Hong Kong #2: Lantau Island and Local Delicacy Tour

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April 6th 2018
Published: August 31st 2018
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First stop of the day was breakfast. There was a really cute cafe a few doors along from our guesthouse that did avocado toast and grilled cheese sandwiches, which I really wanted to check out. My friend readily agreed to this and we headed there, well the first time we walked straight past it, that wasn't a good sign, we retraced out steps and found the place was shut. Bugger, there goes that option. We took a walk along the streets near where we were staying and soon found a place open for breakfast. We headed into Kai Lee Noodles, the place was totally old school and I took this as a sign it was a good place. It wasn't very busy and we were shown to a table and given menus to peruse. We settled on a couple of dishes to share and some coffees. The food and the drinks arrived quickly. Can't say I was too impressed with the milk coffee, it was more milk than coffee and I knew I would need to go and buy a proper one later on. We had ordered the deep fried head of fish balls, which by looking at the picture of the dish on the menu looked nowhere near as bad as the name suggested it to be. It was just deep fried odeng (I only know the Korean/Japanese name), which is just mushed up processed fish. Not very healthy, but tasty especially when dipped in the dipping sauce provided. The other dish we had ordered was noodles with cuttlefish balls and black sauce. I really enjoyed that and wished I had ordered a whole bowl for myself.

While researching Lantau Island, my friend and I had come up with different ways of getting there. I had researched the ferry and bus route, while she had found the subway and cable car combination. We decided that we should do both. So we took the subway across to Central and headed to the ferry pier. We timed it perfectly and there was a boat leaving in 5 minutes. We got ourselves settled, unfortunately we had seats in the middle meaning we couldn't see much of the journey. The ferry ride was pretty smooth and took about 30 minutes. We got off the ferry at Mui Wo and headed straight for the bus to Po Lin. Everything was perfectly timed as the bus was there, waiting for the ferry. I think the journey took about an hour. I enjoyed the bus ride as I got to see a totally different side to Hong Kong. The bus travelled through small villages, which reminded me of being in rural Korea. It was sad to see a lot of trash lying about. There were also some very fancy apartment/resort complexes. We left the small villages behind and the bus wound its way down. We were crossing a bridge just before the bus would start to climb again and you could see the change in the weather. It went from being a normal time day to big, dark clouds. It started to rain a lot too, which obscured my view from the window. When the clouds did break, I could see down to the ocean and the densely forested land. It was really beautiful.

We got off the bus and were instantly freezing. I couldn't believe the weather had changed so much. We could see the Buddha up ahead, but since it was cold and lightly raining, we decided to head to the shopping part first. We spent about an hour wandering around the shops. It was mainly tourist stuff, but nothing too tacky. We wandered from shop to shop, hoping that the weather would improve, however it only got worse. The wind, rain and our lack of adequate clothing was making us feel totally freezing and pretty miserable. We made it down to the Starbucks to grab a coffee and warm up inside, but the place was pretty small and rammed with others who had the same idea. We left and decided to find a place where we did have some lunch. We went to a restaurant just across the square. The place was pretty expensive, but the good was decent enough. We both ordered rice dishes, shrimp fried rice and Fujian fried rice. I don't think my friend was too impressed when she tried my Fujian fried rice, but I really enjoyed it. We washed the good down with some warm tea.

Feeling full, we decided to brave going outside. The weather was much better, while it still wasn't very warm, the rain and wind had eased up. We headed over to the Big Buddha. We took the steps up, which weren't too steep or taxing. The Buddha looked really beautiful close up, and I also really liked the other statues that had been placed around the base. We then took a walk around the Buddha. Since the weather was crappy, my photos weren't great. I would love to return on a sunny day with bright blue skies. It would be so much more photogenic. Tian Tian Buddha, to give it its proper name, was only completed in 1993. That shocked me a little as I expected it to be a lot older. From the Buddha, we headed over to Po Lin Monastery to have a look around there. The monastery was founded in 1903 by three monks visiting from Jiangsu province. The monastery was pretty, and similar to other such places I have visited. It didn't take us too long to walk around it as there wasn't a whole lot to see.

My friend really wanted to take the cable car back down, and she really wanted to take the 'Crystal Cabin', which has a glass bottomed floor. Personally, I couldn't think of anything worse, and totally begrudged spending the $200 for the ticket, but my friend really wanted to do it. The good thing about taking the Crystal Cabin is that the queue is a lot shorter, that is the only positive in my opinion. We queued for a few minutes before a glass bottomed cabin appeared. Well, I have to say the journey was hell. I don't think my friend understood how terrified of glass bottom things I am, until she saw me on it. She was sitting on floor taking selfies and wanting me to take pictures of her, I refused as I couldn't let go of the handrail. What if the bottom fell out? She would perish and I would be left clinging on for dear life. I was also telling her to hurry up and sit down, as I felt so uneasy watching her standing on the glass, I was like an overprotective mother. The cable car also had ventilation holes in it, so the wind was whipping through the cabin. This definitely added to my anxiety. I tried to concentrate on the views instead, which were pretty. I could also see a path under the cable car, I would have much preferred to have spent a couple of hours walking down instead. Finally, we made it to the bottom and I was so happy to get off the bloody thing.

