Tuesday, April 29th, 1997 - Kowloon, Hong Kong - Tin Hau Festival

One of the many things we read about before our travels was of the Tin Hau Festival, specifically in reference to a tour that was offered by boat to a Tin Hau festival in the eastern area of Hong Kong. Once we arrived, we were made aware that there are Tin Hau temples all across Hong Kong as they are temples that are dedicated to the God of the Fisherman (Sea), Tin Hau. After talking to Raymond, he persuaded us to try the Tin Hau festival held at his home town, Yeun Long in the New Territories. He assured us that this festival was much bigger and better than the one described in the tour book. Armed with this insider knowledge we visited this festival today.

This was the first time we had ever taken a bus by ourselves (without someone that spoke Cantonese with us), there were no problems as we proceeded up the west coast of Kowloon, past the Gold Coast, through Tuen Mun and into the New Territories into Yeun Long. The scenery was very interesting, coming from the crowded nature of Kowloon into the rural nature of Yeun Long, one of the first places where actual houses were in evidence that we have seen. As we travelled along the highway, a small electrical railway went from Tuen Mun to Yeun Long. It was very relaxing, the highway was fairly small with not many buildings in evidence, however, with a number of mountains all around, though the road was certainly in a flat area between.

After determining we were in the right location, we left the bus in the middle of the “city” and travelled to the area that Raymond said the parade would pass, he was right. We stood and waited for about an hour with many thousands of people but it was well worth the wait. There were many people in the parade, carrying many banners, carrying tall home-made altars (with paper and other decorations; for offering purposes), dressed up in various costumes, marching, lions (small dragons) and dragons. Amongst all of this was the ever present sound of drums, cymbals, whistles and the yelling of many people in the parade. The dragons were very impressive, Raymond said to expect at least one but there were quite a many, I would say about 6 to 8. Talking to Raymond tonight he said that there are different types of dragons with their own drum beats and characteristics. The dragons typically stretched for about a block in total length, the people operating them running and jumping a great deal. It was very impressive and overwhelming. We stood in one location for about an hour and a half and then decided to follow the parade route to the source, winding down some smaller streets with many, many people. There was certainly a lot to see. Of course, Mike and I exhausted (each) about one roll of film each.

Tin Hau Festival

We finally found the end of the parade (which ended, we figure, about two hours after it began, certainly one of the longest parades I have ever witnessed) then proceeded to walk to the Tin Hau temple itself, which was a bit of a distance. Today was very hot and humid, with a touch of rain at the beginning of the parade, which Raymond said was typical of the festival day (it was 29 Celsius and about 86 % humidity, I think this is the hottest it has ever been for our visit). After walking most of the way to the temple Mike indicated that he needed to eat and have something to drink so we turned around and walked back to the center of the village. He could not be bothered with troubling to get some local cuisine so he visited the golden arches (if you do not know what that is, good for you), however, he was not the only one to think of that and there were no seats to be found. This is fairly typical of McDonalds here in Hong Kong, VERY popular. So, he stood up and ate his lunch, I refused to eat there.

After leaving, I stopped at a local street restaurant and had some Dim Sum dishes as well as a deep-fried roll which was all absolutely wonderful. I especially enjoyed the Satay (spicy) tripe (which I could imagine is not for everyone's tastes), this was very spicy and quite delicious. After eating beside a rather fragrant canal, we headed back to the main street to catch a bus to return to Kowloon. We agreed that it might be more interesting to go to the Gold Coast and take a hovercraft to Central, then take a bus to Aberdeen and have supper on one of the famous floating restaurants of Aberdeen.

We found a bus to catch and were just about to scrap the whole idea after waiting for about half an hour in the heat, but it eventually arrived and we took a rather scenic return trip to the Gold Coast, travelling some back industrial areas, with many containers used on container ships (I counted many stacks eight containers in height), the streets were fairly narrow and the bus had to stop a few times to let traffic in the opposite lane go by. On other occasion the bus would clip trees as it passed.

I suppose I could explain a bit about road travel here. When we first arrived, I was very surprised to learn that, just as in England, they travel on the left side of the road. In addition, all “city” buses are double decker, though the “crazy buses” are much smaller. City buses are either air- conditioned or not, you pay a bit more for the air-conditioning.

