Saturday, 11 June 2011

All good things come to an end.

Well, for the last few weeks since returning to Canada, I've been spending my time getting used to the climate, starting work, studying for and writing my LSAT, missing Hong Kong,

and trying to figure out how to wrap up this blog. How on Earth can I sum up one of the most amazing years of my life so far?

I spent my last few weeks in Hong Kong saying goodbyes. To my new friends, and to the city that feels like my new home town. In the end, after squeezing in a trip to Guangzhou, hiking up Kam Shan (金山) to find monkeys, going for hot pot with a family I had become good friends with, eating dumplings and gelatto with my Arabic class friends, and heading to Ocean Park with my buddies who helped show me around in the very beginning, I still felt like the last night came too quickly. That last day in Hong Kong I spent the morning trying to pack my bags to avoid excess baggage fees (despite which, in the end, I had to frantically re-pack on the airport express and pay extra money to take a third bag). The evening was spent with a few friends, including my buddies who showed me around Hong Kong when I first arrived, eating pizza, cooking some Canadian food I had brought with me in August (and which turned out to be expired and we didn't actually eat), showing them around UHall, and playing the card game they got me as a going-away present. After they left, in a typical Hong Kong rain storm, I went back to say goodbye to some friends who lived in the hall, take some last pictures, finish packing, and sleep a few brief hours. The next day, I rushed to the airport, was told my bags were too heavy, repacked them on the airport express, and had to rush to my flight to New York (which, for the whole 15 hours 40 minutes, didn't have a functioning entertainment system).

Like I said, the end felt like a rush, and there's a list of things I meant to buy, eat, and see one last time before I left.
But that's ok. Because I really, truly, hope to be returning to Hong Kong. Because I'm not exaggerating when I say it feels like home now.

Which brings me back to all the small memories, the ones that have been coming back to me as I begin going through the photos, the souvenirs, and the stories.

Tonight, for instance, I was thinking of Causeway Bay. Causeway Bay became one of my favourite places in Hong Kong; it's always so bustling, exciting, full of people and lights and life, especially on the weekends. Causeway Bay was the first place I went with Tracy, my buddy, and her friend Tammy, who both became my good friends. We went there on my first full day in Hong Kong, after going to the University to get some paperwork done; we went to buy a phone, and go to Ikea and the grocery store. I also ate my first Chinese meal, Hainan Chicken, there at a Tsui Wah restaurant, and had my first Iced Milk Tea. A few days later (I don't remember when), I tried to go back to Ikea and the Wellcome grocery store there. I'd nearly forgotten about this until I was looking at photos, but now I remember coming out of the MTR, wandering around looking for these familiar places. It was probably less than a week since I'd been there, and Hong Kong still seemed too busy and too hot. In short, it was still intimidating, and I soon gave up, completely lost and overwhelmed and headed back on the MTR.

I mention this story because it's one of very few I can remember where Hong Kong felt so foreign and intimidating. Mostly, Hong Kong quickly felt like home, so much so that I occasionally found myself thinking I hadn't gone anywhere foreign at all really.

But now that I'm back, I realize how different it was, and how much I miss everything. I'm also amazed at all of the small habits I didn't realize I'd developed. The other day, without even thinking I picked up my plate of barbecued food and held it like a rice bowl (my parents gave me a really funny look). I always want to say "M Goi" to the people working at stores to get their attention, and even though I haven't yet spoken to anyone in Chinese, I do sometimes forget that everyone speaks the same language, and think I need to order food or speak to employees at stores rather than let the people I'm with do it (even though I'm speaking the same language to both).  And, after the months I spent trying to adjust to cars driving on the left, I now need to get used to them being on the right.

Overall, I couldn't be much happier with having done my exchange. I feel like I've accomplished a lot, travelled a lot, and seen a lot. Before I left, I could understand a handful of Chinese Characters and words, and had only been to three countries (Canada, US, the Bahamas), all of which spoke English and used dollars. I'd never flown to another country, never filled out an immigration card, had no stamps in my passport, had seldom taken a subway or double-decker bus, never seen a car driving on the left, and so many more. I'm proud that I can now understand lots of Chinese, both spoken and written, have tonnes of stories about travels, and nearly filled my passport which had only one stamp (from taking a ferry to the US) before I left.

