again and again.

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Taking its time to swim to mama was the final dumpling I ordered – Steamed Crystal Dumpling with Garoupa Fillet chilling in Sweet Corn Soup. I thoroughly enjoyed the subtle nature of this dumpling that allowed the freshness of the garoupa to shine. The soup was punchy with its flavours and complemented the mild flavours of the fish dumpling.

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To end, I had the Double Boiled Yunnan Organic Mushroom Soup with Fish Maw and Wild Bamboo Pith. This was full of flavour and depth which you can see from the deep colour of the broth. It was rich yet light at the same time, and accompanied by a generous piece of fish maw.

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I had to take a picture of my dining companion since it so very patiently waited for me through every single course.

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I was extremely satiated from my wonderful meal and almost ready to go when the staff at Jade Dragon informed me that they were putting together complimentary petit-fours for me.

Presented elegantly in a Chinese Tea Pot were two Mini Cones – one filled with Milk Tea Ice-Cream and the other with a Peach Sherbet. The former was full-flavoured and restrained, standing right on the cusp of being on the bitter side. The sherbet was so smooth and fruity, so much so that it took all my will power to put down so that I would have room for the other bites of dessert.

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Plated, there were Sesame Macarons, a Coconut Macaroon, a Red Date and Walnut Nougat, and an Osmanthus Rice Roll. The fragrant sesame of the macarons was sublime. I might even say there could have been just a touch of sesame oil and soy to further highlight its earthy flavours.

The nougat was chewy, though not overly so, while the rice roll was incredibly light with a subtle floral infusion. Both were not too sweet which certainly delighted me. As for the macaroon, as with most macaroons, it was rather on the sweet side and not quite to my taste.

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Switched back to more comfy clothes to tour around Macau.

Lunch set me back HKD 616, an amount I would never spend on myself for a meal in normal circumstances. But hey, I figured that this was supposed to be a birthday holiday for me and so, I can afford to spend on myself dining at fine-dining restaurants.

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I found this beauty of a dragon just before leaving City of Dreams. It’s magnificent to look at and the colours of the lights shining onto the dragon changes every few seconds. I was quite mesmerised and could have stood there hypnotised if not for the fact that I had places to go and things to see.

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My plan was to take the shuttle bus over to Galaxy Casino where apparently, you can just cross the road to get to Old Taipa Village where there’re Macanese Street Foods galore and all sorts of knick knacks.

I reached the casino, and then realised I didn’t know which exit I had to take to Taipa Village. And let me tell you, the place is a maze!!

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I found this cool dancing fountain that seemed to have captured the interest of passers-by, me included. I only took a quick snap before wandering some more. Finally, I found Banyan Tree Resorts and asked the concierge for directions. Apparently, Banyan Tree is on the West side of Galaxy and the exit to Taipa is on the East side. I wasn’t convinced when he informed me that it would take a good 20min to get there. I mean hello! It’s just a mall. Only, it’s a HUGE mall surrounding a HUGE casino so I did take about 20min to reach the exit.

I stepped out, felt the wave of humidity and heat hit my skin, looked at the time, and decided I’d best be heading back to The Venetian since I wanted to have a look around there too before heading back to Hong Kong.

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By the time I reached The Venetian, I only managed to reach this area where the gondolas are. Honestly, I felt pangs of claustrophobia being in a place where there was no natural light and where everything felt so artificial. I didn’t have too much time to roam around as I didn’t want to be late catching my ferry home so after a walk around this area, I went back to West Lobby to get the shuttle back to the ferry terminal.

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I don’t think Macau’s really my kind of place. Sure, I would have liked to have at least reached Taipa Village which may have exuded a different aura altogether but the places I’d seen felt like they lacked character and authenticity. Big, tall, extravagant buildings everywhere, but lacking in soul.

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Whereas Hong Kong…

Is packed full of character from its dizzying stairs-filled streets, to its neon lights; its frenzy of movement as people rush around, to its laid-back tea-drinking culture; from its dilapidated buildings that threaten to crumble, to its modern skyscrapers.

It is a city where hipster, vegan cafes can operate alongside old-school traditional roast goose stalls, where youth traipse the streets sipping on bubble tea while older folk sit within their usual cha chain tang drinking hot milk tea, where foreigners frolic around soho while the locals continue to bolt towards their favourite wanton mee stall for comfort food.

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Speaking of wanton mee.

After an afternoon of wandering around going nowhere in Macau, I found myself considering my dinner options. I ended up settling on going to Tsim Chai Kee just to give my wallet, and stomach, a bit of a break.

