We booked our flight from Saigon to Chicago, which included one very long layover in Hong Kong. We arrived to HK late at night, and headed to a hostel we'd booked in advance. Compared to the places we have been the last few months, Hong Kong is expensive. Think American prices. And not small-town America. Big city America. We paid around $40 for the night, which included a bed in the smallest room we've ever stayed in, and a shared bathroom. But that's all we needed.
As congested and futuristic as Hong Kong seems, we found it surprisingly slow to start in the morning. We spent the first few hours walking around the city, as flower and bird vendors set up for the day. Then it was on to my main mission for the day: dim sum.
A few days before our arrival, I'd turned to Trip Advisor to find the best dim sum spot in Hong Kong. I selected One Dim Sum, ranked #8 out of 4,581 restaurants in the city. We arrived before it opened, and took our place at the end of the long line of locals waiting outside.
We were seated in a cramped corner--One Dim Sum focuses a lot more on food than space--and given a paper placemat menu. I'd done a little research, and knew that One Dim Sum had a Michelin star, so everything would be good, but some options were recommended over others, namely the the steamed rice sheet rolls.
We had the steamed rice sheet rolls with pork, and while the pork itself was average, the steamed rice sheets were superb. They were tender and a little chewy, but not tough or sticky. Another stand-out were the chiu chow-style dumplings, made of a soft, yielding dough, and filled with shrimp and greens.
We'd eaten at Tim Ho Wan in Singapore, also run by a Michelin-starred chef, and it was fun to compare the two. Overall, I think we preferred Tim Ho Wan, but the best of One Dim Sum could easily go toe-to-toe with the best of Tim Ho Wan.
We spent a total of 149 Hong Kong dollars on 7 dishes, which is just shy of $20. A good price for dim sum, but again, compared to what we'd been spending of food recently, a bit of a sticker shock.
So then it was on to find some entertainment somewhere on the spectrum of cheap-to-free.
We took the subway down to Hong Kong Island, where we walked along the water, and watched a helicopter land and then take off again. Did I mention that this is a money-centric city?
We were flying blind, with no guidebook and no internet. But we found a map of the area, and headed to a park. Amongst all the skyscrapers, an immense green space opened up. We wandered through the park, past men and women in suits on their lunch break, and a private yoga lesson, until we discovered a (free!) bird sanctuary.
While these birds were technically captive, these were not like the pets in small bamboo cages we'd seen in shops earlier in the day. These birds had the room to soar. A boardwalk was set up at mid-level and high above was a net, to keep the birds in. Pieces of fruit were set up near the boardwalks to keep both the birds and watchers happy (they got food, we got to see them). The birds looked pretty happy and healthy.
We also stopped in on a botanical garden and greenhouse and art gallery in the park. The greenhouse included species from all over Asia, including the largest lilly pads I've ever seen, and rare orchids.
Then it was time to think about heading back to the airport, and on to America.