October 10, 2014 / 6:00 PM – Hong Kong
My taxi pulls up next to the entrance of The Butterfly On Hollywood. The delicate boutique hotel at the corner of Possession and Hollywood Road.
As soon as I get out of the car, I feel the humidity of the Hong Kong evening mixed with AC breeze drifting from the hotel lobby. The smell of Hong Kong.
I’ve waited a long time to come back here.
On my last trip to Hong Kong, I had asked Wendy Jim, my friend who lived there, for advice on where to stay. I was booking last minute, and too lazy to search for hotels.
She told me to book the trip on Agoda (It was the first time I ever heard of that website) and she suggested the name Butterfly On Hollywood.
Since then this hotel has become my to-go place in Hong Kong on every visit.
Sometimes going to places repeatedly makes us fall into a ritual, a pattern, a tradition. Nothing is more apparent than when I go to Hong Kong. I always follow the same pattern. It’s not because I’m lazy to discover or try new things. There is a joy in going through the repetition. To the point that I go through it in my head (when I’m not there) from time to time just to relive those moments that once brought me joy. To relive the joy.
And in this post. I’m going to relive this tradition with…well, Polaroids!
The Butterfly On Hollywood
There are a few people ahead of me at the reception desk in the hotel lobby. As I’m waiting for my turn to check in, I grab a copy of Time Out Hong Kong to see what’s going on in town. In particular, I like to find out about the concerts and the celebrities who are going to be in town during my stay. I don’t plan on going to any of their shows, it just amuses me to know for some reason.
It’s my turn to check in.
The hotel staff is always friendly and speaks excellent English. It always amazes me how fast they can process my check-in and get me upgraded to a better room.
Across the street from Butterfly is Lounge 208. And it’s always buzzing with people. This gets me very excited. My 16-hour flight fatigue suddenly disappears. I think to my self: “I have arrived”.
Whether it is arriving from a 16-hour flight or coming back from a long day at work in a foreign country, the last thing I want to see when I arrive at my hotel is a lazy boring atmosphere. I want stimulation that kicks life back into me. And 208 injects me with this adrenalizing energy just by looking at it from my hotel lobby across the street.
I always pick a high floor at the Butterfly On Hollywood. Mainly to get a better view of the city and to let the sun into the room. This time, they gave me a corner unit. Which comes with an amazing view.
Yes, it’s tiny, but most hotel rooms in Hong Kong are. Yet it’s very comfortable and the view makes up for it.
The view reminds me that I’m in Hong Kong. The dense Hong Kong residential buildings like Lego towers everywhere.
The first thing that strikes my attention in the room is the “Occupy Central” note:
I have heard about those protests and was hesitating to cancel my trip but my friends in Hong Kong told me its not as bad as the media makes it sound. However, the protests are still going on so I will try to avoid the area. I only plan to stay around Hollywood for now and there are no protestors here.
My first stop is the 7 Eleven on Hollywood Road right next to my Butterfly hotel. I need to get my canned coffee and ginseng drinks to give me a boost before I collapse to my jet lag. I stare at the DIY Robi toy as I’m lining up to pay, wondering what it is exactly. I think I have to buy one of them Robis on the way back. It’s amazing how they make you want things you don’t really need.
Hollywood Road is filled with antique shops and contemporary art galleries of all sorts. What strikes my attention the most is the artsy gadget store. The multi-colored tiny robots catch my attention and make me gravitate towards the store like a butterfly heading towards the light…or fire. Turns out they are USB sticks. I must get one of those as well. And I actually do. I get the pink one.
The Lounges On Hollywood
Hollywood Road starts to get more lively as I pass the antique shops area and the trendy restaurants and lounges start to appear. Lots of expats and locals hit the area for night entertainment. It gets hard to choose where to go as every place looks very interesting. I continue to walk along and soak in the night.
The Peoples Of Hollywood
back home I try to avoid hipsters as much as possible. But in Hong Kong its very entertaining. For whatever reason. My first sighting is a trio coming down the stairs and one of them is wearing red pants and glasses, automatically triggering my hipster alert. I had to take a picture.
There are more westerners in this part of Hong Kong than locals. They tend to fall into three categories, expats, backpackers and lost in translation types looking for the meaning of life. I’m not sure from which group this guy is but I’ll assume he’s a graduate (from Lost in Translation to Expat).
I guess this should be a new category. Graduates.
Continuing to walk along Hollywood Road will eventually lead you to LKF (Lan Kwai Fong). The entertainment mecca of Hong Kong and one of the most famous in South East Asia. Along the way, you will also hit Soho.