I'm also happy with how much I traveled. When I was choosing where to study abroad, I was concerned that going to Hong Kong would limit my travel ability. I thought that since it only borders China, where I'd need a visa to travel, that I was unlikely to go many places other than Macau. I never realized how cheap it would be to travel, how easy it would be to get a visa for China, or how willing I would become to spend money on travel. Traveling to other countries (Macau twice, China three times, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia) brought me many memories, insights into even more cultures, and fantastic friendships.

Speaking of friendships, those were obviously the best part. I made friends with people from all over the world-with local Hong Kong students, Mainland Chinese students, and other exchange students. There's not an inhabited continent that I didn't, at the very least, meet someone from, and whenever I travel, be it to another continent or to other parts of North America, I'll have people to visit. There's nothing that makes you feel more at home than making friends with so many people, and the friendships I have with people from Hong Kong are the biggest reason I want to return; because I have so many people to visit. And anyone who I met in Hong Kong will always have a friend in Canada (or wherever I happen to be) who will be excited if they ever come to visit .

All good things come to an end, however, but I strongly feel I've no right to complain-I had an amazing trip, an amazing experience, and am extremely fortunate for that. As far as this blog goes, I feel like this may be the last post, unless there's something related to make another post about. This blog was only half about keeping people at home updated; the other half was for anyone who's interested in Asia, Hong Kong, exchange etc. If anyone reading this blog has any questions about anything I've mentioned that I may be able to answer, please write a comment or send me a message and I will reply as best a can.

Now, to sum up, one last short story, which I think sums up the experience of being an exchange student.

When my friend and I traveled across China, he downloaded a "quotes" app for his iPhone, to keep us entertained when we were waiting for different things. When we were sitting in a restaurant in Beijing waiting for Peking duck, we read a quote that still sticks out in my mind:

“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.”-Robert Louis Stevenson.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011



So, here's another story that I didn't get the chance to write about-my day in Guangzhou.

The day didn't begin very well-I was almost 40 minutes late meeting my friend at Kowloon Tong station. After my reprehensible tardiness, we headed straight for the border crossing. The main HK-China boundary crossing is at Lo Wu (Luo Hu in Mandarin). The MTR takes you right there, and then you walk across a bridge over the Shenzhen river and cross Chinese customs, which didn't take too long. Once you cross the border, you're in Shenzhen. Having already seen Shenzhen, we headed right for the train station, which is conveniently located immediately adjacent to the border.

I need to stop here to point out how amazed I always am at the big difference as soon as you cross the boundary-it's hard to describe, but in some ways its more noticeable than the difference between Hong Kong and Canada.

Anyway, we got on the next high-speed train-80 Yuan (15 Dollars) for a one-way ticket, and it only took an hour (cheaper than going by the MTR train, if you're considering it). The train was nice, not at all what I'd been led to expect (to be honest, I found myself wishing that it was a little less upscale!). It was also pretty quick, and it was interesting to notice how the train never really left built-up areas on the whole journey (even more interesting was watching the two guys in front of us say, surprised "laowai! (foreigner!)" when they sat down, and occasionally look back at me curiously. I definitely regret not having tried to speak to them in Mandarin, it probably would have been interesting).

Once in Guangzhou, we took the subway to the area near a temple. As soon as we got outside, you could see the difference from Hong Kong. The streets were lined with short, quaint buildings, and nice little trees. There were lots of people pushing carts and selling everything from food to flowers. Sadly, there were also lots of people begging on the streets near the temple (and all the temples we saw in Guangzhou). We headed straight in to the temple (there was a 5 Yuan (70 cent)  charge), which was quite beautiful. The temple was a sprawling complex, with many buildings, trees, and people. There were many statues which looked to have been damaged, but there were also many beautiful old buildings and features (some almost a thousand years old!) .

