Friday, September 20, 2013

From Market to Market with Hansen's Hikes -- Shau Kei Wan to Lei Yue Mun to Ngau Chi Wan

It is a long week-end and I hop on a plane for Hong Kong -  it's a good time to relax, recharge and enjoy the company of my favourite travel companion -- myself.
As in my last visit, I decide to take another  hike with Michael Hansen of Hansen's Hikes.  But since it's monsoon season and the weather is wet and unpredictable, I settle for an urban walk instead of traipsing around the hills and peaks of Hong Kong.

Good choice to do an urban crawl -- it's raining steadily on the day of our walk.  To start off, we take a bus to our first destination.  Luckily, we snag the "tourist" seats on this double decker, the front row on the upper deck.  Gives me a great although blustery view of the city.

We get off at Shau Kei Wan, on the northern part of Hong Kong island.  The market here is lively, bustling and full of shoppers even on a rainy Friday morning.

The vegetables look so appealingly fresh and gigantic too.

Are these green peppers on steroids?

Aside from fruits and vegetables, there are also fresh flowers for sale.

Tucked in the back stalls are the fishmongers and the butchers.

At the end of the market is the end point for the trams that have come all the way from Central.  They make their turn around here for the return trip back.

We walk further down the road to our next destination -- Sai Wan Ho where we will catch the ferry to Lei Yue Mun.

But along the way, we pass by this small temple dedicated to Tin Hau, goddess of the sea.

I peek in and marvel at these intricately carved statues and figures, all depicting scenes of life at sea.

There is even a dragon boat right at the entrance of the temple.

We leave this temple to Tin Hau for now and walk by the bay to  get the ferry for Lei Yue Mun.  The rain has stopped but it's still a cloudy day.

There are dozens of boats parked -- some of them are pleasure craft, some are police boats, some are fishing vessels and there are also some that seem to be floating residences.

At Sai Wan Ho, we catch this small ferry which will take us from Hong Kong Island to Lei Yue Mun, a traditional fishing village in Kowloon Peninsula.  It is also a sea food market with lots of restaurants where locals and tourists go for fresh sea food meals.

After just a ten minute boat ride, we alight at Lei Yue Mun.  Small fishing boats are parked in the basin, unloading the catch of the day.

This boat has styrofoam containers of lobster and fresh prawns -- all alive and ready for the tanks in the seafood restaurants.

Michael and I walk past the small restaurants, still closed as it isn't lunch time yet.

But the fresh sea food sellers and vendors are open and all sorts of live sea food are on display.

This is geoduck -- a large type of clam that looks really strange but has a not unappetising taste.

All the vendors are getting ready for the influx of the lunchtime crowd.

We walk past the fresh sea food sellers and go deeper into the village.  Notice the red carpet on the floor?  Aside from the VIP welcome that it connotes, it has a more functional purpose -- it keeps people from slipping on the often wet cement walk.

Aside from sea food, there are small bakeries selling old style cookies and sweets.  For dessert perhaps, after a heavy sea food meal?

We walk away from the market and the restaurants and come upon this surprising view of the city skyline.  The glamour and glitz of Hong Kong seems far removed from this still charming and rustic fishing village.

Michael points out the houses that have existed in Lei Yue Mun for all these past generations.  While no new structures can be built, residents maintain and can refurbish their existing homes.

To ensure that no one builds any illegal extensions on their properties, signs like this that state the size of each of the rooms in the house are posted outside.

Even if the houses are old and cramped, you do get a magnificent view outside your window which is perhaps, why so many people continue to live in this small village.

Because this is a fishing village, we come upon another temple dedicated to Tin Hau, goddess of the sea. It is situated almost at the end of the road.

While the temple has been here for more than a hundred years, it has since been renovated and refurnished.  Everything seems a bright and shiny new red.

I just love these coils of incense that you find hanging in the temples.  They fill the place with a subtle and unique scent.

As we walk back towards the village centre, I see this "lovers' tree" complete with heart and inscription. It's a quaint touch that adds charm and warmth to the scene.

Michael points out this old style letter box, still with the insignia of King George V -- this must be from pre World War II days.  It's a wonderful relic of Hong Kong's colonial past.

