Saturday, April 30, 2016

Animal deaths and survival on Lantau

It's bad enough to see trash on the beach but it feels 
worse to spy lots of dead fish in the mix as well
In contrast, the sight of this very much alive butterfly -- 
which kindly stopped and posed for snaps! -- gladdened my heart :)
It also generally felt good to be out in 
Hong Kong style buffalo country today! ;b
Early this morning, I took part in a beach cleanup for the eighth time in less than a year.  For some reason, and irregardless of whether the beach cleanups have taken place in Cheung Chau or -- as has been the case the last two times -- Chi Ma Wan Peninsula, there always seems to be something new that one sees among the rubbish on the beaches.  
On one of the first beach cleanups that I went on, I spotted an uncommon amount of test tubes and other items that looked like they belonged in a medical lab lying on the sand.  On another occasion, there appeared to be an unusual amount of toothbrushes strewn about the beach.  Last month, it was little blue square tiles of plastic whose use, never mind origins, none of us could figure out.  And today, there came possibly the saddest sight thus far for me: lots of dead fish, mostly small but a couple around a meter long each, washed up by the  tide. 
My first reaction when seeing all the dead fish washed ashore along with human-created garbage, much of it made out of plastic or styrofoam, was that the sea creatures had been poisoned after ingesting too much plastic into their systems.  And even after a few Lantau Island resident friends suggested that the fish deaths may have been caused by the red tides that have been sighted around Lantau (along with other sections of Hong Kong) in recent weeks, that didn't make me feel better as the (increased) abundance in the occurence of red tides is unnatural even while it's true enough that they're formed naturally by natural organisms.   

Put another way: we humans have a lot to answer for and sure do create a lot of damage to the environment.  And yet... amidst it all, nature often shows that it can be far more resilient than we imagine -- as well as beautiful too. 

Whenever you go to Pui O, you'd pretty much guaranteed at least one water buffalo sighting.  This afternoon though, I also saw a rather large number of these feral animals in the fields around Shap Long Kau Tsuen, about 30 minutes walk away from the Hong Kong water buffalo central that's Pui O.  
In view of quite a few new village houses looking to be in the process of being completed in the area, there must be some doubt as to how much longer the horned creatures that call this particular corner of Lantau Island home can do so.  But, then, I've also seen quite a bit of development in Pui O over the past few years -- and yet, seemingly against the odds, its water buffalo herd still very much exists (along with the birds that like to be around them and the humans, some of whom turn out to actually appreciate their being around too)!  Consequently, I remain hopeful that water buffalo -- and cattle -- herds will be able to survive for some time to come in other parts of Lantau too. 

Friday, April 29, 2016

A fun ferry ride and afternoon out on Tin Hau's Birthday

 On the ferry ride to Joss House Bay on Tin Hau's Birthday
joss paper is scattered into the sea by devotees of the Chinese goddess
Upon arriving at Joss House Bay, we found the oldest and largest
Tin Hau temple in Hong Kong festooned with colorful flags

At the front of the temple, lion dancers danced
while drummers beat out the rhythm for them

Shiny good luck windmill charms added decorative color 
and festive spirit to the place and day :)

On just two days each year, a ferry service runs between the North Point Ferry Pier and Joss House Bay Public Pier.  Six years after I first made that trip on Tin Hau's Birthday, I went on the ferry again to take in the festivities at the Tin Hau temple popularly referred to Tai Miu ("big temple") -- this time with two friends in tow.

Despite my expecting it to be otherwise, the ferries we got on at both North Point and Joss House Bay weren't all that full.  So my friends and I were able to easily snag some of what we considered the best seats on the boat: in the open air section of the upper deck, with clear views of the scenery we passed by on the approximately 35-minute-long ferry ride (which I already reckoned was a bargain at HK$60 for the roundtrip fare even before finding out that tickets for the half day Tin Hau Festival excursion offered by the Aqua Luna cost HK$428 a pop!).

As I confessed to my friends, I actually think the best part of the Tin Hau birthday celebrations may well be our getting to go on this ferry ride which affords us views from the water of many parts of Hong Kong that one doesn't regularly get to sail by.  And although the visibility today was not as high as I'd like it to be, the air was still clear enough for it to be enjoyable out -- and the breeze and cooler temperatures than we've had for days added to this being a really pleasant outing. 

