Three days after graduating from the University of Florida this past May, I took a seventeen hour plane ride over to Hong Kong. My plane ride consisted of consuming Benadryl and knocking out for 10 hours of sleep and watching movies with sub 6.0 ratings on IMDb. I spent a total of two and a half weeks in China, splitting my time between Hong Kong and Guangzhou. My mom’s family is originally from Hong Kong, but moved a couple hours north to Guangzhou after the Japanese decided to come murk everyone and take over the island in the 1940’s. Our family still owns a house in Tai Po, which is a part of Hong Kong’s new territories. I stayed in the Mongkok district of Hong Kong which is one of the busiest districts in the entire world.
I arrived in Hong Kong around midnight and grabbed some food at a 24 hour diner in Mongkok. I ordered shrimp and beef rice noodle rolls and congee. Congee is a type of rice porridge that’s popular in Asia. This meal was what I ate for breakfast everyday while I was in China. My sleep pattern was messed up for about a week so I would wake up around 3:30 or 4 AM every morning and come to this diner to grab breakfast before walking around exploring Kowloon and taking pictures. One of the odd things I got accustomed to after my first meal in Hong Kong was that none of the diners or restaurants offer napkins. You have to buy them there or bring your own. Also, here’s a piece of advice: if you need to take a dump, you better take it before you go out in public because 1) there is no toilet paper and 2) half of the toilets are still squat toilets (if you think about it, it is actually more sanitary…but still).
Chinese cuisine is super carb heavy. Meals mostly consist of some type of refined grain—white rice or noodles. My explanation for why Chinese people aren’t overweight from getting 90% of their calories from white rice is because they all smoke cigarettes. Anyway, common protein dishes I had while I was there included pork belly, goose, salted chicken, and eel. Guangzhou is well known for its dim sum. The food was super cheap and delicious but you have to be careful where you eat since most places are not very sanitary and the health regulations aren’t strict at all. I ate at a hole in the wall by my grandma’s house the first day I arrived there, got food poisoning, and was bed ridden for a couple days. Always a great time.
We took a day trip to Taishan with my uncle on his day off. Taishan is a coastal city a couple hours west of Guangzhou. My mom lived there for a few years during her childhood with her aunt. The food there was definitely interesting. The restaurant we ate at served dog but I settled for pig brains and turtle soup. The area is well known for its sticky rice hot clay bowls. It was definitely one of the best meals I had in China and it was only 3 USD. Surprisingly, I didn’t gain a single pound while I was there even though I stuffed my face until I was uncomfortably full every single meal. I’ll attribute this to all of the walking I did and sweating from eating in 100% humidity.
Aside from the cuisine, there were definitely many drastic cultural differences between America and China that I noticed. Simply put, people in mainland China were generally rude. There is no tipping policy in China so servers just toss your food on the table and walk away. If you want something, you better go get it yourself. People are a lot friendlier and human in Hong Kong which leads most Hong Kongers to distinguish themselves from mainland Chinese people for that reason among many others. People in mainland China are like robots. You don’t see much affection or caring between people or couples. It’s every person for themselves. Also, it’s hard to keep order when you have 9 million people concentrated in a major city like Guangzhou. I hadn’t been back since I was three years old, so it was my first real experience there. My mom mentioned that Guangzhou looks a lot prettier now because of the giant skyscrapers but nothing else has changed. All in all, it was a really great experience to travel over there and see where my family comes from.