Wednesday, 14 September 2011

The Hong Kong sojourn - 2

From the previous post: "...It was not a write off. Not at all. Many more interesting experiences were going to happen. This was only a small blip in the other wise beautiful experience. And yet another lesson learnt.

The rest of the experience continues in the next post."

...and here we go.

Day 1, first half had been extremely exciting to say the least. Hong Kong, as with other cities is only a part of the larger city. Actually New Territories is at the far end, close to the China boder, then Kowloon, further down is Hong Kong island and still further down is Lamma island.

Happy Valley racetrack spectator stand
Finally ended up at a very nice and comfortable hotel in a place called Happy Valley, formerly known as Wong Nai Chung Valley. Predominantly residential in nature, there was a lovely horse racetrack nearby as well, and as I was informed, the area is rated as one of the posh ones in Hong Kong.

My friend had decided that I was to be subject to as many culinary treats as possible and I was only happier for it. For my objective of going to any new place is assimilate as much as possible about the Customs, Culture and Cuisine, followed locally. So just about 30 metres away from the hotel was this traditional, wonton noodle soup eatery. A tad expensive, but what a lovely treat. It was a pleasure consuming shrimp wontons floating in a soup filled with glass noodles. I did wonder along, why was it so expensive (apart from the now understood Hong Kong factor). I was informed that this is an old, well established, up scale and popular eatery and as we were sitting there, across the table sat one of the, apparently, most popular Hong Kong singers!

Efficiency - a hall mark of Hong Kong

Back to the hotel, feeling comfortable and full. Rested a bit. Then it was off to the Sheung Shui, New Territories for a 'hot pot' dinner with my friend's family. And this is where I discovered the power and utility of 'Octopus'. My friend had already purchased an Octopus card for me. Now, I have to reminisce a bit about it. I found it to be a typical, representative Hong Kong product, fully geared towards the concept of efficiency! And it truly is. It is a pre-paid card, called Octopus simply because it was an enabler for anyone to smoothly commute across the various types of transportation as well as use it for purchases at the ever present 7-Eleven stores.

The HK version of the tube map
It is essentially, a rechargable contacless stored value smart card. It can be used to make electronic payments in offline and onlien systems across Hong Kong. And as I discovered over the week, just hold your purse containing the card near and reader at an appropriate time and the barriers to the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) or buses or trams and many more would open up. Way better than having to carry around notes and loose change all the time. And I will write a bit later on about the transportation system in Hong Kong. Impressive, to say the least.

The first dinner
Back, to the dinner plan. This was my first ever hot pot (also known to some as 'steamboat') and apart from meeting the family, I was so looking forward to the experience, having heard a lot about it earlier.

Hot pot at Sheung Shui
Oh man. It was some culinary experience. I fell in gastronomic love with it. The concept is so interesting, easy, full fledged, group oriented and overall very fulfilling. There was a huge variety of meats and vegetables. There was a deep bowl with split sections, which was continuously being heated by a butane gas burner. One side had plain water, without many condiments, the other side was spicy. And much to my chagrin, I realised that despite being an Indian, there was only so much spice I could take!

To quench the thirst was some very delectable bamboo shoot drinks. Spread over nearly a couple of hours, it was an extremely enjoyable and sociable evening, cooking, talking, eating, talking, drinking, talking. So much so, that at the end, I wanted to walk back to Hong Kong island given the amount of food and beverages in me. Realisation dawns: people in Hong Kong really love to eat and drink.

And then it was back to hotel, for some rest until the next day morning which my friend indicated was going to be equally fun filled. Exciting!

Thoroughly tired, by the time I got back to the hotel, after having been travelling since the previous day (delayed flights onward to Delhi, time dilly dallied at the IGI airport, actual flight time, lost a bag, and criss crossing Hong Kong - see my previous post), when I hit the bed and opened my eyes, it felt like it was just a minute ago, but a full 8 hours had passed! 

The next day

It was mid-morning and time to go off and explore some more of Asia's world city. First thing out, was to stop at a nearby semi-street joint for some rice, roasted pork and chicken, with soup brunch. A nearby bakery also beckoned for a look at some exquisite creations, but was already full so just ended taking a snap.

The adventure continues, in the next post.

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