Soho is an area lurking with expats and locals who want to be round expats. Full of vibrant bars and trendy expensive restaurants. It’s nice to walk around and explore. It’s one of the most entertaining activities one can do in Hong Kong and in particular I love walking those Soho streets on my first night in Hong Kong after arrival.
The Kebab House
This place is halfway between the Butterfly hotel and LKF. The night always ends with a kebab sandwich from here. It’s a hole in the wall but probably the best kebab joint in all of Hong Kong.
The Saloon On Top Of The Staircase
I always find my self passing by this tiny bar in Soho. Yet, if you asked me to take you there I would never know how to find it.
It’s a tiny place that sits on top of long flight of stairs leading down to the lower streets. I don’t know why but I love this bar. There’s a “Do Not Enter” sign at the front.
Mingling With Expats
The heart of Soho is where all the expats congreate and mingle along the bars and restauraunts, often standing on the streets with their drinks and dodging cars. It’s easy to meet people and to jump in on conversatons. That expat circle becomes very small in no time. You will often run into the same people and develop a sense of who’s new in town after a few outings. It’s a nice feeling and it gets to the point where you don’t want to stay home in evenings anymore.
The Hard Rock Cafe
The Hard Rock Cafe is the first place you hit when you reach LKF after a long walk on Hollywood Road. This is where LKF starts. Yes, the Hard Rock Cafe might be the last place you want to go if you lived in North America but its a staple in the rest of the world.
And in Asian cities, in particular, it can be a hub that attracts the expat community (mostly single males) as well as a lot of escorts. In Hong Kong, there is no shortage of classy western bars to attract expats, but this Hard Rock Cafe remains a classic trashy attraction in LKF.
I have friends who collect Hard Rock Cafe memorabilia. So I take advantage that it’s right there and walk in to buy some souvenirs. It will save me time, later on, to go look from stuff to buy them.
Hong Kong Skyline At Night
The Lan Kawi Fong Hotel sits on top of the Hard Rock Cafe. You can take the elevator next to the entrance of the Hard Rock right to the top floor of the hotel where you will find one of the swankiest longes in Hong Kong with a terrace that has a dope view of the city. Not to be missed. One of my friends who lives in Hong Kong had showed me this secret spot and since then I always go up for a cocktail and a spectacular view of the Hong Kong night surrounded by beautiful people.
I finish my drink and head back down to the street level, and LKF is already buzzing with the night crowd. They start to arrive at the clubs. People of all kinds. Expats, locals, backpackers, graduates. The locals are the best dressed of them all, especially the men holding Louis Vuitton man purses. Something you only see in Hong Kong.
The Budha Lounge
I saw a gig by Ceven Fischer at the Budha Lounge during my first visit to Hong Kong over a decade ago, so it has a special place in my heart. Every time I walk past when I’m in LKF I get a nostalgic feeling. I miss the time I was young and carefree.
I almost get stunned when I see a poster of John Digweed. He is the God of progressive house music! And my favorite DJ of all time. And he is playing a show in Hong Kong. I wont be in town for the gig but I snap a picture of the poster to remind my self of what I’m going to miss. Had I known earlier I would’ve planned my trip dates better.
The 10 Shots Challenge Bar
I tried to avoid this place numerous times (for obvious reasons) while walking around LKF, but I finally caved in. I step inside, and within a few minutes, the people sitting at the table next to me immediately challenge me to do the 10 shots, and before I could say yes or no, they had already ordered the shots. Now all I could do was oblige.
I don’t remember winning or losing but I did complete the challenge with flying colors. The shots were very colorful, very sweet and not strong at all.
I hate the taxis in Hong Kong because they never stop for you. They only stop at dedicated taxi stands that always seem to have a long line of people queuing up regardless of the time of day or night. I manage to find a taxi and head back to the Butterfly on Hollywood. My home away from home.
The Next Day
I wake up to a sunny wonderful day. I’m not as tired as I expected to be. Sleeping late killed my jet lag and now I feel ok. It’s a great day for wandering around. Shopping and looking for some good eats. I go for a stroll to check out streets around my area. A bit later I will grab some breakfast from Congee Lu.
One of the great things about Butterfly Hotel is the proximity to Congee Lu. A few years ago this name has been bestowed by yours truly upon any street in an Asian country that serves Dim Sum. I started using this name a lot to the point where it has become a synonym for any restaurant selling Dim Sum anywhere.
Lu means “Street” in Chinese.
Cafe De Coral
Hong Kong is very close to Macau which was occupied by Portugal. So there is a lot of Portuguese cuisine influence in Hong Kong.
Cafe De Coral is a good franchise to explore Hong Kong and Portuguese fusion. Its not pricy and the food is good. I took a picture of their menu:
Also their menu keeps changing all the time which makes it unboring in a McDonnald’s kind of way.
