Friday, 18 September 2009

HK - Day 2 - Mini Paris

of Swines and men

semi-overcast 34 °C
We returned HK for the second day, stay the night, and fly out tomorrow for our second package tour (also with Wing On) of the Three Gorges. This Wing On packaged tour is considerably more expensive than the previous Guilin tour we just took last week. Much more, in fact, it costs us close to 11,860 HKD while the Guilin package costs 3,600. It is 11860/3600 = 3.3 times dearer. (just like Guilin package, the price is all inclusive, no more to pay). This package cost more because the accommodation for this trip is entirely confined on Victoria Anna - the largest cruise ship sailing on The Three Gorges. A bigger and newer Victoria cruise ship is going to be launched next week, but we've just missed the booking. Victoria Anna is rated 5-star, and what's more, it's run by a company of the US of A, hence the stiff price tag relative to the local operators. You pay for what you get.

Because of scare of yet another flu pandemic hitting HK - last time was bird flu (H5N1), and this time mutant swine flu (H1N1) - HK was put on high alert from the thermal scanning of passengers, and the availability of free facemasks in the airport to the various hygienic measures that are put in place in Fraser's Suites. The buttons in lifts are taped over with a thick clear plastic to facilitate cleaning and disinfecting, and anti-microbial station that dispensing hand gel is provided freely in the reception for hotel guests wanting to disinfecting their hands. After the last SARS panic, it looks like HK is better equipped for another attack of the pandemic flu (than some, say, Mexico). People are wearing facemasks in droves in the crowded streets of HK, one group of primary school children are all wearing facemasks while holding hands as they crossed the streets - the kinda images I've only seen on TV news or Steven King's movies, and not quite travel brochure photo materials.
An interesting side note: the origins of both pandemic outbreaks occurred on similar latitudes (Guangdong, Southern China, and Mexico).

We barely has half a day left in HK, so only the most basic necessities of life can be entertained, and that automatically means an encore visit to Sunny Paradise (yeepee!), and dinner. After some discussions on the bewildering choices of restaurants in this food paradise of the Pearl of the Orient, we decided to try out the third Vietnamese restaurant we discovered in Wanchai because it's only 3 tram stops away (150 m) from the stop right outside Fraser's Suites, Wanchai.

This city block on Hennessy Road (bordering western Causeway Bay) probably has the highest concentration of Vietnamese restaurants. (Fraser's Suites actually locates on Johnston Rd, but when Johnston Rd merges into Hennessy Rd, so does the tramline). We have checked out Pho Tai (275-285 Hennessy Rd) and Pho Saigon (319 Hennessy Rd) a few months back, and have talked about sampling the third, Mini Paris (333-335 Hennessy Rd) for completeness. Opinions about these other two pho eateries was immortalised in my previous diary entry "Quests for Authenticity" dated 2 months ago.

Mini Paris is smacked bang almost in the middle of the two others in terms of authenticity, and standard of tastes (but not geographically). My advice is simple: stick with the good old Pho Saigon if you want to try out reasonable genuine Vietnamese food in this nick of HK Island. Like Pho Saigon, There are a few other Mini Paris' around HK. Don't know if they're chain stores or franchises. So you still can get to one if you aren't around Wanchai.

Of course, if you want the best and authentic Vietnamese food, either go to Vietnam, or one of the many Vietnamese 'enclaves' in Australia. Cabramatta in Sydney tops the list for me. I'm sure USA has similar places, but forget Paris (not a typo, nor a Hollywood romantic comedy title with Billy Crystal)!!! I mean it! It's an unpleasant surprise, in fact, a SHOCKER! Why the shock?
1. Paris is the food capital of Europe. So I believe.
2. France was a former colony of Vietnam. I grew up on Chinese, Vietnamese, and French food.
It just makes no sense! Actually I have an explanation in the above mentioned action and boring rambling packed diary entry "Quests for Authenticity" (Come on, I double dare you to read it. It's sure beat a sleep pill hands down if you suffer from insomnia. That's my iron-clad guarantee, and best of all, it's free of charge).

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