From Lei Yue Mun, it's time to head to the next market and the next destination.  The travel gods are smiling because again, I snag the "tourist" seats, the front row  on the upper deck of the bus.

Michael takes me to Choi Hung Estates, one of Hong Kong's oldest public housing areas.  Choi Hung is in Kowloon, in the Wong Tai Sin district.  It's vibe is strictly local and very residential.  Just perfect for the local colour that I always like to discover.

Ngau Chi Wan is a village within the area that has its own colourful and lively market.  There are stalls selling freshly cooked food, ready to go.

What a serendipitous find for Pork in The Road -- I don't know whether to feel sorry or amused at these pig heads laid down on the floor.  The head on the extreme right is quite expressive, the poor pig has covered his eye with one ear -- perhaps in shame at the fate that has befallen him.

From dead pigs to turtles in captivity!  These poor creatures are destined for someone's soup bowl.  I am reminded why I am vegetarian.

I thankfully move away from these depressing scenes and on to the fresh produce section.

Baked goods!  My kind of store.  I buy a couple of pineapple buns, my favourite pastry.

We've gone through 3 markets and have been walking for over 3 hours.  Such an interesting and well spent morning.  As a fitting end to all the walking and exploring, we stop for lunch at a very local and traditional dim sum place.
It's been another wonderful hike of discovery and exploration -- thank you, Michael!
Here's to the next hike!

Dragon City Tea House at 彩虹牛池灣村67號B地下 Dimsum to Die For!

If you only know the cosmopolitan and uber trendy side of Hong Kong, you miss out on the many amazing pockets of deliciousness that are tucked away from the tourist's gaze.
Choi Hung Estates in Hong Kong is one of the oldest public housing estates.  The many towers of apartment buildings have given rise to a sprawling market, dai pa dongs, and traditional eateries where only the locals eat.

On this last solo excursion to Hong Kong, I asked Michael Hansen of Hansen's Hikes to plan another hike for me -- albeit an urban crawl this time.  I also specifically requested that we end our walk with lunch at another very local, traditional eatery.  
And so, this is how I discovered Dragon City Tea House.
As you can see from the photo, it's a ramshackle kind of place (without an English sign) but don't be deceived -- the dilapidated, shabby ambience is inversely proportional to the taste of the food.

This being a "tea house" Dragon City serves light refreshments from morning till noon but there are other small dishes that may be ordered.  We settled on dim sum since Michael vouched that varieties on hand were well worth ordering.
The hakaw or har gow were indeed rave worthy -- the skin was translucent and fine but didn't break, stick or tear when you lifted it from the steamer.
Each small lovely bundle yielded several plump and fresh prawns inside.  It was much better than har gow I had eaten in far fancier and more expensive places.

What dim sum meal is complete without siu mai?  This most popular and classic dim sum was outstanding too.  Delectably delicious,  I could really detect each tasty little bit of coarsely ground seasoned pork.  The bright smidgen of colour on top was not grated carrot but real shrimp roe -- the traditional topping for siu mai.

I had to try the steamed spare rib rice which came with chicken feet.  This was so well seasoned with the flavours of black bean and red chili pepper mixing with the aroma and and fragrance of the glutinous rice.  I ate it local style -- putting the small bones neatly on the table, beside my cup.

Lots of locals were already eating when we arrived.  Dim sum is a casual meal and you can see from the regulars just how relaxed the atmosphere is.  We actually shared our table with two other solo diners but I must admit, we dawdled over our meal far longer than they did.

A pot of black tea accompanied our orders.  I was certainly amused when the same hot tea that we drank was the same liquid that they used to scald the utensils and tea cups that were given to us.
Since it was boiling hot, I suppose it was enough to "kill" all the germs.

The dim sum cart  is in plain view of every one.  If you want to eat some more, all you have to do is walk over and make your choice.

I thought that this dim sum roll looked interesting -- the yuba or tofu skin is wrapped around strips of ham and vegetables.  It was very savoury and quite filling.

There were metal hooks on the ceiling -- Michael said that the locals who come for their tea and dim sum breakfast each morning bring their pet birds and hang the cages on these hooks.
I can just imagine how busy, noisy and cheerful breakfast time must be.
It's another experience to look forward to, next time I am in Hong Kong.other