Monday, October 3, 2011
Day 3 in Hong Kong
Cheung Chau Island
Today we decided to venture a little bit farther afield. First we took the subway line all the way to the last stop, in the New Territories, to visit a historic Hakka village. This 200-year-old+ construction housed a village of extended family members (father, sons, cousins, etc.), all of whom would have had the same last name and traced their lineage back to the same ancestor (who was worshiped in their temple, located in the exact center of the compound). Living in this way provided protection and allowed family members to pool resources (for instance, the family funded and ran their own school). This is the way most Chinese lived until very recently. The compound we visited was in use until the 1960s by the same family.
Most of these compounds have now been destroyed by the relentless march of progress, so it was really interesting to see one that has been preserved, and to get a sense of how people in Hong Kong and elsewhere used to live. The changes that have taken place for an average Chinese person in the last 60 years or so are mind-blowing.
Afterwards, we went out for dim sum (which is a type of Cantonese food) at the famous Maxim's. The food was incredible and I have never had better. I only wished I had two stomachs to fit more in. Even the desserts were good (generally I don't like Chinese dessert), including a mango, sago and coconut pudding, and a sesame and coconut cake.
Then we returned to the hotel for a nap, and in the late afternoon, made our way to the ferry docks to catch a boat to Cheung Chau island. The vast majority of Hong Kong (like 90%) is not city, but countryside: parkland, undeveloped beach islands, and even farmland. So we wanted to experience what life is like on one of the smaller, more undeveloped islands.
No cars are allowed on Cheung Chau, which makes any place much pleasanter (and reminds me of how I hate them). It has a much different feel than the main islands, slower, more relaxed and more old-fashioned. We had a great time exploring dozens of tiny winding streets, lined with traditional shops, small shrines to holy rocks and bicycles. As a typhoon warning was up, we couldn't go swimming, but we did walk along the beach, which was beautiful with views of unspoiled hillsides and the China Sea. We had seafood at one of the many restaurants serving fresh-caught fish (a substantial fishing fleet anchors there, as it's still a fishing community). Then we took the ferry back: only a half-hour trip, but what a difference!
B and our friend went out for roast goose at another local dive, but I stayed at the hotel and ate take-away dumplings (they were so good it was amazing) and ordered room service cocktails: very decadent. Even though the cocktails were a little pricey ($9 each), it seemed cheap as alcohol is so expensive in Singapore, so I got three! Luckily they weren't at all strong.