Many people think Hong Kong is just a city. Until very recently, I was one of those people, and didn’t realize that in fact there is more to Hong Kong than just the urban sprawl of Hong Kong Island. And even on that island, just away from the skyscrapers, there is an expanse of preserved parkland, which is where I ventured today, with some of the other PiA-ers who had the day off for Mid-Autumn. From the suburban edges of the city we took a walking path that led up into the mountains. Our leader was a PiA alum now living in Hong Kong, who took us through a stream and to hilly hiking trails, which alternated between red dirt and concrete staircases that climbed up and down the small mountains overlooking the city and past the Tai Tam reservoir that serves the city. The hike was a 3.5 hour excursion and after two days spent on planes and in the polluted city, the fresh air, exercise, and sweat all felt incredibly refreshing. We ended on the other side of the mountains at a beach, where we were able to spend a little time before the sun set.
HK countryside, near the Tai Tam reservoir
Back in the city, I finally had the dinner version of dim sum, a Chinese family-style meal almost like tapas, which is a specialty in Hong Kong because of the major Cantonese population. Before we even got seated, the restaurant boasted its legitimacy with a giant dried shark fin in a display case as well as live tanks of giant spider crabs, eels, and huge fish (grouper, perhaps). Our round table had a large lazy susan in the middle, to easily share the food amongst us. The meal started with tea all around (we picked jasmine) and then a lot of pointing at the menu to select our dishes. I have no idea what any of them were actually called, but in rough descriptions: sweet barbecue pork, mixed mushrooms, green beans with diced pork, beef with noodles, mixed spicy vegetables, and chicken (with the head on the plate too, of course). Absolutely incredible.
dumpling noodle soup
Afterward, with just barely enough room for dessert, we went to a Chinese dessert shop specializing in mango, where I enjoyed mango sorbet in thick mango juice with chopped mango and sticky rice balls. Here too, we discovered the existence of a dessert we wished we hadn’t…harsmar. This was offered as a jelly-like topping for desserts, and none of us knew what is was. Naturally this questioned was settled, as most are these days, by people pulling out iPhones and finding out. The answer? Harsmar, a Chinese dessert ingredient, is in fact dried frogs’ fallopian tubes, which are powdered and then rehydrated to make a gel. Harsmar sundae, or hot fudge? Tough choice. But luckily, all the foods that I’ve had here have been phenomenal and have totally changed my perception of Chinese food from that of takeout chow mein and sweet and sour chicken.
Tastes like chicken...I spy a beak.
Final Hong Kong trivia: today I rode one of the trams, which are the oldest wooden-sided double-decker trams in the world. I hear there’s a lot of competition for that title… Tomorrow morning, back to the airport and then two more flights will bring me to Laos!