Saturday, August 4, 2012

Outlying Islands

From August 3rd.

Most of China's coast is ridiculously convoluted, like someone took the coastline and pulverized it into little bits (actually! look on Google Maps!).  Hong Kong, being a part of that coastline, has an incredible number of small islands all around the territory, the larger of which are usually inhabited.  Today, we were going to Cheng Chau (長洲), an island about 16 kilometres as the crow flies from Central.

 We took a ferry from Central Pier (中環碼頭):
Unfortunately, we didn't take the fast ferry, which takes just over half an hour to get to the island.  The normal ferry takes just under an hour, and the fare is correspondingly half that of the fast one, at just over $12 ($1.55 CAD).

Today was a terrible day.  The haze was depressingly thick.
Union Square.
Tsim Sha Tsui.
This should be Victoria Harbour, with eastern Kowloon on the left and eastern Hong Kong on the right.
The western side of Sheung Wan (上環), on the Island west of Central.
Looking back at Central in the haze.
Further from the city, groups of rocky islands either uninhabited or the site of vacation homes appear out of the grey:
Ah, the lack of care given to English signage (this one popped up all over the ship!)
 and after a while, we reach Cheung Chau.

A quick look back at our vessel,

before we head out to eat.
This place, which does not have any English signage, is apparently known for its soup noodles.  There are many variations on this simple dish, not just wontons:
beef brisket
cuttlefish (meat)balls 
fish balls and fish paste
But the inevitable wontons obviously also pop up.
 The soups here were way too salty.

 We go for a stroll in the town:

Before heading out into the parkland surrounding it.
We were walking toward the "Little Great Wall" (小長城), a coastal wall cum footpath around the southeast coast of the island.
not there yet...
 This is what that coast looks like:
At the start of the Wall is a temple dedicated to Guanyin (觀音), a popular bodhisattva to worship in Chinese Buddhism.

 And here it is.  A bit disappointing, given its grandiose name, no?
the main draws to the Wall are the numerous oddly shaped rock formations visible from it, like this one: 
 which has an imprint of what sort of looks like a Chinese bun (饅頭) on it.  (maybe?)

This one, just minding its own business in a sea of trees.

Or this one.  I have no idea what it's supposed to look like, but locals call it Ding Dong (叮噹) Rock.

We have to head back eventually...

And when we do, its time for snacks.
 A single deep fried potato:
 and some weird pudding/dumping thing, wrapped in tea leaves.

By this time, everyone wants to get back to Hong Kong before the sun sets, so here are the crowds waiting for the ferry in the terminal:

The sunset is also dampened by the haze:

And as we get close, we can almost see the skyscrapers of the Island:
Four Seasons!
 We hop on a bus to Causeway Bay for dinner:

Interesting note: the three banks occupying these next three towers print all the money in the city.

Being a Friday night, the crowds at Causeway Bay are enormous:

but we finally get a seat inside a branch of the Sweetheart Garden Restaurant (花園餐廳), specializing in soy sauce western.

The standard fare:
but the mains are a bit different.  This spaghetti bolognese,
tastes nothing like its American counterpart (Italians would use tagliatelle or some other egg pasta for their Bolognese sauce), having a heavily seasoned, somewhat sweet sauce, over a plate of overcooked noodles, sprinkled with some mozzarella, and baked in an oven until the cheese starts bubbling.

Calling egg rolls and (American) lo mein Chinese is like saying this is Italian.  But hey, the locals love it.

The most "high-class" way to eat steak in these establishments is to have it served over a hot iron griddle, and dowsed with sauce at the table, which then boils and causes the whole plate to steam:
The meat is generally treated with cornstarch and loses most of its flavour and texture, but hey, the locals love it.

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