Eventually, we arrived at the Gold Coast, unfortunately, I signalled the driver too early and we had to walk a bit along the road. We then went to the beach and walked along that, taking off our shoes for a bit to wade into the nicely cool water. It was quite pleasant.

We then hurried over to catch the hovercraft that we could see from the beach area only to miss it by a few minutes. The next hovercraft was to leave two hours later. Mike, understanding that I wanted to travel on it, agreed to wait around for the next one, which, I suppose, is for the better, considering the weather. We sat in the local McDonald's for about an hour just talking and having a drink. It was very relaxing. Then, we sat outside and looked into the Marina water there at the small fish. Eventually, the ferry arrived and we boarded. The cost was very reasonable at about $21 (HK; $4 CDN) and was very fast, taking about 40 minutes to cover the same distance that on land would take about an hour and a half. This was the first time I had ever been on a hovercraft before. The craft went just like a boat until we were out in the open water then it started the hover process, raising from the surface a fair amount. The trip was very smooth, yes, we were tossed around by the waves a little but not nearly a bad as if we had been in a boat.

The view from the hovercraft was very good, we passed beneath the new bridge to Lantau and saw various areas of the territory we had not seen yet, or from the water. We arrived in Central on Hong Kong Island then proceeded to find a bus to Aberdeen, which was a bit tricky. Eventually, we made it to Aberdeen, only to get off of the bus in such a location that we had to walk around a small foothill to eventually find the ferry to the floating restaurants. We knew that the restaurant was in Aberdeen in the harbour and we knew where the restaurant(s) were as we could see them so we walked to the closest point on shore which, of course, had a free ferry operating to take guests to the restaurants. In the course of walking, we passed through some back areas of Aberdeen, including the shops where they fixed the buses. Not exactly the past place to walk, but this did not stop us.

I guess I could explain a bit about the floating restaurants. There are actually three separate restaurants on three separate barges permanently located in the harbour. Two of them are called the “Jumbo” restaurant and the third is a seafood restaurant called Tai Pak. These restaurants are all joined, and as already indicated, accessible by free ferry. We proceeded to the Jumbo restaurant for supper. The inside is very opulent and very nice, as it's name implies, it was very large but the service was very good. The prices were very…pricey, about $500 (HK; $100 CDN) for supper for the both of us, which included four dishes and a desert (for me, yes, I was hungry). The menu was quite interesting, with a few dishes costing in the area of $500 (HK) per person. The food was quite good. Raymond indicated that this is a very good restaurant for Hong Kong, having traditional (high-end) cuisine. It certainly was that. Throughout our meal, we were entertained by live traditional Chinese entertainers. We joked that we were being charged extra for each singer that we heard so we had better eat quickly (we were still suffering shock from the cost – we were exaggerating, it was not really that expensive).

Jumbo Restaurant - Aberdeen

The various utensils and plates for the meal were confusing, we continually looked around (ok, I continually looked around) at others to see if we were using the right bowl, the right spoon (for our soup), etc.

After supper, we looked around inside for a bit then walked to each end of the three restaurants, in addition to viewing the live seafood tanks at Jumbo (containing about 33 tons of water and just about every edible seafood item, live, that I could think of, the shrimp and Australian lobster looked wonderful). We also did happen to see a few jelly fish (which we joked looked a lot like the various plastic bags and other garbage also floating around, a jelly fish did not say “Safeway” on the side), as well as a few very small crabs swimming on the surface, and very many small fish.

Leaving the restaurants, we took the ferry that returned us to a location were we could easily catch a bus back to Central, which we did, from there, catching the Star Ferry to Tsim Sha Tsui, from there we walked to the MTR station and then returned back to Sham Shui Po (the whole trip taking about 45 minutes).

Of course, there was the typical trip to the video arcade and then we returned home, at about 11:30 PM tonight. We were, as may be expected, fairly tired.

Raymond was very pleased to hear about the festival and jealous of our trip to the restaurant. He again offered his assistance in planning the trip to Macau which we are planning for tomorrow.

Despite the amount we did today, we did not feel overly tired. Things worked out very well and we had a great time.

⇒ Continue to Wednesday, April 30th, 1997 - Kowloon, Hong Kong