The temple was beautiful, but after checking out every detail, we were both starving. I'd written down the name of a restaurant recommended by wikitravel right next to the temple, but when we went into the place, the prices seemed a little too high. Instead, we wound up at a little Qinghai (青海)noodle place, where we had what may be the cheapest meal I've ever eaten-8 Yuan (1.20 CAD). An interesting cultural note here-the streets in front of the temple were lined with barrels for burning offerings to one's ancestors. Offerings are paper pictures of items, and tradition says that when they're burned, they go to ancestors in the afterlife.

We next walked along the streets to a beautiful old mosque (we later discovered that this may be one of the world's oldest mosques). However, the imam would not let us enter, even when we tried speaking Arabic, and so we continued on. Next, on our way to another temple, we stopped at some tea shops. We saw lots of little shops, tiny little shops, filled with tea sold in every imaginable packaging. We stopped at two, where I bought tea, and a nice little decorative tea set for 18 Yuan (2 dollars). Another cultural note is that Guangzhou is actually the traditional home of Cantonese (Guangzhou's English name was Canton, which is where the name of the language comes from in English). Although there are many migrant workers from other parts of China who only speak Mandarin, there were still many stores, including these tea shops, where they spoke Cantonese, and where I could interact a little more with the people.

After the tea, and heading into some Tibetan Buddhist shops, we checked out another amazing temple-the six banyan trees temple, which was very similar to the first. We noticed one odd thing-many offerings placed next to statues included packages of bottled drinks. After this, we got a little lost wandering through to try to find a museum (which turned out to not yet be open). That's not so bad though-Guangzhou has lovely little streets, and it was really interesting to see the little shops selling random electronic parts (think, one shop just for light switches) throughout the city.

The museum not yet being open, we headed to Beijing road. A main shopping street (where we ducked into a bookstore and grabbed some street food snacks), there was a section under glass displaying the older sections of the road (it's been a main street for hundreds of years). We followed it to the river, the Pearl river, which is an important feature of the region, before heading to the metro to leave. Having arrived at Guangzhou East station, we decided to leave from the main station. The station was a little different-filled with poor people, people selling food etc. We had trouble getting tickets-for some reason, the lady sold us tickets not for the next available train, but a random one several trains later. We did manage to hop on an earlier train though.

We hit a minor snag in Shenzhen-you had to scan your ticket on the gates when exiting, but I lost mine. I wound up standing in Shenzhen train station, emptying out all of my possessions onto the ground-money, passport, everything-but eventually the staff just let me through. By this point we were starving, so we headed to a restaurant in the Lowu border mall before heading back to HK.

Guangzhou? Loved it! 'Nuff said.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Taiwan-Part 2

Hey Everyone!

Some Housekeeping before I begin-I'm actually back in Canada now. While the adventure is officially over, I do have some posts left that I didn't get the chance to make (I hope to get these done quickly), and then I'll write a final post to cap it all off.

Anyway, Taiwan.

After having spent our first day walking around Taipei (literally, all over it, more or less), on our second day we headed into the mountains. We took the metro to a suburban area in southern Taipei, from which we then grabbed a bus to a place in the mountains called Wulai (乌来). Wulai was a beautiful place-tucked right into the mountains and along a river. It also held some special attractions. For one, there was a lot of Taiwanese aboriginal heritage there (which was marketed as much as possible); there were also hot springs. We started by taking an old log cart to a little touristy area, from which there was a gondola up to a small park. We went the wrong way looking for the gondola, and wound up at first in a museum about the log carts, where we met an interesting old man who told us his stories about working the log carts and about world war II (it reminded me alot of listening to my own grandfathers talk about the good old days). We eventually finally found our way up the gondola, which took us to an amusement park next to a waterfall. Being in the middle of the week, and in the middle of April, the park was mostly empty. It had some great views, a few nice lakes, and a bizare obstacle course attraction (the kind of thing that would have required safety equipment and wavers in Canada, but didn't even have staff working it there). We spent a while in the park before heading back down to Wulai.

