Monday, March 4, 2013

Boxes, Beaches, Beers, Bitter Tea and Bright Lights

My second day in Hong Kong was a Sunday, and one of the first things I saw when we left Sandy's apartment was a bunch of what can only be described as cardboard box villages. Hundreds of forts had been constructed and they lined the walkways and overpasses as we headed towards the waterfront. Sandy explained that Sunday is the one day per week that Hong Kong's domestic workers have off. As these women aren't paid much, the common thing to do is meet friends with plates of food and packs of cards and spend the day in box forts chatting and eating and enjoying each other's company. 

I gawped unattractively into as many of the forts as possible. Some of them were seriously impressive, although Sandy told me that the best are outside one of the buildings in the downtown area - we didn't make it there, so I'll have to visit Hong Kong another time for the full effect.

Our first proper stop was for Yum Cha. Oh my god, I love Yum Cha, especially since I've started eating meat (sorry, people who still think it's weird). I haven't found a Yum Cha/Dim Sum place in Korea, and Korean Chinese food is nothing like what I've had in New Zealand. 

The restaurant we visited was super popular and we had to wait a bit over an hour for a table, crouching on the stairs outside the restaurant and waiting for our number to be called. At one point a full bridal party came in to eat, still in their wedding regalia. It was hilarious watching the bride hitch up her voluminous skirt and maneuver her way through the tables and around the carts. Having Yum-Cha-ed several times in Wellington I know that a long wait means damn good food and I wasn't disappointed.

Tastiest item - soup dumplings on the right.

We stuffed ourselves silly (as is appropriate for Yum Cha) and hopped on a ferry to Lamma Island. Lamma's a bit of a Hong Kong hippie enclave, it was a change of pace from Hong Kong island in the most literal sense. There's few or no motorised vehicles on the island, and most people travel by bike or on foot. The ferry pier was stacked with hundreds of bicycles waiting for commuters to return home and collect them.

Sandy decided we'd walk to the beach which is about 15 minutes from the main town centre. First, we picked up some supplies:

Sandy is about half as excited as I was.

We got lost on the way to the beach (an incredible accomplishment, the island is tiny) and found a small temple. Sandy negotiated a decent price for an offering and then we both forgot to go back and donate when we had appropriate change. Oops. 

Lamma Aquarium

Despite getting lost on the first try, once we found the right path the route was pretty straightforward and we ended up on a small, pretty beach ringed by seafood restaurants and hikeable hills. We sat down, drank a NZ beer and watched the people go by. 

I got hungry on my walk back to the ferry and bought a Hong Kong style egg waffle.  I think I prefer the frosting-laden, sickly-sweet Korean version and I ended up attempting to feed most of it to Sandy and Lamma's stray/random dog population. The dogs weren't keen on it so maybe I got a bad one.

After Lamma we took the subway to Kowloon and visited Langham Place (a mall) purely to ride the Longest Escalator I've Ever Seen. We actually had to ride a few short escalators to get there, and each time I kinda rolled my eyes and thought 'this escalator is tiny,' but when we finally arrived I was too scared to be snarky. There's two, and together they span eight floors and go up 76 metres. There's some pretty long escalators in Seoul too, but they're usually hidden away in odd subway stations, not crammed full of shoppers like this one. We got to the top and then went right back down.

After the escalator, Sandy took me to a little hole in the wall store for my first of two bitter teas. It's apparently good for your health, but it tastes awful and I wasn't allowed to leave until I'd choked it down. After looking around the shop for a bit I realised that I think it contained turtle. Turtle!

 We went for a bit of a shop but I'm not much of a market fiend so I didn't buy anything and I took a series of terrible blurry pictures of lights and signs. After a long day of walking and not eating, we stopped at a fast food place and got bitter tea #2 and a pineapple bun.

This version is a super strong, milky black tea, not a turtle infused herb concoction like earlier. When Tom still drank tea he'd say 'there is no strong tea - only weak men.' I'm here to say there is strong tea, damnit.

We took the ferry back to Hong Kong Island and checked out the lights before making our way back to Sandy's to drink some soju and head to bed. Not a bad day.

1 comment:

  1. Gosh I am not sure how to comment. I think I done one and I comments provided. Mum here - will try the anonymous one...loved the Hong Kong many countries to visit...good to be vicarious visitor. I would love to have shared Yum Char with you and Fran and Matt. Dad would miss out...he would eat the fish and concentrate on desserts/sweets.