After an hysterical few days of washing, sorting, packing, purchasing bags of calf feed, dog feed, chook feed and organising lists and safety nets for offspring, we finally made it onto our (obscenely early) flight out of Adelaide. The first leg of our excellent adventure has been a few days in a place we both love to bits – Hong Kong. Thanks to an urge to splurge and the cost benefits of booking one’s own accommodation on the internet, we decided to lash out on a very flash harbour-view room at the Shangri La Hotel, Kowloon. I feel like this has given me a double dose of a place that I love so much as, when the humidity and swirling mass of humanity on the streets has left me sweaty, drained and reaching for gin, I can sit back and enjoy watching the traffic on the busiest harbour in the world.
The Husband is a Hong Kong tragic who couldn’t wait to bring me here in the early days of our marriage and, like him, I fell in love with it immediately. Of course, a lot has changed here over the intervening years, including the administration, but such a lot remains the same. The harbour itself grows increasingly smaller as more land is reclaimed from the sea for development, the streets are so much cleaner now than they were 20 years ago and the beggars have all been hidden from view. The faces on the streets tell the story of the current economic climate and the Europeans who are not feeling the cash pinch are now outnumbered by the bus-loads of mainland Chinese who are enjoying their current financial advantage. The harbour itself is as busy as ever and there is still nothing to compare with the 25 cent ride across it on the wonderful Star Ferry. The only way to improve this ferry ride is to take it on a clear night – the light show on all the skyscrapers is simply magical. The streets are just as crowded as ever – if slightly less smelly, tailor’s touts and copy-watch sellers still lurk on every corner, our dollar is strong so the bargains are still to be had and the food is still amazing.
Not everyone realises there is more to Hong Kong than just shopping and the new cultural centre and Museum of Art is well worth a visit. For tea-addicts like myself a visit to the Museum of Tea Ware on the island is not to be missed, but to get a look at a completely different aspect of life in this region a day trip to one of Hong Kong’s outlying islands is a must.
A $25HK (just over $3AU) ferry ride yesterday took us to the island of Cheung Chau, 45 minutes from Hong Kong Central. Traditionally a fishing village, Cheung Chau once had more residents living on junks than on land. These days it is a popular local tourist destination and on weekends the island’s population can double. There are no cars on the island, but it pays to watch out for the many bicycles as one wanders around the charming, but narrow, laneways. We mooched around, checking out the beach, the Pak Tai temple – one of the oldest in Hong Kong and displaying a Song Dynasty (960-1279) sword inside – and the local stores and dried fish sellers before tucking into an amazing seafood meal for lunch. A large plate full of prawns with garlic, the best and freshest salt and pepper squid I’ve ever eaten, fried rice and two 650ml bottles of Heineken beer (in our defense, it was a very hot afternoon) set us back about $30AU.
I celebrated my first childless Mother’s Day for many years with yum cha at the wonderful Jade Garden restaurant. We had a very traditional yum cha experience the other day on the island at a hugely popular place called Lin Heung. For the unprepared, Lin Heung can be a little confronting. It is more crowded than you could believe, with everyone sharing tables; there is no-one to seat you – one just plunges in until a waiter notices you and shoo’s you into a vacant spot. No-one speaks English and there is no pictorial guide to the food so you simply take your chances. The more popular trolleys quickly get mobbed as the locals rush to grab their treats and, while our chosen dishes were very tasty, their actual contents remain a total mystery to us – perhaps for the best. No such mystery at The Jade Garden, though. A past favorite of ours and every bit as popular as Lin Heung, this is the face of yum cha which is more familiar to Westerners. The white tablecloths, well-trained staff, and high-quality (easily identifiable) dim sum was just the comfortable Mother’s Day treat I was looking for.
For those who enjoy a challenge –
164 Wellington St.,
Central, Hong Kong
For the more sedate among you –
The Jade Garden
Star House (4th Floor)
3 Salisbury Rd,
Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon
For an amazing overview of eating in Hong Kong, check the food blog out e_ting in Hong Kong – Janice really knows her stuff!