After grabbing some fresh pineapple from a cart, we headed to the hotsprings. There were limitless expensive hotsprings, but we opted for the free outdoor ones, where all of the elderly people hung out. The hot springs were extremely hot, and then the river we swam in was equally cold. This was another one of the moments when I just had to sit back and think "Holy crap, I'm swimming in a river in the mountains in Taiwan." It sure beat spending my pre-exam study week in the library!

After doing a little shopping on the main street (including buying some aboriginal rice wine which I actually just drank tonight-for the record, it was much sweater than I remembered), we grabbed some food from the shops (both street food, and a little restaurant where you select individual vegetables and meats to be cooked).After that, we headed back to Taipei, where we grabbed some snacks before heading in.

The next day, we headed out to Taipei zoo station, where we took a Gondola to an area called Maokong. Maokong is a tea-growing area. Rather than exactly following the tourist attractions, we decided to wander down some roads, and then hike up and down mountains. It wasn't the best planned thing I've ever done, but we did see lots of tea plantations, with the tea being picked, so it was pretty awesome. Back down the gondola, we grabbed lunch before heading in to the city.

Next we headed to the palace museum, which was full of artifacts that the KMT took from the mainland when they fled to Taiwan (I won't get into explaining the politics of it here, but I do encourage you to read the wiki articles). It was interesting, but we soon left and headed out to a restaurant we had read about-Din Tian Fung, a Xiao Long Bao restaurant we had read about. It had been rated one of the world's best restaurants by the New York Times, and it certainly didn't disappoint. The food was great, and the service made me laugh-while we were looking in the menus, they slipped a little card about how to eat Xiao Long Bao under my menu (I was both the only person in the restaurant to receive this treatment, which made me laugh! ) The food definitely lived up to what I expected ( I'd love to go back there right now!), and it came in at about 10 Canadian dollars each-much cheaper than any fancy restaurants here!

To finish things, we returned to Shilin night market, for some souvenirs and food.

I loved Taiwan. It seemed like a more slow-paced place than anywhere else I went in Asia. At first, I didn't know how we were going to spend so long in Taipei, since we seemed to get all of the attractions done pretty quickly. But then I realized that Taiwan tourism is more about eating the food, sipping the tea, and enjoying the views, all of which are fantastic. It was a lot greener, slower paced, and smaller scale than most other places too, and it's definitely a contender for a place I'd like to live as an adult.Also, I think it had some of the best food I've ever had!

Thursday, 12 May 2011


So, like I said, I visited Batam Centre, Indonesia, for an afternoon whilst in Singapore. Although Batam Centre consists of a shopping mall, ferry terminal, and little else, it was an interesting experience and deserves a short post of its own.

I went right out of the ferry terminal and into the mall for lunch. Looking for just a quick fix before exploring on foot, I grabbed some A and W (Mango Chicken wrap, in a combo that included ice cream=best AW food ever!). I instantly noticed that inflation was pretty high-lunch cost 22 000 Rupiah (about 2 dollars). My plan was now to head into the town, and so I left the mall. As soon as I left, people began to approach me asking if I wanted a taxi. I've gotten used to this in Asia, and kept walking. I had no need for a taxi since I was going nowhere in particular (and had no clue, at the time, what the exchange rate on the money was, so I didn't know if I'd have enough to get anywhere). I headed down a wide street, where the sidewalk was occasionally replaced by mud, and where, to my surprise, almost every motorist honked and tried to offer a ride. Not only taxis, but also motorcycles and people in private cars. Eventually, I realized, after walking in a square, that I wasn't going to find a town, and went back in to the mall.

I made an effort to learn as much about the local culture as one can in a standard shopping mall, in the middle of a week day. Indonesia, for those who don't know, is the world's largest Muslim majority country; this meant that there were mannequins wearing Hijabs, Halal restaurants (which Singapore also had alot of), and Arabic on some signs. I went into a Muslim shop, hoping there'd be something for learning Arabic (my minor in University, for those who don't know), but there was only a poster with the Alphabet. I then headed back out in another direction, where I grabbed lunch at a little restaurant. The lunch was good, but I felt like one of those obnoxious tourists when I couldn't speak the language to understand how much I owed. Eventually, I headed back on the ferry.

