Hong Kong Day 1: Tsim Sha Tsui at Night and in the Morning

Hong Kong has always been one of my favourite cities in the world. The vibrancy of life here, the downtown setting amidst a backdrop of mountains with a view of the harbour, nothing compares to that! And arriving at night that day, I took a cab to the Hyatt Regency Tsim Sha Tsui where I would be spending a night at. It was a good choice for my first night in Hong Kong. Tsim Sha Tsui is like the tourist mecca for first-time visitors to see the unique Hong Kong which shapes the city. At night the area is turned into a glitzy place lighted up by neon advertising and livened up by the beeps of traffic lights and horns from the red taxis ubiquitous to Hong Kong.

Bedroom at the Hyatt Regency Tsim Sha Tsui

The Hyatt Regency in TST isn’t exactly a cheap place to stay, but its location in a bustling area was great for food, shopping and sightseeing. Besides the location, there really isn’t much to go for this hotel. Being located in the middle tier of this new skyscraper in small Hanoi Road, the taxi drop-off area is located underground along with its shuttle service stop, and the reception lobby is on the 3rd floor. Ground level is just a small walkway for one to access the adjoining shopping mall and to the street level. Check-in as usual was alright, but the hotel doesn’t seem to honor the fact that I had a King non-smoking room booked for the night and asked if I was alright with a double bed. Since it was just for a night, I agreed to it. Arriving at the bedroom, I was disappointed at its small size, and though it might fit for one, I doubt it is huge enough for 2 persons. The small room overlooked a bunch of skyscrapers and was decorated in a contemporary design. Though small, it was comfortable enough for a short stay and as long as one doesn’t mind the size, it is good for one or two nights. A moderately sized bathroom was on the left upon entering the room. While it doesn’t have a bathtub, it has a nice shower cubicle and sliding wall panels which allows one to access the wardrobe from the bathroom. Another great design feature was the sliding wall mirror on the washbasin which allows occupants in the bathroom to watch the TV while brushing one’s teeth for instance.

Shower Cubicle

While it might be a double bed, it is actually two single bed joined together so even for two person sharing a room, it can be very narrow. There was a small couch which is placed to the side of the bed, and a work desk with a comfortable leather armchair at the end of the room. As expected of the narrow space, the hotel fits in an LCD TV at the end of the wall facing the bed. Due to the small size of the room, it can be easy to knock one’s legs while moving about and while it might be cosier, it can get claustrophobic after long periods of time. I quickly head for the shower after my luggage was sent to the room, and proceeded to explore the life at night in Tsim Sha Tsui. First stop though, was the Skypark located at the middle of the building which is an outdoor covered terrace providing access to the swimming pool and views out into the surrounding area.

View from the Skypark

Even at close to 10pm at night, there are still various snack locations and eateries open in Hong Kong. The city of life is indeed what it says – the city nearly never sleeps. I enquired with the concierge for places that serve local snacks that are still open and was provided maps and directions. With these in hand or mind, I exited the hotel via Hanoi Road, a partially pedestrian-only street and headed for the junction between Carnarvon Road and Prat Avenue. The area around the hotel is indeed a nice area to walk around at night with the cool crisp air and the light traffic of people in the area, compared to just a few hours ago. Around the junction, one can find a street stall selling curry fish balls and other skewered snacks like cuttlefish and grilled beef, pork and chicken. I got myself some grilled beef and curry fish balls (also known as fish eggs, yu-dan or 魚蛋). I always enjoy the spiciness and chewiness of these snacks and it really got me refreshed to continue walking around the area. As luck would have it, I got to pass a CD store and when in Hong Kong, I always head to one of these stores to stock up on my Hong Kong drama serials, Blu-rays and DVDs.

Taxis travelling across Tsim Sha Tsui

I spent some time in the store browsing through their messy collection, but got myself a nice collection of stuff, including a Blu-Ray copy of ‘建國大業 The Founding of a Republic’ – a Chinese-made docu-drama showcasing the tumultuous history that led to the CPC reign over Mainland China. Other finds I had was a Blu-Ray copy of ‘唐山大地震 Aftershock’ and ‘枼問 – Ip Man 1 & 2’. The latter was a Collector’s edition package which I have yet to see in other markets and would be a nice addition to my Blu-Ray collection. From the store, I walked on towards Nathan Road, one of the main thoroughfare in Tsim Sha Tsui and at this time of the day, the streets are pretty quiet though there are still public double-decker buses and taxis plying the road. From here, I made my way back to the dessert store located close to the hotel. I decided to try this dessert store named 五代同糖 (pronounced wu dai tong tang) which offers a mix of Eastern and Western desserts for a reasonable price. I noticed many of its patrons ordering the molten chocolate lava cake which is a staple in most French restaurants. I easily got a seat for one, though the store was still packed when I was seated and had to share a table with a couple.

