Sinikka's snippets

Finland and travelling, a woman's life, cultures, languages, photography plus family recipes


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Hong Kong dim sum

Last summer (2015) we had the chance to visit Hong Kong for the first time on our way to Taiwan to visit our daughter and her boyfriend, who also flew over to HK for the weekend to join us. As we only had 3 days to look around, I tried to do some online research on must places to see and things to join advance. One find on an online Time magazine article was a tea house serving traditional dim sum breakfast. Even though dim sum, as such, was not new to us, having tried it before in Malaysia, China and Singapore, and the youngsters, of course, in Taiwan, we wanted to try the HK flavour as we’d always liked it so much before. Another reason for choosing this place was that it was at a walking distance from our hotel. So off we went early on a sunny Saturday morning, after arriving the afternoon before. We loved the walk along the narrow streets and lanes of SoHo, up and down hills and stairs, and past colourful markets and stalls. Unable to read or understand any of the Cantonese signs around, I was brimming with excitement. It finally sank in that we were really far away from home.

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Lin Heung Tea House, 160-164 Wellington street, Central, Hong Kong

Described, rather unflatteringly, as the “Dim Sum Warzone” by a Singaporean food blogger, we found the Lin Heung delightfully eccentric. Most of the waiters seemed to be ancient, and a little bit grumpy – made me wonder how long people kept working in Hong Kong. Service worked quite efficiently, though, although it took us some time to find a free table in the totally packed place, even that early in the morning. In fact, as we entered there was such a hullabaloo going on that we had our doubts first whether we’d manage to get any breakfast at all. We’d been warned about this by several web sources, but in the end, we were quite comfortable even having to share the table with total strangers. It just came with the territory and added to the novel experience.

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No sooner had we managed to sit down than a pot of really dark brown, steaming pu erh tea appeared in front of us. Later on, we got bolder and went to order a few other teas among the several choices on offer. But what to do to get our food? Just had to look around and observe for a while, to get the hang of it. The waiters kept coming round with their trolleys stacked with bamboo containers and plates, howling loudly in Cantonese – possibly the names of all the dishes on offer. All you had to do was to go to them and get the ones you wanted. Mind you, not so easy for us poor foreigners who didn’t understand a word, and had to try and get the waiters to open the containers to see what was inside. They weren’t too happy about this, rushing around the slightly too narrow aisles between the tables. Another piece of advice: don’t be polite and wait for your turn, like any descent Finn would. You’ll never manage to get a bite! You’ll have to be fast, or all the dishes you’d like will be snatched by somebody else right in front of your eyes! Once we learned the ropes, we got to try all sorts, the savoury seafood and meat dumplings, as well as the sweet buns and more familiar spring rolls.  All very good, I must say.

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The noise around got louder and louder while more water was constantly poured into the cute, round-bellied tea pots, and ever more exciting dim sum choices kept appearing on the trolleys. Soon enough, our eyes started being bigger than our belly, and we realised that we were already too full. But what a great experience on our first morning in Hong Kong! A bit chaotic perhaps but in a positive, intriguing way. Certainly a welcome change to quiet and organised Finland. Happy and well nourished, we were ready to hit the streets and explore the new city for the day.

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One interesting observation: as the clientele seemed to be mostly middle-aged or above, hardly any smart gizmos were in sight, but instead, like in the good old days, people read real newspapers! How quaint! As far as we could gather, most of the customers seemed local rather than tourists, which is always preferable to us. Whenever we can, we try to get small glimpses into the everyday lives and culture of the local people in the foreign places we visit, to see and try something that we would never come across at home.

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I would definitely recommend a visit to this tea house to Hong Kong visitors. An extra bonus: in an otherwise fairly pricey metropolis, at least by Asian standards, this was easily affordable. No Michelin star quality, and very old-fashioned for sure, but good value. I would have been prepared to pay extra for the entertainingly fascinating ambience alone!

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The mini hotel concept

Mini hotels, cubile hotels, bloc hotels – whatever they are called in different parts of the world. Not really new, I’m sure, but new for me.

I had read about the tiny, almost coffin-life, Japanese cubicle hotels before, but never stayed in one. It’s no wonder this concept comes from the populous Asian tourist destinations, with not too much space to build on. From my limited experience in Asia, I’ve noticed that people spend a lot of time outside their tiny homes. They eat out, they go to parks to do yoga or thai chi, and spend their evenings in the vast night markets. There is simply more public than private space in many Asian metropolises.

My first experience in such a hotel was in Hong Kong last summer. We stayed in Mini Hotel Central, in the Soho district on Hong Kong island. The “mini” meant that the room was only big enough to fit a double bed in, leaving just a tiny aisle on one side, to access the shower and toilet. Just the basics that you would need to sleep while travelling. You might think it feels almost claustrophobic, but interestingly not. As you can see in the picture below, the toilet/shower space has fairly big windows to give light and add to the space. All in all, quite a cute arrangement.

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Rather than the personal room space, what the Hong Kong hotel had invested in was the lounge and reception area downstairs. There was a quirky, yet curiously pleasing collection of different furniture to sit on, and computers for customers to use as well.

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Like many other visitors, we also ended up spending more time sitting down there than cramped in the little room upstairs. The hotel didn’t have any breakfast facilities but provided vending machines downstairs. This was understandable as the South East Asian way of living is eating out, so there is a never-ending choice of various restaurants and coffee and tea shops, one more delicious than the other.

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Would recommend this hotel to anybody who wants just a place to lay their head for the night, and good value for money.