It was a short walk from the cable car to the subway station and we took the train back to Tsim Sha Tsui. We stopped off for a coffee and then headed back to the guesthouse to rest up before our evening adventure. We had booked a food tour that I had found online through a company called Hong Kong Free Tours. This tour was a local delicacy tour, so instead of being free we had to pay around 250 HK$, which wasn't too expensive. I was excited to see what weird and wonderful stuff we would try. The tour started at Jordan Station and since it wasn't too far from our guesthouse, we decided to walk instead of taking the subway. There were about eight of us on the tour, which was a nice number, not too big, not too small. Our guide was a really nice guy and he introduced himself and told us a bit about the tour. We had two options he said, when it came to the food; we could either choose to find out what it was before we ate it or afterwards. The group pretty much unanimously went for after. I think everyone was thinking, there is no way I would eat this stuff if I knew what it was first.

Our first stop was to get some beverages. We headed into a nearby convenience store and bought some beers. Then we headed across the street to our first food tasting. This place was a store selling all different kinds of meat. In the window, some of the different types were hanging up on display. We got to sample a few different random animal parts, none were too bad and I managed to keep them all down. We did try ear, which was a bit weird as it was all just cartlidge, so very crunchy. I'm glad I had a beer to wash it down with. As we walked around, our guide told us some stuff about Hong Kong, like how to spot the legit massage places as opposed to the sexy ones. We stopped at another stall, this one was pretty busy, and got some more food to sample. We had one of my favourites, ducks' blood, only I think it was from a different animal, maybe a pig. To me, it tasted exactly the same as ducks' blood. I wonder if all animals' blood tastes the same or it is just the way it is made into the jelly. We also got some stinky tofu. My friend was really apprehensive about trying it due to the horrific smell it gives off. I spent a while convincing her that its bark is worse than its bite and it doesn't taste anywhere near as bad as it smells.

We soon came to our first sit down restaurant. This place was pretty small with only a few tables and looked pretty old fashioned. We all sat around a small table, while the guide ordered the food for us. I had seen an English language sign in the window, so I knew what we were getting: snake soup! I was really excited to try this, as much as snakes creep me out, I really wanted to know what one would taste like. I really, really liked the snake soup. It was very similar to chicken soup and tasted comforting and nourishing. Maybe I can find some when I am sick and need comfort food. We were also given a shot of snake liquor to try. That was fine, but not as good as the soup. The sign in the window had said that the restaurant also did gecko soup, I wish we could have tried that one, too. As we were getting up to leave, the owner beckoned us over to the set of drawers that were at the back of the shop. He opened one and we got to see what was inside: a snake! They keep them alive in the shop and kill them fresh for the soup. I wonder if any escape. We headed to a convenience store to get another beer and then to get some bullfrog. This was another snack on the street. I quite like bullfrog and have had it a few times while living in China. I have always had it in some kind of soup or broth there. Here, it was different. It was coated in batter and deep fried. The batter was garlicky and salty, perfect! This is definitely now my preferred way to eat bullfrog.

We headed to another small restaurant to try some more dishes. This place was a little strange as the food is ordered in another part and then you take it to the restaurant room to eat it. This place is pretty famous in the local area, but luckily wasn't too busy and we managed to snag a table. Here, we tried two different soups. I think one was Bird's Nest Soup and I have completely forgotten what the other one was, even though our guide explained what they were. Both were fairly good, but in my opinion not as good as the snake soup. While we were tucking into the soups and having a good natter, sidenote everyone on the tour was lovely, our guide headed off to get us our final dish; dessert. This was another soupy kind of dish, but sweet and I really enjoyed this one. I was gutted to find out that the soup contained the reproductive organs of a frog. Who knew that it would taste so good? It was so good that I even managed some more after being told what was in it. I think the beers and snake liquor helped me stop caring about the weirdness of it all. This was definitely one of the most interesting tours I have been on. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The tour finished around 10:30 pm. We didn't want to head straight back to our guesthouse so we took a walk around the market, then got some more beers from the store and wandered the streets drinking them like the classy birds we are. I enjoyed walking around the neighbourhood, it was busy and full of life, not like the boring city I live in in the mainland. I also stopped at Emack and Bolio's to get some dessert. The chocolate was expensive and not amazing, but I vowed to go back if I had time and try something different. We eventually headed back to the guesthouse, absolutely shattered from our busy day.

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