Saturday, April 26th, 1997 - Kowloon, Hong Kong

Today seemed to be a good day to experience a bit of culture. We began the day by meeting Fiona, her boyfriend and her brother Jackie at the MTR station just down the street from Raymond's house. They had a car so this was the first time we had been in a private vehicle in Hong Kong and it was very exciting.

We started the day by having Dim Sum in an area in Mong Kok that we have not yet visited. It was very different. We parked and walked for a long way to the restaurant, passing through, as per normal, crowded streets and a street market where they were selling a variety of fresh seafood, bakery goods and other miscellaneous goods. Our hosts spoke a little bit of English and joked about how far we had to walk to the restaurant (in Cantonese but explained when I asked about it). They said it is not to bad to get a car in Hong Kong but parking is not easy.

The Dim sum was very good, and we tried a few dishes that we had never had before. I had fun going around with Fiona and her boyfriend looking for dishes to try. This is what makes Dim sum so interesting here in Hong Kong. Back in Winnipeg when going for Dim sum they bring the carts to your table and you let them know what you want and they give it to you. Here, however, you wander around the restaurant and pick up things from carts which are continuously moving around, only rarely are you asked at the table if you want something from a passing cart. Today, in addition to the carts they also had a “bar” which had a number of dishes being prepared which you could choose from. We were very full, however, it seems that due to something that Johnny said they assumed I could eat a lot and they kept ordering food.

After this, we drove under the harbour through a tunnel paying the toll of about $16 (HK), which is perfectly acceptable. Then we travelled through the same tunnel that we took to go to Ocean Park (again, a toll, this time about $5 (HK)). We then followed the coastline to Stanley (no, not park), passing Aberdeen (right after the tunnel), and Repulse Bay. It is quite different on the far side of Hong Kong island, the road is very narrow and winding, people travel very fast though we did pass two sections which were down to one lane due to construction (that slows traffic considerably). As we travelled up and down the sides of various mountains the views were quite spectacular though we could not really take any pictures due to our travelling speed.

We eventually found a parking spot by waiting for someone else to leave theirs on a side street (on the side of a hill). This was very interesting.

We walked around the market there for some time, we all picked up something, I picked up some silk and Mike picked up a few t-shirts and ties (which he seems to like though he does not wear to work – he would not wear these ties anyway as they have cartoon characters on them). The market was quite interesting as it was all along only a few small streets (not for cars, only for pedestrians) and it was very busy. There were some good buys there and we took advantage of them. I also took some time to have a stamp made with my first name in Cantonese characters so I can stamp my letters and cards with it. I thought that would be an interesting thing to do.

After that we stopped at a small English (well, it was supposed to be Italian, but all menus were in English) bar/eatery for a few drinks. This was quite relaxing and there were a few good laughs all around. As per normal, our tour guides paid for everything (we did not pay at all today). They were very pleasant and we had a good time.

After this, it was getting pretty late so we drove to Fiona's apartment (which her mother, father and grandmother share with Fiona and Jackie) which is located on Tsing Yi island (north western part of Kowloon). I was informed later that it is government housing, which makes sence as we had to pass through some gates to get there. We stopped by the side of the road so Fiona could buy some “fish balls” (fish batter balls deep fried) and other fried dishes as they were afraid I would be hungry (!), Mike informed me that I was always hungry (which, of course, helped immensely) we managed to try some but were pretty much full still from lunch. We were dropped off at one of the various apartment towers and proceeded to the 30th floor to the apartment.

The apartment complex is very different than in Canada, it was not terribly clean, all of the staircases were open (that is, to the elements) as are the hallways.

Eventually, we made it to the apartment where we were greeted very warmly. The apartment itself was three bedrooms but still very small compared to North America. It was sort of like Raymond's apartment but an appropriately larger kitchen and dining/living room. We made ourselves comfortable on the couch while Fiona's mother, father and grandmother prepared dinner. It was difficult to talk so Mike started watching some VCDs which they had and I played a little bit of some electronic games they had there.

After some time we sat down for dinner. Dinner was very good and very different than I have ever had before. The people there were all very pleasant and the food was very plentiful and included fresh (in the shell) shrimp, mussels, clams, sponge (we think), smoked pork, barbecued chicken, a tarot root soup (we think), a egg-with-pork-in-the-middle-dumpling soup, a baked fish (whole) that was exceptional, and a squid-octopus vegetable mixture.

It was all very fresh and very good (though I am not terribly partial to the dish that was essentially a great quantity of shelled mussels with some spices) – it was very fishy. Mike was treated to a never-ending supply of beer (he said that every time he looked at his glass it was full – no matter how many times he drank from it) as I was with Coke and various other soft drinks. It seemed the flow of dishes was never-ending. It was all very overwhelming as was their hospitality. We tried so hard to be humble and they insisted on us having a lot of everything (even holding our hands over our stomachs and shaking head did not really work all that well). After the main part of the meal, Fiona's father gave us some small cups with tea in it.

I suppose I should explain a bit about the tea as I was told prior to this trip about his obsession with it (and enjoyment). He travels to China every year and brings back special kinds of tea. In this case, this tea is only available in China and is very expensive. He first places some tea leaves in a cup and begins soaking with water. Then, to serve, he arranged three small cups on top of a plate with some holes in the middle and a bowl underneath. Between drinks, the cups are rinsed in a particular manner with hot water. He places some water in with the drained tea leaves and pours immediately into the three small (I mean VERY small, about one ounce) cups. Then, he passes the tea cups to whoever wants it. Evidently, even though the water is piping hot (that is, SO hot that you cannot hold onto the cups without pain) you are to drink the tea quickly. Let me just say that the tea was beyond belief. It is WONDERFUL, a bitter taste with a small hint of citrus taste to it. Very good. He was quite happy to see me drink cup after cup right up until we left.

After supper, we sat once again in the living room and talked briefly with everyone. They then arranged a few bags for us to take with us, including a gift of a bag of mushrooms and a BIG bag of the special tea for Mike and myself as well as a bag full of gifts for Catherine and Johnny. I had a bit of a tutorial on the various Mahjongg pieces by Jackie's girlfriend. I have been fascinated by the game as I have only played it on the computer and as a solitaire game, but it is actually really played as a betting game, such as poker. They have two sets for Catherine and one of them is for me as Catherine asked for them to buy another one for me. I hope that Catherine will teach me (evidently she is very good). Now we have a LOT of stuff to take back with us but it is really the least we could do for them, we also delivered some cookies that Catherine made for them.

Lam Family (and me smiling in corner)

We left, but not before I could thank her mother using a Cantonese phrase that Catherine made me memorize before we left to thank her for the gifts. Mike and I had a wonderful time.

They showed us to the elevator and we were driven back close to Raymond's. It was unfortunate that I left my camera in the back of the car, but a quick call arranged a time to have it returned.

The water for the toilet in the apartment was shut off so we had to visit the local McDonald's to make use of their facilities. Not a pretty sight. After this we went to the local computer arcade to have a bit of fun before returning for bed.

A very interesting, cultural day. An experience in travelling that I am not likely to forget – I can put faces on the city of Hong Kong.

⇒ Continue to Sunday, April 27th, 1997 - Kowloon, Hong Kong