Reflecting back on our tour to Lantau Island, it was, for the most part, unremarkable.That said, it did have its highs and lows.
Some of the people we met on the tour: the softspoken Edgar, CFO of Price Waterhouse Cooper in Columbia, retired social worker Manju, and her wisecracking husband Dilip.
Our tour guide on bus #2, Sillia (sic?) who took great pains to detail the care that went into the construction of the suspension bridge linking Kowloon to Lantau, summing up with: “This bridge good for one hundred and twenty years. After one hundred and twenty years – not our problem.”
Our trip to the Tai O fishing village where our group (and others) was matter-of-factly ushered through the impoverished community, houses on stilts constructed of cast-off wood and metal, where we casually surveyed the inhabitants like zoo animals.“There’s a kitchen,”said our guide in passing, pointing to a tiny room the size of closet holding a simmering pot on a fire.Thankfully, we stopped short of rifling through any underwear drawers.
The Aussie tourist seated beside me on the bus ride back to the hotel yammered on about Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes, Tis which was the sequel, Teacher Man which wasn’t as good, Roal Dahl who was very good, the joys of traveling, being hit on by drunken Irishman in Dublin, the prevalence of drugs in Dublin, Disneyland Hong Kong, the outrageousness of the very idea of a Disneyland in France, her love of rollercoasters, the view out her hotel room window, and several other topics I’ve failed to remember. When it became clear that avoiding eye contact with her wasn’t about to slow her down, I looked to my wife for help. She sat, head back, eyes shut, beside me – pretending to sleep.
We slept in this morning, waking up a little after 8:00 a.m., and headed downstairs for another crack at the buffet. Fearing I’d been overdoing it of late, I decided to scale back a bit and settled on a Spartan breakfast of: a two-egg omelet, some smoked salmon, sablefish, zucchini (I think), and a couple of baked tomatoes (which I did eat this time around). I even skipped dessert.
We headed over to Pacific Place Mall where I ordered a couple of suits and shirts from the good people at Pacific Custom Tailors. As I was fitted for my suit, my Indian sales rep quizzed me as to my preferences while the Chinese tailor made the necessary adjustments and my wife looked on. “It’s too tight,”I’d say. “It’s too tight,”she would translate for the tailor in Cantonese. “He wants it tighter,”the sales rep would inform the tailor. The tailor would tell him that, no, I wanted it looser. This would cause the sales rep to curtly correct the tailor which would lead the tailor to raise his voice which would cause the sales rep to raise his voice in turn, drowning out my wife who would be trying to clarify the matter. “I don’t like pleats,”I’d say. “He doesn’t want pleats,”she would tell the tailor. “He wants pleats,”the sales rep would inform the tailor. And so on.
We stopped for lunch in one of the mall restaurants: Basil. Again, I opted for a light meal that consisted of: an excellent barbecue chili chicken salad, phenomenal cracked peppercorn crab with garlic, basil, onions and pepper, and a wonderfully tender pork neck dish. A great, great meal. Interestingly enough, to this point we’ve been underwhelmed by the high-end restaurants we’ve visited and been thoroughly wowed by some of the more casual eateries we’ve checked out.
We spent the rest of the afternoon shopping, managing to work our way through three of Hong Kong’s top designer malls. The customer service here is polished; I’d argue painfully professional. We walked into a tiny shoe store, for instance, and were immediately surrounded by five sales associates, all dressed in black, silent and stone-faced, eyes straight ahead, hands clasped behind their backs, keeping a respectable distance. As we moved through the store, they would reposition themselves in a seemingly choreographed sequence of moves – crossing, circling, shifting – yet always in step with us, moving in concert, our own personal force field.
A little after 6:30 p.m., we headed downstairs to the Café Too for dinner. Their breakfast buffet was pretty impressive so, out of curiosity, we had to check out their dinner menu. Also a buffet it was…fairly thorough: fresh oysters, crab, prawn, sushi, sashimi, duck, roast pork, crispy pork, sablefish, lamb chops, beef tenderloin, various stir fries, noodle dishes, rice dishes, pork cheek (twice in one day!), and a host of desserts including gelatos, pastries, cakes, puddings, and, oh yeah, fresh fruit. Again, I showed incredible restraint, settling on a modest plate of salmon sushi, salmon sashimi, smoked fish, lamb chop, pork cheek sablefish, roast pork, duck, crispy pork, and a little crepe thing filled with something I didn’t recognize served with what may have been satay sauce. Dessert was equally simple: crème caramel, chocolate cake, and chestnut cream and cake in a shot glass. I swear, if I was able to show such restraint every day, I’d be down to my fighting weight in no time.
Looks like another early night tonight as we prepare for a pretty full day tomorrow: massages and an evening at the racetrack.I read somewhere that Hong Kong’s biggest payout was in 1997 when a number of HK $1.3 (20 cents Cdn) bets paid off to the tune of HK $260 000 ($40 000 Cdn) – 200 000 times the original bet! I’m picking up the Racing Post tomorrow morning and starting my research. I figure that even if the payout is only half that, 100 000 times my original bet, I’ll still be in a position to make a modest profit.