Mango Souffle at a Dessert Shop

Initially it was awkward being the only lone customer since most of them had companions, but no matter as I proceeded to order a mango souffle, as I craved for a western style dessert and with mango-based desserts being the best choice in Hong Kong. Yes, I always wondered how Hong Kong managed to lay its hand on so much mangoes given the tremendous amount of mango-based desserts in the city. It took a while for my dessert to be prepared, and the time taken was quite substantial that the couple sharing the table with me soon left and I started taking photos of the ongoing traffic outside the dessert shop. The mango souffle was freshly prepared and of very good quality when it came, and I would say even better than some of the ones I have tasted before.

Hyatt Regency TST at Night

Feeling satisfied after the late night snack, I returned to the hotel for a rest, but not before filling in my order of coffee for the next morning which was complimentary for Gold Passport members. I also got to watch a local TVB drama on the television while brushing up for the night, and that was when the sliding wall mirror inside the bathroom came to good use. I slept soundly in the soft and cushy beds in the room and maybe because I was tired from the flight and the walk, I slept very well that night! The next morning, a nice tray of coffee with hot milk was delivered precisely on time. There was also a daily copy of International Herald Tribune for the day which was as ordered during check-in. After the cup of coffee, I set out of the hotel in search of a local breakfast. I enquired again with the concierge for directions to a local cafetaria, commonly referred to as 茶餐廳 (pronounced cha-chan-theng in Cantonese). I was directed to a Tsui Wah Restaurant or 翠華餐廳 which is located just a block away from the hotel. I got a seat at this spacious restaurant which I discovered has quite a few branches island-wide. Feeling a bit peckish (even after the late night snacks yesterday night), I ordered a Bo-Lo Yau or Butter Bun, Custard Bun and a cup of Hong Kong style Milk Tea. Butter bun is easily a staple in a local Hongkongers’ breakfast, and it is essentially a soft bun with crispy sugar coating, with a serving of butter. The custard bun, on the other hand is a crispy toasted bun with sweetened condensed milk coated over the centre. Both are great in my opinion, though they made me really full and perhaps slightly sugar-high in the morning. As for the milk tea, I somehow preferred the one that they serve in Cathay for its more fragrant flavour.

Bo Lo Yau or Butter Bun in Tsui Wah Restaurant

As I exited from the cafetaria, I noticed some money changers already operating early in the morning and since I still had time to spare before catching the complimentary shuttle service to Hyatt Regency Sha Tin, where I will spend the next night in, I went to find a money changer where I could change some US Dollars to local currency. I found one money changer in the lobby of a residential complex along Nathan Road and changed a bit of money to add to my current Hong Kong dollars since I was expecting to do some shopping. Shopping in Hong Kong is always essential with its wide variety of offerings. However, after I changed my money, I passed by some commotion in the lobby of the residential complex and discovered some disturbing find. Apparently the commotion was between the security guards as there were blood stains along the walkway into the lift lobby. Whether it was chicken’s blood or human blood, I do not know but it could also be a loan-shark trying to regain his loans from the debtor. Just a dramatic scene like those out of a Hong Kong police drama. The contrast of living in Hong Kong just cannot be more greater than this – expensive condominium units atop the Hyatt just a block away and dense residential dwellings with complicated lobby incidents occupying prime district land side-by-side. Amidst all the record-breaking prices of property in the city, new immigrant workers live in these disturbing surroundings. For newly-arrived tourists, please do avoid Nathan Road due to the large amount of Indians, Africans and other immigrant workers selling their wares and offers in the area. I did, however, manage to get a pre-paid SIM card for local calls in the city from a small store located in the same building. Well I guess as far as these things are concerned, it’s not that easy to cheat one’s money ain’t it since the pre-paid value is indicated in the cards.

Dense dwellings along Nathan Road

I returned to the hotel to pack my bags after this morning jaunt and proceeded to deposit one of my luggage with the hotel since I would be returning to this hotel the next day after exploring Sha Tin. With this huge bulky luggage containing items bound for Canada, I checked out of my rooms and settled the hotel charges before returning to the room and heading down for the shuttle bus service. What is good about staying in these 2 Hyatts is the provision of a complimentary shuttle bus service between Sha Tin and Tsim Sha Tsui, and this allowed me to stay in the Sha Tin property which is cheaper and of course provided the opportunity to explore a new area in Hong Kong. Thus far, my impressions of Tsim Sha Tsui still remains after the last encounter in 2009. It is a complicated area that provides an alternative insight to Hong Kong compared to glitzy Central. Ask me which area I like most in Hong Kong though, it has got to be Repulse Bay with its relaxing sea views and serene atmosphere amidst the buzz of the city.

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