In addition, it's not every day that one smells incense burning when one's on the boat, or sees joss paper flying into the water during a boat ride -- or, for that matter, spies many other boats festooned with festive flags sailing in Victoria Harbour.  Put another way: it may be on the low key side but there were sure signs -- even on the ferry ride itself -- that today's actually a special day in the Chinese calendar.      

Considering that we were at what must be considered the premier Tin Hau temple of the over 100 that exist in Hong Kong, it actually was somewhat surprising to find that the festivities at Joss House Bay are not even one twentieth as intense as Cheung Chau during its annual Bun Festival (the Piu Sik portion of which I attended last year).  Not that I'm complaining: since for my physical comfort, I do like that the Tin Hau Birthday celebrations don't attract huge crowds even at this location.  In addition, there is a certain cultural satisfaction in seeing that this festival remains pretty uncommercialized and geared for the local community.    

For the record: the main activities at Tai Miu today appeared to revolve around making offerings (of food, drink and joss paper) to the Goddess of the Sea/Mother-Goddess and/or bidding to fumble under the quilt of the Dragon Bed in Tin Hau's bedroom for good luck items (such as lotus seeds, for fertility, or "lucky money").  Oh, and there were to lion dances to watch, including one that involved a seemingly half-drunk "lion" that seemed to enjoy sporadically spraying people with beer! ;D  

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Some visual clues that show why Violet Hill is one of my favorite hiking spots on Hong Kong Island (photo-essay)

On what was only my fourth hike after moving to Hong Kong (back in 2007), a friend took another friend and me up Violet Hill from Wong Nai Chung Gap along Section 1 of the Wilson Trail.  While this Hong Kong Island hill has remained a favorite hiking spot, these days, I prefer to go up it along an alternative route that goes up two -- rather than just one -- of its three peaks, including the highest (by a few meters) which stands at 436 meters above sea level.

Then when one gets to the mountain pass known as Tsin Shui Wan Au, one is presented with a number of route options -- many of them pretty scenic.  While hiking with three friends one sunny afternoon, we decided to head down to Stanley from there via the southern section of the Tsz Lo Lan Shan Path -- but the photos from this latter section of the excursion will have to wait to be shared in another photo-essay as I've already got eight nice snaps to share taken during the earlier part of the trek! ;b

Yes, one can see Ocean Park from Violet Hill (though not,
if my memory serves me right, from the Wilson Trail)

 In any case, I reckon the sight of The Twins thrills and
stirs the heart of most hikers more than that of Ocean Park ;b

Yes, we're still close to the city but already in
an area that is green and can feel pretty wild!

 If you look carefully, you'll catch sight of critters like this 
brown grasshopper peeking out from the surrounding greenery :)

Here's offering up visual proof that not all 
Hong Kong hiking trails are paved paths :b
 I don't think I'll ever tire of seeing the Tai Tam Reservoirs
and Tai Tam Harbour from Violet Hill, 
especially on days when their waters are this blue

Zoomed-in view of a masonry bridge, dam and valve house
that feature on the Tai Tam Waterworks Heritage Trail 

From viewpoints like this, Hong Kong can look really idyllic :)

 To be continued soon...! 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

For Kee is the place to go for pork chop rice

Where the best pork chops are to be had?

The interior is no frills and far from spacious --
but I think it's got plenty of atmosphere!

It may not look pretty but do believe me when I tell you
that it sure is tasty! :b

Among the regular items on the menu of a Hong Kong cha chaan teng menu are the closely related pork chop bun and pork chop rice.  But as far as I know, there's only one place here in the Big Lychee where you'll see 9 out of 10 of its customers chowing down on a plate of pork chop rice whenever you are there.

It may be an unassuming-looking place located in a Sheung Wan backstreet but For Kee definitely has amassed its share of dedicated fans over its more than 50 year history.  And I honestly can state that every time I have a pork chop rice craving, I feel obliged to make my way to this small and pretty cramped eatery where, more often than not, one's going to have to wait in line for a bit in order to snag one of its precious seats and then wait for a bit more before getting to chomp on its utterly satisfying slices of sweetly marinated and shallow-fried pork chop which go so well with the white rice that one is served generous portions of.

