Secret Tour HK: No such thing as a free lunch? There is now
Editor's Note: Secret Tour HK's Shatin foodie tour has been cancelled. The tour was originally planned as part of the "Link the Tastes" campaign by The Link Real Estate Investment Trust. Although The Link had hoped to showcase small local businesses through the campaign, it was criticized as hypocritical due to soaring rent prices at their properties pushing out the very businesses the campaign promotes. Stephen Chung from Secret Tour HK says the company has since "terminated all collaboration with The Link." For information on future tours, contact Secret Tour HK directly: firstname.lastname@example.org, www.secrettourhk.com.
The traveler's dilemma can be stated thus: if it's in the guide book, you don't want to go, but if it's not in the book, how do you find it?
In Hong Kong, there is an answer, or rather two answers: Stephen Chung and Josie Cheng.
For them, Victoria Peak and the Avenue of the Stars are the steamed rice of Hong Kong's attractions, and their company, Secret Tour HK, takes visitors to the city's real flavors, only found elsewhere.
"Sometimes our friends come to visit us and we don't know where to take them to get a taste of real Hong Kong," says Chung. "We hate going to attractions. We love couch-surfing, meeting locals and exploring local communities while traveling."
The tour company launched in February 2012, delivering tourists to Hong Kong's lesser known parts.
There's the "Photowalk" (HK$700) -- the most popular -- to the working-class district of To Kwa Wan with a professional photographer.
There's the domestic worker tour to visit the off-duty domestic workers hanging around Central on a Sunday. Customers get to taste halo-halo and learn a dance.
And Secret Tour HK is now organizing a special one-off foodie tour to Shatin on April 21, free of charge.
Yep, you don't pay a thing. Register for the tour on the Secret Tour HKFacebook page.
We had a preview of the Secret Tour HK Shatin foodie tour, and we love it.
It takes us to all those small, tasty, reasonably priced eateries that each have a story to tell in Shatin's public housing estates and you get free tastings. We might just sign up again.
Here are the tour's five main stops:
1. Classic dai pai dong at Chan Kun Kee (陳根記)
Chan Kun Kee began as a humble business of a few dozen seats and grew to become the powerhouse eatery it is today. The outdoor diner is one of the biggest dai pai dong in Hong Kong.
The "mushroom hut" -- nicknamed after the shape of the shack -- is the community hub for people living in the public estate. The happy diners keep Chan Kun Kee rowdy.
"This is how dai pai dong is," says the owner Mr. Chow. "The noisier the better."
Its chicken congee and drunken mullet are well-loved but its signature roasted goose is the must-try.
3-5, Wo Che Estate Market, Shatin, opens daily 5 p.m.-1:30 a.m.
2. Children's favorite Nam Shing Ice Cream House (南城雪糕屋)
The Wo Che Shopping Centre, although operated under the Link, still houses many small family businesses.
Nam Shing is one of them -- it is owned and run by a couple who are both in their seventies. They sell confectionery with a twist, like curry fish balls with honey and homemade deep-fried ice cream, for example.
Shop 231, Wo Che Shopping Centre, Wo Che Estate, Shatin, opens daily 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
3. Shing Mun River, where the biking herd rampages
Along Shing Mun River is where weekend bikers come out in full force each holiday.
Shatin's biggest river is a great place for people to paddle and jog, but mostly people like to cycle here.
In fact, Hong Kong's Olympics cyclist Wong Kam-po was born and raised in Shatin.
4. Where to get horse racing tips: Hang Yuen Cafe (恒園茶餐廳)
Hang Yuen is the unofficial private clubhouse for horse riders, trainers, owners and punters coming from the Shatin racecourse nearby.
Sandwiches with egg whites, classic satay beef bun, homemade puff pastry egg tart and mega-sized milk tea are some of the diners' favorites. The milk tea creates a unique aura by mixing different tea leaves and using an exact brewing time.
Chan Wing Wing is the third generation to run this family business. He started helping out at the restaurant when he was about 10 years old. He is also one of the two milk tea masters in the shop.
The family business also owns a horse called "Lucky Money Star."
The plaza outside Wah Fung Building, 2/F, Lek Yuen Shopping Centre, Shatin, opens daily 6 a.m.-9 p.m.
5. Hong Kong's most artistic wonton place, Shing Kee Noodles (盛記)
A shelf made of old stools, a flower pot made from a boot. All of these quirky crafts were handmade by the owner of Shing Kee, a noodle shop in Lek Yuen wet market.
The owner and artist Cheung Man-keung is the third generation of the 50-year-old family business and he started creating artworks from old materials back in 2008.
"When my childhood friend passed away in 2008, I created a chandelier from old bottles to commemorate him, " says Cheung. "It was how it started."
"Upscale restaurants have the money to buy crystal chandeliers and decorations," says Cheung. "We cannot afford those, so I made the shop's decorations from used materials."
He would also like to educate the public about environmental protection through his work.
Food-wise, its wonton noodles attract cyclist Wong Kam-po's regular patronage.
Shop 5, Lek Yuen Estate Market, Shatin, opens daily 6 a.m.-4 p.m., 7 p.m.-11 p.m.