Now, the only real issue I had in Indonesia came when I tried to take the ferry back-it was only there that I was informed about the 51 000 Rupiah departure tax. The problem? I'd been shopping, and only had about 30 000. The ATM only operated in Indonesian, even when I pushed the English button, but I eventually made my way out, more than a little upset that they hadn't informed me of something so important.

Indonesia was an interesting experience. It was interesting to see the reaction to a lone, white, male traveler with a backpack. It was also interesting to observe the large compounds of resorts which people go to, while there was no actual cultural center in the town-presumably, most tourists go for the cheap escape from Singapore, and don't have the interest in Indonesian culture that I have for all cultures, and that caused me to make a short trip there. Regardless, it was fascinating, and the visa is probably the coolest thing in my passport!


Hey all!

Before I start, some housekeeping-1)I'm writing about Singapore and Indonesia before having actually finished writing about Taiwan. Once I'm finished exams, I'll get around to finishing about Taiwan, and maybe include some more information about Hong Kong. 2) I'll be gone from HK soon enough, so if anyone has any questions about life here for me, please write some comments or send a message.

Now on to Singapore.

The first thing I realized when I arrived was that Singapore greets you with a hug-a big, warm, sweaty, humid hug. Even at midnight, it still feels like about 35 degrees; in the heat of the day, closer to 45. I also discovered quickly that MRT stations aren't air-conditioned. This makes sense in the outdoor ones, I suppose, but underground? The MRT is a good example of Singaporean society, however; the four official languages (English, Malay, Chinese and Tamil) are randomly thrown around (only some at different times, but there's always English).

I arrived at the hostel, checked in, and grabbed some Indian food nearby. The next day, I headed straight out to the city. After walking around along the waterfront, seeing the Merlion, the city centre, where Sir Stamford Raffles landed etc.,I sat down completely outdone by the weather-after an hour (although I was eventually adapted to it.) I headed straight for a museum to spend the middle of the day in (luckily, I arrived on free day-Singapore, as I discovered, is expensive, and full of unexpected costs).The museum was a good introduction to Singapore (and had a whole section on food, most of which I eventually tried). I then headed up to Little Indian, and Kamplong Glam/the Arab district, looking at the beautiful mosques and Hindu temples. Unfortunately, it was at this point that my camera decided that any picture it took it wouldn't save. But, I continued on to the expensive Raffles hotel for a look before grabbing dinner, attempting (but failing) to make it to the night safari, and then checking out Orchard Road-Imagine the Las Vegas Strip of Shopping malls.

The next day consisted of Chinatown, visiting some temples and mosques, Sentosa (A beach resort island consisting of casinos, hotels, beaches, and Universal Studios, none of which I actually visited), and the night safari. Claiming to be the only night safari in the world, it was definitely worth going to, a definite must-see! I must admit, I was a little intimidated by how much it resembled Jurassic Park (you take a tram through, and then walk on trails, with many animals separated by moats rather than cages. At one point, there was a section of doors you had to walk through, each of which had to be closed before the next would open, that really reminded me of the movie). I really can't describe this place enough, so I'll just say that if you're in S'pore, you should check it out.

I spent my last full day in Indonesia (which deserves a blog post), and then grabbed some food at a hawker centre and checked out Orchard road again. My last day, I spent the morning waiting for the hostel to give back my deposit so I could buy breakfast and skedaddle back to the airport.

So, impressions? It's not like most other Asian cities-the layout is more American. It's very orderly, and there's lots of English (although Singlish, the local dialect, is like a combination of Chinese and Indian accents, and a bit hard to understand. It is, however, my favourite English accent ever). The food is fantastic-combinations of Indian, Chinese, and Malay foods, all of which I love. The Roti Prata (Indian bread served with a sauce), Nasi Lemak (A Malay breakfast consisting of coconut rice-which is served with many dishes-meat, peanuts and sauce), Ice Kacang (A shaved Ice dessert), Satay (Meat on skewers with a sweet chili sauce-despite my hating spicy foods, the sauce was so good I was piling it on), and Kaya toast (toast with coconut spread), just to name the ones I remember, were fantastic. The cultural combination is also amazing-on one street, I saw, Chinese and Hindu temples, and a Mosque, all of which were open to visitors. Morevoer, people were friendly, and I did have the occaisonal chat. It was also easy to get around as a loan traveller.

