After a long day of flights and bus rides, we finally checked into the Harbour Plaza at North Point in Hong Kong. Seventeen hours of flights, an hour-long bus ride, and questionable Air Canada food left us all quite hungry. Wandering around Hong Kong, we came across a restaurant with a bright neon light sign reading “Nice Garden Buffet.” We were lured in by the all too familiar word “buffet.” We had arrived in Hong Kong around 5:30 p.m. local time, so by the time we got settled in and went into the restaurant, it was around 6:00 p.m. This was early for dinner by Chinese standards; the restaurant was virtually empty and no buffet was set up. The only people in the restaurant when we got there were a few tables of old women playing Mahjong, a traditional Chinese game. After being seated, we mulled over the menu looking for something that we could eat. Some of the more interesting items on the menu were the fried fish brains (which someone in our group ordered, and later regretted), and salted pigs’ feet in brown sauce. One member of our group mentioned that a lot of the restaurants in Hong Kong and China serve dinner family style. The dishes you order are large and meant to be shared with the table. We asked the waitress about this, but she informed us that the items were individual instead of family style.
When we got around to ordering, the waiter wouldn’t let me order the orange duck breast that was $40 Hong Kong dollars (a little under $6 American), instead ushering me to the items that were $65 HK (a little over $9). I settled with fried shredded beef with scallions. When our dishes began arriving, we noticed that the dishes were family style. Each one was quite large and meant to be shared. We all tried each other’s food, but we still ended up having way more food than our small group could eat. Thankfully, Dr. Chen and his family arrived to help us finish the food. When the waitress brought us our bill, it was a lot larger than we had expected it to be. Dr. Chen and his wife looked it over and began asking the waitress questions about the bill. They told us that we had been charged $40 HK for eating the little dishes of peanuts they put on the tables. We thought they were free since they were set down on the table without us ordering them and without a word from the waitress. They also charged us for the tea if we took a sip, even though they had set it down out without letting us know about this and without us asking for it. They had to have been watching us like hawks and marking down everything we did. Needless to say, we felt ripped off. If they had just warned us about these items not being free, we would have left the restaurant without feeling like we had been taken advantage of. To pay the bill each of us ended up paying $108 HK ($15 U.S.), much more than any of us expected to pay. It was definitely a lesson learned in international traveling, but despite this we were all still very excited to be in Hong Kong.