The classic way to have this dish is to just have the pork chop served atop nothing but white rice -- and I'm often happy enough to go for just this.  Some days though, I feel a need to have some green vegetables in the mix -- and will then ask for choi sum (Chinese flowering cabbage) to be added to my order.  I'm also partial to having a fried egg atop my pork chop rice on those occasions when I want a bit of variety but feel that the pork chop rice with green vegetables option would be too big for me to finish (since the latter comes with a heaping load of choi sum as well as white rice, though with fewer slices of pork chop than if you stick to "just" ordering the plain pork chop rice).

Another option is to ask for tomatoes to be served atop your pork chop rice.  Then there's my current favorite order at For Kee: pork chop rice with fried onions that I think significantly ups the tastiness quotient of the whole shebang!  In addition, one can have noodles or -- outside of peak hours -- buns as one's carbohydrates of choice.  But I've never actually had my pork chop with anything but white rice at For Kee as I'm one of those people who thinks that white rice really goes perfectly with those tasty chunks of meat (the way that it also does with such as char siu, siu yoke and roast goose).   

Speaking of roast goose: Years ago, I introduced a foodie friend to my favorite siu ngor place in the Big Lychee.  In turn, she it was who first told me about For Kee.  Daisann, if you ever read this, thanks for all the wonderful meals I've since had at this very "old school" Hong Kong eatery that we both love and no doubt hope will be around for many years to come. :)  

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A Mount Parker hike with scenic views and abundant critter spottings (Photo-essay)

Whenever I've gone up Mount Parker (be it on a cloudy or sunny day), I've found that the crowds of hikers and general fitness enthusiasts going up Mount Parker Road melt away at Quarry Gap (aka Tai Fung Au).  While super serious hikers scoff at this trail for being entirely paved, more casual hikers are liable to be put off going pretty much all the way up it by Mount Parker being, at 532 meters high, the second highest hill on Hong Kong Island after Victoria Peak.      

For my part, I'm a fan of Mount Parker -- not only for the gorgeous views to be had from near the top of it on a high visibility day but, also, because the higher sections of this hill look to be home to many interesting living creatures.  Consequently, hikes up it are -- like so many others here in Hong Kong -- ones where I often find myself scanning nearby areas for cool critter spottings as well enjoying scenic views of the eastern part of the Big Lychee... ;b

 The birds on the sign on King's Road for Mount Parker Road
and the associated Green Trail may be fake but not the many other
creatures spotted up the hill later on the hike!

Up on Mount Parker, I feel so high I can touch the sky... ;)
 Click on the above photo to get an enlarged panoramic view from 
atop Mount Parker that was taken on a super high visibility day :)

One can also glimpse much of the southeastern portion 
of Hong Kong Island from up this hill
 Even with the view bonanza, I still liked that I managed
to spot this beautiful gold dragonfly, and snap a photo of it :)

And how about this blue-tailed skink spotted on 
the upper reaches of Mount Parker Road? ;b

Hong Kong Island but I spotted four of them on this one hike! :O
Meanwhile, down on the lower reaches of Mount Parker, 
stray cats predominate -- and seem to 
attract fans who regularly feed them! 

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Legend of Wisely offers up an Indiana Jones-style action adventure (film review)

The Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter figures in  
The Legend of Wisely as the place the protagonist 
moored his boat while he was in Hong Kong :)

The Legend of Wisely (Hong Kong, 1987)
- Teddy Robin Kwan, director
- Starring: Sam Hui, Ti Lung, Joey Wong, Teddy Robin Kwan, Oh Yau Lun

Indiana Jones has a lot to answer for.  While attending archaeology field school in the Four Corners region of the USA during my sophomore summer, I saw a number of my fellow anthropology and archaeology students trying to emulate the fictional archaeologist's daredevil ways -- and learnt that one of them actually broke his leg on the car journey back to a camp one day as a result!

Although it was never explicitly stated, it's also pretty clear that Raiders of the Lost Ark  and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (some scenes of which were shot in Macau) had quite the impact and influence on a number of Hong Kong moviemakers; with Jackie Chan's Armour of God II: Operation Condor and Michelle Yeoh action vehicle Magnificent Warriors being among those Hong Kong movies that look to have borrowed a number of elements from the George Lucas and Steven Spielberg collaborations.  

