Friday, March 17, 2017

Tuesday, March 14: Cheung Chau (Mark)

On this, our last full day in Hong Kong, we decided to spend the day on the island of Cheung Chau. It's west of Hong Kong, just south of Lantau, and is fairly small. We were originally thinking of Lamma, but decided it would involve too much walking (a big consideration given my foot problems on this trip).

But before that: Breakfast! We decided to go to a restaurant for breakfast today. Hong Kong has an affinity for toast, for some reason: a lot of restaurants advertiser their "toast sets" for breakfast. We decided to see what the hubbub was about, so we found the nearest restaurant that prominently featured toast on the menu. The breakfast was fairly simple, your choice of eggs and meat, and toasted bun with sweetened condensed milk drizzled over it. It was pretty tasty, though Liz was disappointed her sausage was basically a hot dog. Dale got the congee, which was porridge-like. Our waiter was the most chatty we had, and he wanted to talk to us about what we thought of Donald Trump (we all agreed: we can't stand him) and how he needs to do something about housing prices (I decided not to share my copious opinions on that issue).

We took the Star Ferry to Hong Kong island, and then hopped a couple of piers to the west to catch the boat to Cheung Chau. We got a little nervous about the tour group that joined us on the boat, especially after our experiences with tour groups yesterday. We sat on the lower deck, which was fairly spartan. We had to move back seats where they had the tarps set up to avoid getting sprayed with ocean and rain water.

Cheung Chau is dumbell-shaped, with the main village in the center. It was raining a bit when we reached the shore, and continued to do so for the next hour or so. We saw the tour group walk north, so we decided to head west. Cheung Chau is officially car-free, except for emergency vehicles. Of course, there are still people who use golf cart-like vehicles, and small forklifts and other small cargo vehicles, but definitely no regular cars. Bikes rule the day for transportation, and we saw more bikes here than any other place in Hong Kong.

Our first stops were to see the ancient stone carvings and the mini Great Wall. We walked along the beach but somehow missed the stone carvings. The beaches are a little dirty, with quite a bit of garbage washed up on them. Hopefully they're cleaner in the high season. The sand was very course, with grains the size of chunks of sea salt. We traversed the beach and eventually the path started ascending. The mini Great Wall is basically a walking path up the hills, it had a good vantage point. We walked down to a lower vantage point to get another view of the area, where we happened upon a couple in a compromising position who probably weren't expecting to have tourists show up nearby. After a few uncomfortable minutes, we moved on. We found the stone carvings on the way back - they weren't directly on the path and were easy to miss.

Fire beaters were found all along the path.

 After observing them for a few minutes and snapping some photos, we headed back to the village for food and rest. We grabbed a couple of snacks first: Liz got a potato spiral on a skewer, and I got a mango mochi. The potato thing was basically a big, spiral potato chip, but they had all kinds of seasonings for it. I was expecting my mochi to have some kind of mango-flavored paste inside, but I was wrong: It was pretty much fresh mango pulp. Much tastier than I was expecting.

We did a little more exploring before lunch and found a temple (pretty, though they're all starting to look the same at this point). Right outside, there was a bamboo structure that was being built, presumably for the bun festival that takes place in the spring.

Since this was a fishing village, we decided to get seafood. Liz and Dale ordered scallops, and I got razor clams. My meal was rather interesting given they piled everything on top of the shells, and it came in a very flavorful black bean sauce. I enjoyed it quite a bit. Our restaurant was facing the marina, so we got to enjoy a nice view as we ate.

After eating, we passed by the harbor to double-check the schedule. The local McDonald's was holding a promotion for Pi Day, which we weren't expecting (they don't write their dates in the same order as Americans, so I don't think it has the same significance here). But they were offering apple pies for HKD 3.14, which is less than 50 cents, so how could we refuse? Liz and I each got one, and celebrated Pi Day.

We next took a walk westward to the pirate cave. The cave was a stash hideout for Cheung Po Tsai, a notorious pirate from the 18th century. The cave was under a rock formation near the shore, and we approached it with a bit of trepidation. I was at first unwilling to go too far in, and we let another group of tourists (three women from Singapore) check it out. They didn't stay in there too long either. Liz proposed that we both go in together, and use our phones to light the way for each other down the ladder. This worked out well. The cave was not terribly huge, and the spaces weren't all that tight, either. Liz and I both went all the way to the opposite side, and emerged from the cave to the surprise of the Singaporean tourists, who weren't expecting to meet up with us there.

We made our way back to the village, and bought a few more souvenirs. The shop wasn't attended well and it took us a while to find somebody we could pay, but we did get some necklaces for the girls. We took the ferry back to Hong Kong Island, and then the Star Ferry back to Kowloon. We bought a few more things in TST station (mostly Omiyage for Liang and the girls) and headed back.

After resting for a bit, we decided to try out the nearby Thai restaurant. It definitely had a very different menu from Thai restaurants in the USA. I think they adapted the menu to suit Chinese tastes, much in the same way that Chinese food gets modified for American tastes. Liz got Pad Thai, Dale got mustard greens with salty fish (anchovies, it turned out) and I got seafood fried rice with pineapple.

We headed back to the apartment, and Dale decided to step out and visit the Night Market one last time while Liz and I retired for the day. Thus ends our final full day in Hong Kong. It was a good trip, and I'm glad we went.

  • Cheung Chau has very small ambulances, surely meant to navigate narrow streets. We figured that since there's no private cars or taxis there, people probably use the smaller ambulances to get medical care for things we Americans wouldn't normally use ambulances. We have no practical way of verifying that, of course.
  • People all over the area sweep using brooms with great big brush heads, that are often half the length of the broom itself. It seems like a bit of an odd tool to me, since it won't be very precise - but I've only ever seen them used outdoors also, so maybe they have different brooms for around the house.

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