Our departure from Macau marked the beginning of our final week together in Hong Kong. It was time to check off the remaining items on our “must-do” list and finish up our social media campaign.
Our final Sunday together was spent working on our projects until we felt the urge to get out of the hotel and do something touristy. We’d visited the Temple Street Night Market on a previous occasion, but only spent around 30 minutes there before meeting up with some other UT students in a different area. I left wishing I had more time to shop, explore, and try some of the many cheap street foods available. Eager to try a famous Temple Street spicy crab, Miranda, Christy, Kayla, and Stephanie joined me in returning to the area.
The Temple Street Night Market is rated by Time Magazine as the #5 thing to do in Hong Kong and is described as looking “like every B-movie director’s dream of Chinatown.” It’s only open from about 4pm to midnight, but it comes alive each night with locals, tourists, and pushy peddlers that maintain the rows of stalls crammed with paintings, t-shirts, trinkets, handbags, souvenirs, and electronics.
Aggressive bargaining is not the only thing to do on Temple Street; open-air restaurants and stands serve snacks, local dishes, and lots of fresh seafood. Over a dozen venues keep varieties of fish and crustaceans alive by pumping water into clusters of plastic tubs. The majority of our group had their minds set on trying a spicy crab, so we took a seat at a restaurant ingenuously named “Temple Street Spicy Crab.” I was looking forward to having the dish until I was told the market price for the smallest crab was $300HKD (nearly $40USD). I certainly wasn’t THAT eager to try the crab, especially considering I was sitting at a dirty picnic table in the street that had a roll of toilet paper on it for napkins. For the record, I didn’t mind the divey-ness of the place – that’s part of the experience. I was just looking forward to the inexpensive food that Temple Street is known for and opted for a beef noodle dish. I was pretty sure the cups of water on our table had been there from the previous guests, so I decided to order a canned drink. The options were soda or beer. I don’t drink soda or beer, but I ordered a Korean beer called Blue Girl because I liked the name. The beer at the night market is among the cheapest in Hong Kong – my 650ml (~22oz) beer was $18HKD (about $2USD).
Kayla enjoyed the spicy crab and had no regrets parting with the $300HKD. We finished up our dinner and beers and set off to explore the street, people-watch, and haggle for fun.
On Monday we had our final class lecture and visited the Hong Kong offices of Fleishman Hillard, an award-winning global PR and marketing agency. The firm’s Managing Director, Rachel Catanach, spoke to us about some of Fleishman Hillard’s campaigns and the inner workings of the agency. After her presentation, we were given time to ask her questions and have a discussion.
The next two days were spent working on our main project for class – a campaign for the Korean skincare company, Dewytree. Our class was separated into four groups and asked to come up with a social media strategy for Dewytree’s entry into the U.S. market. The owner of Dewytree was asked to be there for the presentations, but had a prior engagement in Paris that week. On Thursday, we presented our campaigns to the class and professor, and our ideas were forwarded to the owner.
Later that evening, we had a farewell dinner with the directors of the program, our professor, and a guest speaker. Our past group dinners were all Dim Sum and a few of us were dreading another meal of it. In Cantonese, “Dim Sum” is actually known as going to drink tea, meaning that Dim Sum is not supposed to be a full meal, only a snack served with the tea. However, our group dinners had been just that – a dinner… of Dim Sum.
We walked into our reserved room at Golden City Banquet and our eyes fixated on the Lazy Susan (traditionally used in Dim Sum) in the center of the table. The room had a really cool view overlooking a busy street, so a few of us began looking for restaurants to eat after our tea time. We gave each other a forced smile as we found our seats at the table, and a server came by to pour us a cup of hot tea.
The guest speaker, Tommy Cheng, gave us a very frank and somewhat abashing speech about how to be successful in advertising and marketing. After about 45 minutes, I had noticed several of my classmates blushing, but we agreed it was motivating and refreshing to hear someone speak with such honesty about the industry.
Once the class ran out of questions for Mr. Cheng, it was time to eat. I was happily surprised to see our first dish was not Dim Sum. It was a platter of deliciously roasted pork accompanied with crispy pork skin and jellyfish… yes, jellyfish. Apparently jellyfish is considered a delicacy in most Asian countries. There are several methods to curing jellyfish that are as much an art form as a science and traditional methods can take more than a month. I had never tried jellyfish before, but I was curious and gave it a shot. The texture is very strange – almost like chewing on a rubber band – but I liked it! The weirdness of it was enticing, and I hope to try it again somewhere in the States.