And even while The Legend of Wisely is largely based on the Wisely Series of stories by prolific scriptwriter-novelist Ni Kuang (the first of which had been published in serialized form in a local newspaper in 1963), it's hard not to also see some Indiana Jones-type touches in an action adventure film whose intrepid protagonist journeys from Hong Kong to South Asia (where Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was largely set) and Egypt (where the archaologist hero played by Harrison Ford spent time in Raiders of the Lost Ark). 

Released in time for Chinese New Year 1987, this fun movie stars (and was produced by) Canto-pop singer-actor Sam Hui as the titular Wisely (or Wai Si-Lei, as you can hear the protagonist's name actually being pronounced in the movie).  A famous writer of sci-fi tales who comes across as well able to look after himself in a fight, he journeys to Katmandu, Nepal, to meet an old friend, David Ko (played by Cinema City co-founder Teddy Robin Kwan, who also directed the film), and promptly gets embroiled in a plot involving a mysterious relic known as the Dragon Pearl which several individuals want on for a variety of reasons.    

Housed for generations in a mountain temple in Nepal, it's stolen by the devious David -- with the inadvertent help of Wisely -- and brought over to the luxurious abode of Triad boss Pak Kei Wei (Ti Lung) and his sister Sue Pak (Joey Wong), whose favorite books just happen to include those by Wisely.  After he is contacted by the mountain temple's precocious Little Master (Oh Yau Lun), Wisely decides to make amends by returning the Dragon Pearl to the religious group who venerate it.  But in order to do so, not only does he have to go up against the formidable Pak Kei Wei and his gang but also battle Howard Hope (Bruce Baron), a reclusive billionaire living in Egypt who appears to be endowed with some scary supernatural powers. 

Filled with much more action than sense, The Legend of Wisely is the kind of movie whose story one shouldn't take too seriously or over-scrutinize.  We're talking, after all, of a film where science fiction, superstition and facts mix, larger than life characters abound, and everyone -- be they Caucasian, Nepali or Chinese -- can speak and understand Cantonese.  

Made on a way smaller budget than the Indiana Jones movies, The Legend of Wisely actually looks pretty good; with some of the best use of foreign locations that I've seen in a Hong Kong movie (probably thanks in no small part to cinematographer Peter Pau) and really interesting, even inspired, set and overall production designs (courtesy of art director Yee Chung Man). And although it's just 85 minutes long, this kinetic offering feels so eventful that you'd scarcely believe that it's actually shorter than the average feature film!  

My rating for this film: 7.5

Sunday, April 24, 2016

So much cool stuff to see at Cape d'Aguilar!

The first sea cave I've ever been into in Hong Kong 
-- and, actually, maybe in the world!
 Panoramic view of the southeastern tip of Hong Kong Island
and a few nearby -- and way smaller -- islands
 Click on the above photo to take in a panoramic view
of a surprisingly rugged section of Hong Kong Island :b

For years, every time I took the number 9 bus to or from Shek O, I wondered why it stopped at Windy Gap as I never ever saw any one get on or off there.  But this started to change a couple of years ago, with my seeing a number of hikers making use of this bus stop.  
Upon doing a bit of research, I found reports of a nice hike to be had from Windy Gap to Cape d'Aguilar and back, and resolved to check it out for myself; this despite also having read that members of the public are discouraged from venturing into this area where a number of transmitting and related stations are located together with now ruined military installations).  After two failed attempts (one because of weather; the other due to a bus route change I previously didn't know about), I finally made it out to Cape d'Aguilar on the third try!  And boy, was I glad I did so upon seeing the many interesting sights and stunning views in the area!   
Among other things, Cape d'Aguilar is home to Hong Kong's first marine reserve, Hong Kong's oldest lighthousea whale skeleton installed outside the main building of the University of Hong Kong's Swire Institute of Marine Science, and a sea cave which is easy to get to but scary to venture into (because of how loud the pounding waves that created it are and the water looking like it can get really high up as well as far into the cave).  In addition, there's the hardly small matter of some incredible geological features being on view there, including of neighboring Kau Pei Chau and the surrounding exposed rocky coast, and also big, fierce waves that give a really good idea of how strong and powerful the forces of nature can be.  
On the afternoon that a friend and I ventured out to Cape d'Aguilar, we also spotted many interesting flowers in bloom and winged critters (including large birds of prey as well as pretty butterflies and dragonflies) about the place.  Add in the temperature being in the pleasantly cool low 20s (Celsius, not Fahrenheit!) and not a drop of rain falling on us despite there sometimes being some threatening looking clouds in the sky, and it truly felt like we were being blessed -- though whether it was by Mother Nature or a(nother) supernatural force, I can't quite say! ;b

