One of the perks of living in the Philippines is the seat sales on Cebu Pacific. Not the most on-time airline unless you fly out early in the morning, but it gets you where you need to go and at a great price. Last month we found a couple of round trip tickets to Hong Kong and jumped at the chance to get a little vacation and explore another city.
Hong Kong is just a two hour flight from Manila but drastically different. Less traffic, more trees, and a beautiful mix of east and west – it was my first time to explore this city and I found a few things I think are worth sharing.
I heard about this helpful piece of plastic before we arrived, but I didn’t realize how convenient it actually would be. The Octopus Card is a reusable card used for payment on public transit around Hong Kong and it’s also so much more. It’s accepted at most restaurants and stores like 7-Eleven, leaving you more worry free about needing to carry so much cash. The public transportation system feels flawless (especially coming from Manila) and we never waiting more than 5 minutes for a train. You can buy the card at any train station (we got ours as soon as we arrived), loading up the minimum amount of $100 HK. You also pay a $50 HK deposit which you can get back when you return the card at the end of your trip in addition to cashing out any left over money on the card (we returned ours at the train station where you catch the airport train). Simple, convenient, and looks cool too.
Mingle by the Park
We watch HGTV and we saw the common theme for Hong Kong dwellings: small. Even still, finding an affordable place to stay wasn’t hard (Trent did a lot of online research). With the expectation that wherever we stay in the city would be tight quarters, we weren’t disappointed with what we found at Mingle by the Park. Located just a few blocks from the Wan Chai MTR station on Hong Kong Island, it was convenient for walking and transit. We found a close by market with fruits we bought for breakfast each day (cherries!) and multiple nearby coffee shops (see below) to choose from. Rooms were clean, bed was comfortable, price affordable, and I liked drinking the complimentary tea while standing on the balcony each morning.
This. Blew. My. Mind. McDonald’s is most notable for convenience – with their drive throughs and literal fast food. In Manila we often order for delivery and have it come right to our condo door (dangerous ability, I know). But here in Hong Kong (and I’m told in Singapore too), they have leveled up their game.
Touch screens to place your order, cell phone charging stations at each table, staff who deliver your food to you in a presentation which rivals any Chili’s or TGI Friday’s I’ve experienced. More than a place to grab a quick bite to eat, this McDonald’s is an experience – and one I hope is just a glimpse of what we’ll see from them in the future.
For coffee enthusiasts, their espressos are made on a McDonald’s-yellow Victoria Arduino Black Eagle (the machines used at the World Barista Competition). Don’t expect light roasted coffee, but this is definitely a giant leap above other McCafes.
Filters Lane (111 Caine Road, SoHo) – We stayed here the longest – partly for the coffee, and mostly for the friendly service and connection we made with the owner and barista. We loved hearing the stories of the Hong Kong coffee scene and getting business advice from the owner of this well designed cafe with delicious coffee. Another favourite part: these cups that are served on a wooden tray that holds them upright. But set it down on the table and it also won’t tip, leaning on the handle of the cup in a perfect weight design.
The Cupping Room (32 Swallow Street, Wan Chai) – A speciality chain with the best tasting Americano I’ve had in my life: smooth and sweet, a blend of coffee from South America. They champion their 2nd place win in the World’s Barista Competition a few years ago and they deserve it: well designed spaces and well presented beverages. We were impressed by how they elevate their barista position as well, explaining to us that certain beverages couldn’t be made that day because their barista was at a different shop at the moment.
Omotesando Koffee (this is Trent’s favourite website of all time, be sure to click!) – INTERIOR DESIGN HEAVEN. Minimalist. Quiet. Light. Oh, and the coffee is just as delicious. The customer flow is notable as well – as soon as you walk in the front door, you’re greeted by a person behind the counter who is ready to take your order and answer any questions. He inputs your order to a computer and hands you a printed ticket that you take up the stairs to hand to the barista. While your coffee is being made, you can watch and chat with the barista who’s attire resembles a mad scientist. Taking your drink to an empty table, you swing a stool out from beneath the table top and have a seat to drink the beverage and relax in the quiet surroundings.
Hazel & Hershey (Shop 3, 69 Peel, Central) – If you need to know where to get coffee gear in Hong Kong: this is your place! Here you’ll find helpful staff who advise on the perfect brew method and and an entire wall filled with your heart’s desire in home brew equipment and espresso machine accessories. If you’re there to drink some coffee, I recommend ordering the nitrous cold brew. We also may have geeked out a little over the fact that they sell coffee from Project Origin, World Barista Champion Sasa Sestic’s coffee distribution company.
As she brewed us a remarkable aged puerh tea, the woman at Gong Fu Teahouse explained that while their company has been around for a while, they are trying to brand themselves now in such a way that appeals to the younger generation. Our friend at Filters Lane also told us that tea, it seems, is more for the older generation while the millennials are gravitating toward coffee. We’d love to highlight both of these delicious beverages at Narrative Coffee Company, so we’re always up for exploring both worlds!
Bonus HK Tip: Try the duck and egg tarts from any restaurant where you can’t read the menu.