On the other side, I found it expensive and hot. Neither of which, I suppose, can be avoided.

Well, that's Singapore! If I remember anything else good (it's hard without pictures as a memory aid), I'll update this post.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Taiwan-Part 1

Howdy all!

So, rather than spending the study week doing the obvious and cliche thing-studying-a friend and I chose to go to Taiwan for a few days instead. And, I've come to two conclusions: 1) Taiwan is definitely my cup of tea, and 2) Metaphors about tea are appropriate for describing Taiwan.

The first day we arrived at the airport at 1 AM. This meant we pretty much just went right into the hostel and went to sleep. Luckily, the cab driver coming into the city (Taipei), gave us lots of good tips on what to see/do/eat. The next day we headed straight out to the nightmarket near by, where we grabbed some noodles for breakfast. We headed straight off to the MRT towards some of the city's monuments. The MRT is above-ground in Taipei. We noticed there that everything moved at a slower pace in Taipei, especially some of the escalators in the MRT!

The first monument we arrived at was the Sun Yat Sen memorial hall. Sun Yat Sen was a leader in the overthrow of the Qing dynasty in the early 1900's (he actually studied at HKU). His memorial was large, but most of the museum was only in Chinese, so I had trouble reading it.There was, however, a giant statue of him, with guards on either side. The crazy thing about these guards was that they were so still, not even blinking, that we thought they were statues. Eventually, a changing of the guard was done; this was a lengthy drill which took probably 20 minutes, was full of show-offy actions that served no real purpose, and wreaked havoc on the floor tiles (they banged their guns on the ground alot).

Our next destination was the 2nd largest tower in the world-Taipei 101! Before heading up the tower, we headed into the foodcourt in its basement for a famous Taiwanese product-bubble tea! That's right, bubble tea (which, if you haven't had it, is this originated in Taipei, and the stuff we had there did not dissapoint (it's about as common in Taipei as Tim Hortons in Canada or Starbucks in the US and Vancouver, and we had atleast one per day). Then, we went up to the top of the tower. As my friend pointed out, it was a typical East-Asian city, and the smog filled the air. It's also interesting to note that, although Taipei 101 is the second tallest building in the world, it's pretty much the only tall building in the city. They've also made a cute cartoon character out of the wind damper, which was drawn everywhere. The top of the place also had a frighteningly expensive coral shop (as in, they could have used scientific notation for their prices).

We followed Taipei 101 up with a trip to Longshan temple. First, we grabbed some noodles (wonton noodles), and then headed to the temple. The square infront of the temple seemed to be where all of the senior citizens in Taipei spend their time. The temple itself was also packed with people (for the record, the temples in Taipei were the first I'd ever seen with digital displays in front).

Next we headed to the memorial for Chiang Kai Shek. A nice building, it was similar to the other memorial in that it had the soldiers (we found out that these were actual soldiers-Taiwan has mandatory military service for males for one year).

After visiting another temple, we headed to one of the best parts of Taiwan-the Shilin night market. Taipei seems dead during the day, but it comes alive at night, with food, shops (which blast pop music to create a cool atmosphere), and people, and it's alot of fun. After dining on a variety of things, we headed back for the night

Monday, 18 April 2011


Hey All!

Hope life's good! It's getting into the home stretch for my exchange year here in Hong Kong. I'm busy with essays, projects, studying, and most importantly getting those last sight-seeing trips, outings with friends, and travels to other countries done. But, I've decided that I want to make sure I don't miss anything, so I'll be trying to blog once or twice a week until I go home now, both on things going on and on various subjects. Today's subject is one I've been meaning to write about for a while-Food!