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Merry Christmas is a fun watch any time of the year! (film review)

Merry Christmas (Hong Kong, 1984)
- Clifton Ko, director and co-scriptwriter (with Raymond Fung)
- Starring: Karl Maka, Paula Tsui, Danny Chan, Rachel Lee (aka Loletta Lee), Leslie Cheung, Cyrus Wong, Yuen Wo Ping, Anglie Leung

Imagine Karl Maka, Raymond Wong Pak Ming, Dean Shek, Teddy Robin Kwan, Tsui Hark, Nansun Shi and Eric Tsang together in an 80-square-foot roomThe mind boggles at how much zaniness as well as talent there'd be in that small space.  As hard as it is to believe, the septet apparently did share a working space that small in the early days of Cinema City, the film company they established in 1980 -- whose productions over the course of a little more than 10 years would include the likes of Aces Go Places, All the Wrong Spies, Peking Opera Blues, A Better Tomorrow and City on Fire.    

Produced by Nansun Shi and starring Karl Maka, Merry Christmas often looks and feels like a crazy Chinese New Year comedy but was released in time for the December 1984 holidays.  Offering up plenty of laughs as well as a family focus, it begins with preparations for a surprise birthday celebration that quickly sets the wacky tone for the whole film -- and the festive theme continues all the way through this slapstick-filled movie, with certain of the later scenes taking place over Christmas and also on New Year's eve.

At times coming across as a loosely structured series of playful comedy skits, Merry Christmas revolves around Baldy Mak (Karl Maka, who is indeed bald), a veteran newspaperman, widower and father of three children: two of whom -- Danny (Danny Chan) and Jane (Loletta Lee) -- are hip teenagers; and the youngest of whom is a scene-stealing baby referred to as Baldy Junior (Cyrus Wong).  A caring father but far from the most enlightened or brightest spark around, Baldy would like his elder son to get romantically involved with at least one of his female schoolfriends whom he regularly hangs out with but strongly disapproves of his daughter dating the charmingly rogueish John (Leslie Cheung); this particularly since Baldy and the young man had previously met in less than optimal conditions.

The sub-plots involving the romances that develop between Danny and a braces-wearing lass who likes to be called Claude Francoise but who he dubs Jaws (Anglie Leung), and Jane and John yield a number of comic dividends.  But it soon becomes apparent that the main event of Merry Christmas consists of Baldy's interactions with Aunty Paula (Paula Tsui), the songstress neighbor who regularly looks after Baldy Junior for free while Baldy senior is out at work -- and who Baldy initially affects not to care for but soon is revealed to deeply love.

With so much of the humor in Merry Christmas being physical in nature, considerable credit goes to the movie's action director for helping make so many of its scenes so laugh-out-loud funny.  Yuen Wo Ping is best known for choreographing martial arts action (including that seen in Drunken Master -- which he also outright directed -- and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) but he shows here that he's adept at choreographing comedy moves too.  In addition, there's the bonus of seeing him making a hilarious appearance as Paula's cousin, whose arrival from Canada to make her his bride prompts Baldy to compete with him for her hand in marriage!

While enjoying the fun shennanigans and good cheer on display, it's sad to realize that two of the talents in this movie are no longer with us; with Leslie Cheung having taken his own life in 2003 and Danny Chan suspected of doing the same 10 years earlier.  I wish they could have experienced the joy and happiness that I got from watching Merry Christmas: a film which was not the most polished around even in 1984 but still is one that's well able in 2016 to make me laugh so much that I cried, and also appropriately tear up during its climactic heartwarming moment.