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I know that Mak’s Noodles just across the road is a crowd favourite, but seeing that they’ve opened an outlet here in Singapore already, I decided to stick to Tsim Chai Kee which is known for their outrageously huge balls… of wanton.

I was still bloated from lunch so I settled on a bowl of King Prawn Wanton Soup and a side serving of Blanched Kailan with Oyster Sauce, which set me back HKD44.

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Those were amply filled dumplings that had big, crunchy prawns stuffed within. For some reason, I remembered these to be different. I wasn’t so keen on the seasoning this time and found the soup to be leaning towards the salty side. But them veggies though! They were so simply prepared but so tender, so sweet, and such a delight to eat.

Day 2 was really more in Macau than in Hong Kong but I’m glad I was able to plan my time well enough to at least see enough of the city, and to get my transport back. I remember feeling somewhat content with myself at one point because it felt pretty cool being able to navigate around and get to places I wished to go even if not always using the most direct route. Still, I was quite excited to be heading home the next day just because I missed Flo, and my bed, and the sweet smell of home! But first, I had one more awesome lunch planned before my flight!…

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About a month ago, shortly after our return from Yangon, I voiced out to Flo that I felt like travelling again, only this time, on my own. It’s not that I don’t enjoy travelling with Flo. I LOVE travelling with Flo. It’s just that I’ve always wondered whether I’d be able to hack it on my own out in a country that isn’t home to me. And turning 30(!) later this month, I figured now would be a good time, like crossing of a ‘Things To Do Before I Turn 30’ list just that I don’t actually have a list but still. And to be honest, I don’t think I was 100% certain of daring to go away alone. It was simply a desire that I’d had for a few years now and never had to guts to act on.

Flo was so encouraging – I swear, he’s just the best guy ever in supporting my decisions whatever they may be! So two days after that conversation, I sat in front of the computer and booked two Two-Michelin Starred Restaurants and one Cafe I wanted to dine at. Yeah, I booked places to eat before I even booked anything else because I figured that if I backed out, cancelling my reservations way in advance wouldn’t be too big a problem – this was a month before the dates I planned to travel.

Flo came home that evening and I told him what I did. He then egged me on to book my flights and accommodation while he went for his run. Without trying to overthink things, that’s exactly what I did. It felt so surreal and in the days leading up to my departure, I felt a mixture of excitement and anxiety. In fact, a small part of me was wondering if perhaps I didn’t want to go.

But I did.

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4am. 29th Jul 2017. Saturday.

I woke up, and got myself ready to leave promptly at 4.30am for my flight which was supposed to depart at 6.05am. I reached the airport only to find that my flight had been rescheduled to 7.35am instead because apparently, Scoot and Tigerair have merged and so, I believe they put two flights together onto one of their big 787 planes. I was bummed because it meant that I would likely be late for my 12.45pm reservation for Grassroots Pantry, so I quickly shot them an email informing them of my delay and did some research on how to go there from Hong Kong Airport.

Now, let me tell you that I think I actually have a slight fear of flying. I’m all ladidah when the plane’s gliding across the skies but the minute there’s a bump, I’ll be hanging onto the armrests for dear life, with my feet against the legs of the chair in front in a bid to feel some form of stability.

Of course, I had to be flying alone when we hit bad turbulence in the second half of our flight. I mean bad like shaking, rumbling and dipping kind of bad.
So bad that I flung my arm up the first time and scared the lady next to me.
So bad I yelped the next time the plane dipped, screwed my eyes closed and tried to breathe while my heart palpitated as though I’d overdosed on caffeine.
So bad that the guy across the aisle patted my left hand gripping the arm rest to give me some reassurance.
I swear I actually thought at one point that… y’know… the plane might not make it. Then it was over and I thanked God, praying that the rest of the trip would go smoothly. And it kind of did. Just a little shock towards the end while landing. Never felt so glad to be back on solid ground apart from the fact that I knew I’d be back up in the air just over 48 hours later. Boo!

So from the airport, I topped up the Octopus Card Flo had passed to me from his last visit to Hong Kong and got onto the Airport Express which took me to Hong Kong Station within 24min. There, I hopped onto a shuttle bus taking me to the Sheung Wan area where I got off at the Holiday Inn Express Soho stop which was supposedly the closest stop to Grassroots Pantry according to my research.

It would have been very close but me being me, I took plenty of wrong turns, asked a couple of people along the way, kind of followed their directions while wondering why GoogleMaps was pointing me in all sorts of directions. And finally, FINALLY!, after a good 20min of walking under the blazing midday sun and crazy high humidity (and we all thought Singapore was bad), I found it!

