The response to this travel blog has been overwhelming. Over seven comments and counting! I thought it might be a good idea to take the time to answer some of the questions that have been sent my way. For clarity’s sake, I’ve taken the liberty to paraphrase –
Q: Al from South Africa writes: “Given your love for chocolate, why haven’t any samples made your blog yet?”
A: Al, thanks for writing. I’ve actually tried to locate some good, high-quality chocolate but have yet to find anything worthwhile. There is an upcoming chocolate show that will feature many of Hong Kong’s top chefs and their chocolaty creations but, unfortunately, it will take place one week too late for me.
Q: Alex from Denver writes: “Joe, how come you’re not posting any non-food-related photos?
A: Great question, Alex. The initial focus of this blog was intended to be the food I ate over the course of my travels. That said, I have decided to open it up a little. Check out some of the accompanying non-food-related photos.
Q: Steve from Hungary writes: “Hey, did you know your home security alarm went off the other day?
A: Yes, I did, Steve. I believe one of my dogs (I suspect Bubba) set off the basement motion sensor. Thanks for writing.
We woke up early this morning and grabbed a quick continental breakfast. In the spirit of change, I thought I would feature Fondy’s breakfast selection today: fruit, spring rolls, noodles, and those whipped butter pancakes.
We took the Kowloon & New Territories morning tour today and enjoyed it much more than the Lantau Tour. Our guide, Terry, was incredibly (occasionally alarmingly) animated, and a veritable font of interesting information covering everything from Buddhism to her ongoing search for a prospective husband. She gave us a brief overview of the regions we would be visiting, then led us off the bus to the first stop on our journey: Chuk Lam Sim Yuen (the Bamboo Forest Monastery). Not that much different than the monastery we visited in Lantau, but I did make it a point to take more pictures. I’ve posted photos of a couple of the more unusual-looking disciples of Buddha that lined the walls of one of the inner temples. Check out the eyebrows on number 7! I also tried to snap a photo of a cat with no tail, but it moved too fast for me.
We boarded the bus and followed route 3 to our next destination: The Kam Tin Walled Village, a 700 year old fortified village and home to the ancient Hakkas people. The fact that the average female lifespan in Hong Kong is 85, as opposed to 78 for men, explained why almost all of the inhabitants we saw were elderly women. We ran into a group while walking through the town’s narrow alleyways and they entreated us to pose for a picture with them in exchange for $10HKD (that’s $10HKD per photo as the three Japanese tourists ahead of us were to discover the hard way). Terry explained that posing for photos was one of their only sources of income. Fondy gave them $100 HKD, which they greatly appreciated. On our way out, Fondy posed with a lone woman standing outside the entrance to the city before Terry could wave us off. Terry explained that since the woman worked alone instead of with a group, she was “selfish” and didn’t deserve our business. I thought her enterprising and slipped her 10HKD anyway. She was still happily waving at us long after we’d boarded the bus and rolled out of the parking lot.
The third stop on the tour was Lok Ma Chau, an elevated platform offering a view of China’s Shenzhen city, the border between China and Hong Kong clearly delineated by a razorwire-topped fence.
Back on the bus and onto the fourth stop: The Banyan Wishing Tree, where people from all over Hong Kong would travel to write down their wishes and throw them up onto the branches of the venerable camphor tree – until it was damaged during last year’s New Year’s festivities, injuring two unlucky people (unless their wishes involved being struck on the head by an enormous tree branch). Now, the tree is off-limits and wishes are instead hung at a nearby outpost.
The sixth and final stop on our tour was the Kaiser Estates, a jewelry factory outlet, that offered a none-too-interesting tour of the facility followed by the opportunity to buy some overpriced pieces.
On our way back to the hotel, we stopped off at the basement bakery and picked up a snack: a strawberry tart for Fondy (“Amazing” was her one-word review), and a chestnut pastry (tasted more like bread), and two French macaroons (always great) for myself.
We did a little packing in preparation for our trip to Tokyo and got ready for our second outing, this one a night tour. Terry was our guide for a second time, yet again regaling us with interesting if not altogether suspect facts. According to Terry, if a woman is looking to conceive, then she should feed her husband snake meat as it is a proven virility-booster. Women, on the other hand, should avoid snake meat as it will give them pimples. Also, after giving birth, a woman should eat turtle meat to aid in her recovery, but if turtle meat is not available, then chicken is the next best thing. Between factoids, Terry entertained us with a rendition of My Heart Will Go On.
We hit the Temple Street Night Market where, after some haggling, I was able to score a Crayon Shinchan keychain set. Fondy, meanwhile, got a reading from one of the sidewalk fortune tellers. After getting Fondy’s date and time of birth, the middle-aged woman scribbled some indecipherable notes onto a pad, consulted a well-thumbed book, scribbled some more, consulted again, checked out Fondy’s palm, measured the distance from the top of her forehead to the tip of her nose, tweaked her ears, then told her 2007 would be a lucky for business as well as romance.
It was back on the bus for the long ride to the Jumbo Seafood Floating Restaurant where we sat down to an eight course meal that included: an insipid sweet corn soup, some good sweet and sour garoupa (sic this time), cold salt and pepper cuttlefish, what tasted like boiled beef with boiled celery, not very good e-fu noodles and rice. We finished with the mango pudding that I tried to save with some evaporated milk that was served as an accompaniment – and ended up killing the patient (the post-mortem has been attached for your perusal). On the brighter side, we did meet some very nice people: a couple from France’s Bordeaux region, and a Syrian fellow living in Romania who grew amusingly evasive when I asked him what he planned to do in Bangkok where he was headed this weekend.
Well, Hong Kong is a wrap. Tomorrow, we pack, have breakfast and/or lunch, and, after a trip to sort out my suit and shirt situation, it’s off to the airport for our 3 hour flight to Tokyo. Somewhere between the hotel and the airport, I’d like to stop by HK McDonald and try their rice burger – a beef patty served between two rice crackers. It looked positively revolting in the advertisement I saw but, in the interest of covering all my culinary bases (and keep you all entertained, natch), I’m willing to make the sacrifice.