My rating for this film: 8.0

Friday, April 22, 2016

Scarecrows and other objects protecting Hong Kong's farmed fields!

Some imaginative methods used by farmers in Hong Kong 
to scare birds and other pests away from their fields
Hong Kong's scarecrow population is actually larger
than many people may think ;b
A couple of friends and I recently talked about phobias that we have and know that other people have.  Among the more unusual that cropped up was the fear of scarecrows.  And while some may think it unlikely that those suffering from formidophobia need worry about being confronted with the objects of their fear here in Hong Kong, here's serving up evidence via the photos at the top of this blog post that it's not all that unusual to spot scarecrows -- along with other devices aimed at scaring away birds and other non-human pests -- in farmed fields in this part of the world, including those that one passes by while out hiking!
Rather than seek to stay away from them, I used to look forward to catching glimpses of scarecrows in the agricultural fields that covered much of the land on both sides of the road to Penang airport when I was a child.  At a certain point, those human-shaped decoys were replaced by rows of tin cans strung up in such a way that they'd rattle when the string to which they were tied would be pulled.
Although those may have been more effective at scaring away pests from the fields, I found them far less visually interesting.  And it's been with no small amount of delight that I've discovered that some farmers in Hong Kong still erect scarecrows in their fields -- be it on their own or along with other pest-scaring devices. 
While I've seen a number of human-shaped scarecrows here in Hong Kong, I've also come across those whose creators looked to have been inspired to produce something more whimsical.  In addition, I've spotted more than one cute plushie being used in a more practical way than their designers and manufacturers probably ever anticipated!  
Along with having to fight the urge to rescue certain cute plushies from their scarecrow duties, I've sometimes also had to resist going and checking the titles of the shiny discs that used to have been CDs, VCDs or DVDs but now also have been re-purposed to scare away pests from agricultural fields and vegetable patches here in Hong Kong.  Actually, as one fellow film fan cum hiking enthusiast as pointed out, it probably would be pretty traumatizing if we were to find that a DVD or even VCD of a movie we really love was now hanging out in the open and damaged by the elements rather than treated with the respect we would accord it! ;(

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Peak (and High West) sights and views that most visitors don't realize exist (Photo-essay)

For many visitors to Hong Kong, it's unthinkable that they leave the Big Lychee without taking the Peak Tram up to -- and then down from -- what they think is the top of Victoria Peak but, really, is only Victoria Gap.  While I've taken the Peak Tram a few times, I actually prefer going by bus up to Victoria Gap and then hiking down the hill to any number of destinations (including Admiralty, Pok Fu Lam and Aberdeen).

Whenever I go hiking in this area, I also like to trek up High West or further up The Peak than just Victoria Gap.  And while I've thus far only gone on the same route up to High West (that's not signposted but actually not all that difficult to go on), I've actually found more than one route down The Peak that I'm comfortable with following -- including one that goes down to Pokfield Road, where -- conveniently enough -- there's a bus that I can take to a stop located just a few meters away from my apartment! ;b

Lest it not be clear, many Hong Kong residents like for The Peak 
to remain on the green side rather than more built up than it now is

While many people fixate on the buildings when beholding this view,
I also appreciate that there's plenty of green in the foreground!

On a clear day, the view from the northern section of the 
Peak Circuit trail can take your breath away :)

Still, for me, it's the views from the top of neighboring 
High West that can really take the cake ;b

From High West, one can catch sight of the Neo-Gothic

An intimidating view of High West from 
the pocket park located several meters below its peak

A genial looking Buddha carving spotted 
on the trek down from The Peak

Someone really doesn't want any dumping to take place 
in this area -- and considering how lovely much of it is,
I actually do find it pretty understandable! 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Hong Kong's last remaining umbrella repairman is to be found in Sham Shui Po

