“Hong Kong has changed so much!”
It’s been almost six years since my last visit to Hong Kong and almost inevitably I’m told this every time someone asks if I’ve been to Hong Kong before. I’m a little stunned as I take in the skyline on the ride into the city, it’s one thing to remember the densely packed skyscrapers but another thing altogether to see towers lit up at night.
It’s a motley crew who have gathered in Hong Kong for Novotel’s first Blogger Familization, we’ve gathered from all around Australasia and are situated all around the city for a long weekend of festivities, exploring and of course, eating.
Hong Kong Wine & Dine Festival
We’re at the Opening Gala of the Hong Kong Wine & Dine Festival, it’s a brilliant sight that greets us with all the staff members decked out in festive costumes. It’s the first of a four-day festival and the they’re keen to get things started. The festival is situated on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong and has a brilliant view of Victoria Harbour, there’s a brisk sea breeze a welcome change from the humidity of the day.
The festival opens with a bang, an orchestra with LED screen behind them are playing along with the background noise of fireworks, however it doesn’t take long for us to get itchy feet and soon boo_licious of Masak-Masak, Brad of ladyironchef and I are off exploring the stalls set up for the night. There are over 60 stalls available for us to browse at the festival and with a voucher system available at the festival we immediately agree to pool our resources and set out to find ourselves dinner.
The majority of the wines are priced at 1-2 voucher tickets (Value 10HKD – $1.2AU), amazing value considering the sheer variety of wines available. While I notice more than a few Australian and Bordeaux stalls, my favourite turns out to be a syrupy sweet dessert wine from Tokjai. I’m tempted to buy a bottle before realising that the entire bottle sells for 800HKD and content myself with the glass lol.
We soon notice that the stalls at the festival are primarily wine ones, it takes a bit of walking but we manage to track down a few of the savory stalls and satisfy our growling stomachs before exploring further. It’s here that I learn that Brad has an incredibly sweet tooth and he powers his way through four glasses of dessert wine, but it’s the cheese that I’ve got my eyes on.
We’re exhausted by the time we’ve used up our vouchers are happy to sit for one last wine tasting lecture in the Bordeaux area, enjoying the sea breeze before heading back to our hotels.
Bloggers Meet & Greet
I’m looking forward to our dinner at Novotel’s Wan Chai hotel, it’s the first time in the weekend that all of the bloggers will get a chance to meet and chat. It’s a curious mix of travel, lifestyle, arts and food bloggers who have all been invited for this weekend in Hong Kong coming from as far as Japan and India. I also manage to chat to a few of the local Hong Kong bloggers, Jason Tse, Kelvin Ho and Razlan Manjaji and manage to extract promises for lunch and dinner meetups!
Dinner is an even split of red and white meat, after all the eating we’ve been doing today I’m glad to be on the white half of the meal. The Seafood Carpaccio is sliver thin, and I notice that the lime has actually been frozen into chunks and placed inside the lime half. Somewhat foolishly I pop one into my mouth and immediately break out into smokey coughs as the ice burns and melts in my mouth much to the amusement of everyone else. It’s a blast (not to be repeated) and I happily tuck into the warmer BBQ Cod Fillet, while stealing slices of the Angus from Brad.
It’s a distinctly high-tech gathering tonight, conversation at the table ranges from arguments of Kindle vs. iPad (Team Kindle!) to camera equipment envy. I’m amused to see that even the live music has gone high-tech, with song requests taken via a list on the hotel iPad! (Photo, Owen Schaefer of Art Plus Tokyo)
The weather can only be described as fierce. The above photo of the pool is deceiving as the gentle breeze from the night before is kicking up into tornado strengths! We’re quickly making grabs for the menus, napkins, jackets and generally anything that can move lol.
Halloween in Hong Kong
The Halloween celebrations in Hong Kong utterly surprise me, it’s a mostly forgotten holiday in Australia and one that Hong Kong has jumped into enthusiastically. In the days leading up to Halloween the street markets are filled with decorations and last-minute costumes for the stragglers yet to organise their costumes. The costumes range from the usual risqué nurse outfits to I kid you not, Beiber costume complete with wig. I somehow resist the urge to buy.
Our destination for tonight is Ocean Park. While it is usually a Oceanarium Theme Park, for one month a year it’s decked out in full Halloween regalia complete with Haunted Houses and costumed actors roaming about the park, readily scaring the guests and generally standing around looking scary.
We manage to accidentally find ourselves in the Oceanarium amidst our Haunt House roaming. The Nemo’s have me captivated for a good 5 minutes, they’re smaller than I thought and we make a strange sight – 3 girls crowding around a tank taking photos…
The Haunted Houses are easily the biggest draw card, there’s over 8 of them scattered about the park and we manage to drag ourselves through 5 of them. With 4 girls walking through there’s more than a little screaming as we walk through the variously themed houses complete with trick walls, smoke-filled corridors and staff hidden away behind trap doors and corners. Sadly they’re too dark for photos and staff caution us to put our cameras away in case we drop them out of fright!
Thoroughly scared out we wander our way towards the exit, but not before I manage to snap a photo of my favourite costume of the night. My request for a photo is met simply with disdainful silence but I grin as he poses the moment my camera comes up.
Lan Kwai Fong
The party is nowhere near over! It’s only 10pm by the time we leave Ocean Park and we decide to head over to Halloween party central, Lan Kwai Fong. The entire area has been closed off for the night for a giant street festival, with tourists and locals alike roaming the streets in costumes. The crush is unbelievable and soon after we arrive footpath traffic is being directed by police in a one way movement around the block to slowly lead up to the entrance of Lan Kwai Fong.
Devil’s horns are a dime a dozen but it’s the full body costumes that have the crowds excited. The sight of a 6’5″ Navi (of Avatar fame) walking the streets causes a congestion of cameras that ultimately requires the police to keep the lines moving!
But our real purpose tonight is food. It’s been an insanely long day of sightseeing and at 10pm it’s our first real bite since lunch, people rave about the Chinese food in Hong Kong but at midnight all I want is a beer and greasy chips! We’re at the Whisky Priest in the heart of Lan Kwai Fong, an Irish Pub with plates of spicy food to back up their pints of beer. Despite the hour it’s a strange mix of customers in the pub, I can see a group of teens sitting at one table all sipping on various juices and playing UNO while the next has a revolving group of young 20’s gleefully consuming jugs of beer.
Up on the second floor we’ve got a great view of revelries on the street below, the party is still going strong when we leave at 1 and we’re reassured the party will go on all night long. Go Halloween!
Even the manager is happy to pose for a mug shot!
The Whisky Priest
G/F & 1/F., 12 Lan Kwai Fong,
Central, Hong Kong
Tel: (852) 2869 0099.
My trip to Hong Kong is over one week long and I’ve still got tons of food to post. Coming up in the next couple of Hong Kong Posts – Michelin Stars, Sweet Eats, meet up with Hong Kong Bloggers and my favourite, Street Eats!
Novotel is extending an offer to readers of the blog: Simply quote ‘Novotel blgr’ when you make a direct booking with any of Novotel hotels in Hong Kong, and get a free upgrade to the next room category. Valid until end of August 2011. (Novotel Century Hong Kong: email@example.com; Novotel Nathan Road Kowloon: firstname.lastname@example.org; Novotel Citygate Hong Kong: H6239-RE1@accor.com)
Eatshowandtell travelled to Hong Kong as a guest of Novotel for their Novotel Blogger Familization