Hong Kong Harbor
The sun is out on my second day in Hong Kong. I get inspired to go to Kowloon and admire the Skyline of Hong Kong Island from the harbor. The October haze gives makes my photos look even better. It’s not that hot this time of year which makes walking on a sunny day very enjoyable. There are always giant cruise ships docked at the harbor.
The Star Ferry
The iconic Star Fery links Hong Kong island to Kowloon side (main land). Taking the ferry is a must and definitely better than taking the subway. The view is increadible and makes me think of how it might’ve been for those living in Hong Kong in the old times (it was founded in year 1888).
The Hong Kong Skyline
The Star Ferry terminal on the Kowloon side is in my opinion the best place to get a perfect view of the Skyline on both sides simultaneously (Kowloon and Hong Kong island).
The ICC tower is my favorite looking skyrise and the only one on the Kowloon side. It reminds me of the new One World Trade Center in New York. Especially how the sun reflects on its surface like a mirror. I need sunglasses to continue looking at it.
Central – Un Occupied
I finally summed up the courage to check out the protests at Cental. But when I get there I see nobody. The place is entirely deserted. Not sure what was going on but I think the protestors took the day off. Disappointed. So much for Occupy Central.
The Mini Hotel
The rooms at the Butterfly hotel are small, but the rooms at the Mini hotel are rediculously smaller. A few years ago, I stayed at the Mini for a few nights before discovering the Butterfly on Hollywood. The location at the corner of LKF makes it ideal for people wanting to stay in the most entertaining part of Hong Kong.
My favorite part of the Mini hotel is the lobby, its white and modern and unlike the rooms, it is very spacious. There is one computer with internet access if you are one of those people who don’t buy a local sim card for data access when you travel.
The Day Markets
I always get lost in the streets around the Hollywood Road area and end up in a small alleys that boast vegetable and local foods market. This is the place to buy delecacies like bird’s nest, and shark’s fin. I try to get out of this area as soon as possible because it smells bad.
Interlude – Hong Kong From Top Of The Hill
Let’s pose for a second here and admire the hong kong view from Victoria Peak. Let’s take a deep breath and soak it all in. Isn’t it spectacular?
Great, let’s move on!
The Night Markets
The day goes by very fast and it’s already evening on my second day. Wandering around in Hong Kong always leads to some sort of market. And at night, the markets are the most vibrant. Hong Kong turns into a light show with lots of stimulation coming at you from every corner. It’s almost never a good idea to go to the markets during the day. The night experience is so much better.
Canada Day – A Memory
I’m back in LKF and a memory emerges of my last visit to Hong Kong. It was Canada Day. It’s kind of odd to be in Hong Kong on Canada Day. The Canadian flag was hung everywhere around LKF. People painted their faces with the maple leaf and partied their asses off. Everyone seemed more Canadian than me. Yet it made me feel somewhat important and in place. If there was one place I could be that night this was it.
As I’m strolling along I see this:
I’m guessing he could be the one who started the entire “Occupy Central” movement. He seems like an intellectual who is craving for some attention and keen on attracting the crowd that occupies LKF.
I decided to call him Mr. Wong.
Mr. Wong’s Driver
Any Mr. Wong’s must have a driver. And any driver of Mr. Wong would be sleeping on the job while Mr. Wong is having drinks at one of the swankier bars on LKF.
The Wild Wild West
It’s my last night, and I can’t help but think to my self that this feels in many ways like the Wild West. Satisfied, I think of getting a taxi back and remember how hard it is to get a taxi at this time. I decide to walk back and make a stop at the Kebab House. That’s all the motivation I need to go back. Tomorrow will be the day dedicated to shopping and meeting up with my friends.
Then it all happened very fast. First, it got very windy, then I felt a drop or two of rain on my face. To my horror, I heard people shouting: “Typhoon”. What are the odds? I remembered dismissing the warning earlier in the day. It was something about a level 8 typhoon. That’s what you get for being too eager to get out. I would’ve expected a level 8 typhoon to be much stronger, but still, there was a lot of panic on the streets. Luckily I’m still in LKF and walk into one of the bars across from the 10 Shots place. I’m going to wait it out here no matter how long it takes. The Philipino band is still playing in the back. I order a drink and look out from the terrace, I see a few guys still ordering shots at the 10 shots bar totally disconcerned about what’s going on. Behind them, three western girls are running frantically like hell looking for cover. That’s a beautiful Polaroid moment. *SNAP!*
As my last night in Hong Kong ends with a spectacular Typhoon, I can’t help but feel happy and satisfied with my stay. I think about how I will get back to my hotel, the Butterfly On Hollywood.
Ah…The Butterfly On Hollywood.
I love that name…
It gives me butterflies.