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I went in, luggage and all, sweat and all, only to find that it was a full house and my reservation wasn’t held. They were sweet enough to inform me that a table was clearing and placed me at the bar counter to browse through their Spring/Summer Menu. In the end, I decided to place my order and let them utilise the table for two since I was perfectly happy at the counter.

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On my plate: Spring Chard RollsHeirloom Carrot, Zucchini Spirals, Pickled Chard Stems, Cashew Lime Mayo. Avocado, Tamarind Dressing which they placed on the side, and Walnut Parmesan.

To drink: Jamu!Raspberry Leaf, Nettles, Linden Flower, Cinnamon, Stevia.

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I loved the drink although it was a little on the small side so I had to act all sophisticated gently sipping away while gulping down water on the side so that the Jamu! would last longer.

The Chard Rolls were refreshing in that they were filled with a lot of veggie flavours and textures. It was interesting how they used cashews to create a kind of cream although I hesitate to call it mayo. Still, I definitely preferred this form of ‘mayo’ to traditional gooey, overly creamy, cloying mayo.

I was telling Flo upon my return that they took away my fork and knife, leaving me with a pair of chopsticks to eat this with. I tried to be as dainty as possible, nibbling away at the rolls, also in part to make lunch last longer after taking ages to find it. Alas! My efforts were futile when a thick vein in my first roll refused to give in to my vigour of a bite, eventually leaving me with no option but to use my fingers to assist me in making a clean tear away. Talk about ladylike! 

Although I quite enjoyed the overall ambiance and food at Grassroots Pantry, it’s not exactly cheap. In total, I spent HKD165 on my lunch, one that I know probably won’t fill the stomachs of bigger eaters.

After cooling down and fuelling up, I found my way back to Sheung Wan Station which took all of 7 minutes. Then I went upwards towards Tsim Sha Tsui where my hotel was located.

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The above stall was just at the corner of the street to my hotel. It’s so typical of Hong Kong in that they serve sticks of fish balls all cooked in different broths ranging in spiciness. I think they have other things too like pig’s head meat, beef balls, and some other stuff I can’t really read.

Anyway, I got myself checked into GD Hotel which wasn’t anything fancy. It was a little old in interior but very clean and nice enough to go back to for sleeps and a hot shower. I chilled there a short while and freshened up before deciding to pop by a nearby mall, K11.

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I was actually looking for either a nice pair of shoes to go with a dress I bought for my fancy schmancy lunch the next day, or get a smart casual dress to go with shoes I already had. Turns out, K11 is quite fancy schmancy itself with lots of shops housing up and coming designers so their clothes were a little out-there for me and even if they suited my taste, they were sold in the range of HKD1000-2000 which was quuuiiiite a bit out of my budget.

Seriously though, one of my favourite favourite things to do when I visit a new country is to prowl through their supermarkets. I love looking at the kinds of goods and products they sell.

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I would have definitely picked up some things from here but the queues were outrageously long!! So I scrapped the idea and hopped on.

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And yes, I did find a pair of shoes I liked in the end – More expensive than I would usually pay but I guess it’s ok to treat myself to a pair of comfy, pretty shoes once in a while.

New shoes in hand, I headed back towards Central where I wanted to pick up some dinner…

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People attached to their phones. Kind of like back home. 

The Sheung Wan/Central area make up Soho in Hong Kong. Wellington Street is just a 2min walk from Central Station Exit D2 and that’s where famous restaurants such as Yak Lok and Mak’s Noodles are housed. There are a lot of coffee and brunch cafes, as well as international casual bistros around the area too so choices for where to eat is far from lacking in this area.

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I decided to make it Vegan Day even though I’m not vegan. It’s just nice to have a day where you go meat-free sometimes. It makes me feel good, especially my digestive system. Haha. And it kind of feels as though I’ve giving my body a break from all the meat.

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So Mana! Fast Slow Food it was.

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I opted for a Takeaway Salad Box consisting of Kale, Roasted Vegetables, Spinach, Pumpkin and Halloumi, with the addition of Portobello Mushrooms because MUSHROOMS!

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For HKD93, it wasn’t super cheap but it was a very hefty, generously filled box of wholesome goodness. I was slightly upset that there wasn’t as much pumpkin as I would have liked, and I only found one small cube of halloumi.

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Still, all the lovely, roasted eggplant, zucchini and juicy mushrooms, along with the textured kale that had been tossed in some kind of cashew parmesan (?) ALL went into my tummy ensuring that I got myself a nice, round, food baby to go to sleep with.

Yup! So this sums up my first day in Hong Kong venturing out and about all by my lonesome. I was so tired out by my early start that I fell asleep very soon after my head hit the pillow.

I’ll share with you more about my second and third day in Hong Kong in my next couple of posts. See you in a bit! X

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