Once the next platter of food was served, I was sure we were not having Dim Sum. By the end of the night, we had a feast of more than 20 different traditional Chinese dishes – all cooked perfectly. It was by far the best meal I had in Hong Kong.
With our bellies full, we were ready to celebrate our completed coursework. We headed to the Ozone Bar at the Hong Kong Ritz-Carlton. Located on the 118th floor of the International Commerce Center, Ozone Bar has the distinction of being the highest bar in the world. The decor is chic and modern and the place is full of very wealthy, snobby young people from all over the world. The bar has a dress code for men, and I certainly felt out of place as I chose to be comfortable for our farewell dinner. I walked into the bar and was greeted by the doorman who didn’t say anything, but instead gave me a slow, judgmental scan starting with my casual sundress and ending with a long pause on my trusty sandals. I gave him a sarcastic “am I good to go?” look with my eyebrows raised before proceeding.
When we found a seat, the uncomfortable stare down became completely worth it: the bar is incredible! It has an open roof that creates a subtle breeze and allows you to see the clouds close-up. And the views from the floor-to-ceiling, wrap-around windows on the 118th floor? Absolutely breathtaking! It was so beautiful I actually became overwhelmed with sadness, because I couldn’t share the experience with my husband and family. That may sound cheesy, but I highly recommend only seeing this place with your loved ones and closest friends if you have the opportunity.
QUICK TIP: A popular tourist attraction called the Sky 100 Observation Deck is located in the same building as the Ozone Bar. Visitors pay entrance fees ranging from $168-$500HKD (~$20-65USD) to see the views from the 100th floor (18 floors below the bar). So instead of going to Sky 100, save your money, get back in the elevator, go 18 floors higher to the Ozone Bar, and then use your money to buy a cocktail and enjoy the free views from there. You won’t regret it.
We only had one drink at the Ozone Bar, because that was all we could afford. From there, we headed to Lan Kwai Fong, an area of Hong Kong that is similar to Austin’s 6th Street (except for the important fact that LKF allows open containers). The small area is packed with more than 100 restaurants, bars, and clubs and is the go-to area in Hong Kong for nightlife. Most of my classmates had been to LKF on several occasions but it was my first time to check it out. We walked into a few bars and then went to what my classmates referred to as “Club 7.” With no open container laws, the 7-Eleven in LKF sells more liquor than most bars. The small convenient store is packed with people who buy their drinks at a cheaper price than the bars and enjoy it in the street before going into the clubs. LKF was definitely a cool place to see, but I’m not much of a club-goer. I ended up going back to the hotel around 11:15pm.
From what I heard, everyone else in the group made it back to the hotel very late. Besides myself and 3 others, Friday was everyone’s last full day. It was spent recuperating from the night before and preparing for flights home. I had lunch and dinner at some restaurants nearby and took a long walk with Stacie around the area of our hotel. The entire day seemed float by in a surreal haze – this was it. Our long-awaited trip was over and we hadn’t had time to really soak in what we had experienced.
My flight didn’t leave until 7am Sunday morning, so I said my goodbyes to everyone who left on Saturday morning. Our hotel was only booked until noon, so I finished packing and enjoyed the last few hours in the hotel before checking out. I didn’t have any set plans for the day, and because my flight left so early the next morning, I didn’t even book myself a new hotel (I would’ve had to be up around 3am to make it to my flight on time). I asked the concierge to hold my luggage for the day, and thought I’d walk around Hong Kong and see the last sites I’d missed. Luckily, Amy and her dad let me tag along and kept me company for the day.
Our first stop was the Chi Lin Nunnery, a large Buddhist temple with beautiful gardens. It was really hot that day and we didn’t stay long, but it was definitely worth the visit.
We had a casual lunch and headed to the Hong Kong Park. Similar to New York City’s Central Park, Hong Kong Park is a much needed stretch of greenery hidden among the city’s skyscrapers. We strolled through the park and went into a stamp museum and a tea museum that are located there. Finally, we went to the Wan Chai area so I could pick up a few more gifts and then went back to the hotel to pick up our bags. It was around 6:30pm when I said my goodbyes to Amy and took a bus to the airport.