Hong Kong Style Food
In Cantonese, a common greeting is to ask someone if they've eaten rice yet today. In fact, in Cantonese (and Mandarin too, I do believe), rice is substituted in when talking about food to mean anything in general. That is to say, there's a lot of rice! Generally, a meal consists of meat with a sauce, some vegetables, all in a bowl of rice. Siu Mei, or roasted food, is quite common: usually, it's chicken or duck (with the bones in) or roasted pork or Chinese sausage (both without bones) and rice. Spareribs are also quite common. Different kinds of soups are had as well: at local house holds, I've had soup you actually drink out of the bowl! Soup in Hong Kong is usually a flavoured broth that goes with what you eat-I've never seen it as a meal all by itself like in Canada. Generally, when you're eating Chinese food, all of the dishes are placed in the middle of the table. Everyone has their own bowl of rice, and you add food from the middle to your bowl. This is the style at some restaurants (especially ones serving Mainland food), and in houses. In our hall, however, meals are individual. Some of the other interesting HK foods I've tried are Pineapple buns, Egg Tarts, Portuguese Egg Tarts, various sweet breads, and toasted buns with sweetened condensed milk. One of the most interesting I've tried is a dish called "Clay pot rice", which is rice cooked in very hot pot, often with an egg which you add raw yourself, and then mix in to cook. Finally, all over the city are tiny stalls selling a variety of foods-some sell foods eaten with sticks that look like long toothpicks, such as wontons or dumplings; others sell waffles, chestnuts, etc.
Dim Sum
Dim Sum literally translates to "A little bit of heart." Actually, when you say you want to go for dim sum, you usually say you want to go for "yam Cha" (Literally, drinking tea). You start by ordering a pot of tea. Then, you order a bunch of small dishes-Rice Noodle Rolls, Shrimp Dumplings, Fried Turnip Cake, Spring Rolls, Barbecue Pork Buns, etc. etc. etc. Recently, I discovered that many small restaurants have little windows out of which you can get dim sum dishes to go!
In Hong Kong, the standard drink at any restaurant is usually tea. This is even true for local fast food chains-you can order something else, but unlike Canada, where the standard drink is a coke, you'll usually be served a green tea. All sorts of tea drinks exist-Lemon Tea and Hong Kong Style Milk Tea are the most common ones that I've seen. They can be ordered hot or cold (although cold usually costs 2HKD (25 Cents) more), and sometimes are served unsweetened, with the milk and liquid sugar in tiny shot-glass like containers.  What we generally refer to as bubble tea is also really popular here-10 HKD (1.20 CAD), can get you a large drink without the bubbles, and all sorts of different bubble teas, milk teas, iced green teas, and juices are on offer.
In small little local restaurants, some things differ quite a bit from restaurants in Canada and the US. To begin, it's not unusual to be given your bowls, glasses, and chopsticks along with a large bowl and a pot of either tea or boiling water. This is actually to wash your dishes off with. In almost all restaurants, water is served either boiling hot or lukewarm-I've been told that Chinese medicine states that it's unhealthy to eat or drink anything too cold. Another strange thing for many foreigners is that the servers don't come to you-you must wave them down, often having to say "M Goi" (Please/thank you/excuse me) very loudly. At the end of the meal, it's not uncommon to simply catch the eye of a server and shout "M Goi Maidan!" (The bill please!). A group of people eating together will almost always be given one bill.
Non-Hong Kong Food
I've had the opportunity to try lots of non-local Asian foods here as well. At home, we generally refer to "Chinese food," but in fact China is considered to have atleast 8 distinct regional cuisines, with some variety within. Macanese food (from Macau), for example, includes porkchop buns and Portuguese Egg Tarts. Northern Chinese cuisine involves lots of bread, and Sichuan cuisine is quite spicy. A few weeks ago, my roommates and I tried out Xinjiang food. Xinjiang is along the old silk road, and an ethnic minority region with a Muslim majority population. Their food was quite flavourful. Korean barbecue, which I've had several times, is a sort of all-you-can-eat affair; the catch is, you take the raw meats back to your table and cook them on your own grill. Malaysian food is definitely one of my favourites-almost a combination of Indian, Chinese, and Thai foods, but still very unique, there are lots of noodles, nuts, and, best of all, rice in coconut milk!