In Sham Shui Po lies one of the most unique shops in Hong Kong
Truly local street art in Sham Shui Po! :)
On the first day of this month, it was reported that the workplace of the man dubbed as the "King of Umbrellas", Ho Hung Hee, would be preserved and moved to the Hong Kong Museum of History.  Although some people wondered if this piece of news was an April Fool's joke, it really does seem to be the case that the tiny portable stall on Peel Street where Mr. Ho had set up shop soon after he arrived in the Big Lychee in 1947 and worked for almost 70 years until he passed away last year is going to become a part of the museological instutition's permanent collections.   
Many people assume that the umbrella repair trade died in Hong Kong upon Mr. Ho's demise.  But while there no longer appears to be a specialist umbrella repairman on Hong Kong Island, 60-something-year-old Yau Yiu Wai continues to fix broken umbrellas as well as sell new ones over in Sham Shui Po.  
The fifth generation inheritor of a family business which began in 1842, Mr. Yau's skills appear to still be quite in demand -- to judge from the number of people I saw milling about his shop when I was in the area last week.  At the same time, he appears to have ample time to create knickknacks out of plastic bottles, tin cans and such -- and in fact, it was the art the Sunrise Company proprietor had fashioned and put on display by his store and even on the road in front of it that had initially attracted my attention!

Clearly adept at working with his hands, Mr. Yau has stated with confidence that he can fix any umbrella.  There have been some people who have baulked at the price for repairing their umbrellas; this especially since it can cost more to repair a damaged umbrella than to buy a new cheap one.  But the environmentally conscious will surely be happy to know that there remains an alternative to adding more umbrellas to the ton of discarded items that are helping Hong Kong's landfills fill up way faster than should be the case.  In addition, wouldn't it be pretty cool to avail oneself of an old school trade that isn't commonly found in much of the world any more?    

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A memorable feast at Apgujeong Korean Tent Bar

Pig's knuckle/trotters/feet, Korean style! :b

Korean spicy freshwater snail "salad"/mix

The raw fish dish we got comped because 
it's the restaurant's 10th anniversary :)

Last night, I had dinner with a friend at a restaurant that I first read about years ago but only went to for the first time yesterday.  It's not that the review I read for Apgujeong Korean Tent Bar was negative.  But it's one of the rare Korean restaurants in Hong Kong that's only open in the evening -- leading me to suspect (correctly, as it turned out) that its portions are on the large side and thus is not a place to dine solo at.  Also, it's located in a part of the Big Lychee that I don't often go to  -- and in fact, when I ventured over to Knutsford Terrace last night, I got to thinking that this was the first time I had set foot there in more than seven years!

Thanks to Openrice, I had seen pages of the restaurant's extensive menu and knew that Apgujeong Korean Tent Bar offered dishes that aren't readily found in most other Korean restaurants here in Hong Kong.  And when it came time to order, my friend -- who happens to be Korean, and told me that she had been brought to celebrate her birthday some years ago at this eatery -- and I zeroed in on a couple of those.
After seeing golbaengi muchim, a spicy "salad" whose ingredients include red pepper flakes, garlic, sesame seeds, thin rice noodles, carrots, Asian pear and freshwater snails, on the menu, I decided to go for it -- and hoped that Apgujeong Korean Tent Bar's version would be closer in taste to the versions I've had in Seoul rather than the ones I've tried at other Korean restaurants in Hong Kong.  And so it proved, with this restaurant's golbaengi muchim being spicy like the dish is supposed to be but not overwhelmingly so; with the result being that I also could taste such as the sweetness of the slices of Asian pear and the nuttiness of the sesame seeds that were part of the mix.

My friend's choice of dish to share was jokbal, stewed pig's knuckle/trotters/feet which you slather with chili paste and wrap slices of in a lettuce or similar type of vegetable leaf together with some kimchi (pickled vegetables), then put the whole thing in your mouth, after which you are rendered silent for a minute or so as you chew away at it all!  This was the first time I had jokbal -- and I have to say that I found it to be fabulous; better even than the similar bossam, whose main ingredient is pork rather than the more scary sounding part of the pig, which actually can be "melt in your mouth" rather than rubbery like some people fear.

However delicious the food was, it was proving to be quite the struggle to finish off the dishes we had ordered because the portions were really generous.  And this being a Korean restaurant which my friend happily pronounced to be pretty authentic, we also got served complimentary banchan -- various side dishes (including cabbage kimchi, black beans and green vegetables) to munch on for variety -- as a matter of course.

So our eyes turned pretty wide when the waitress came over and put a plate of hwe, Korean style raw fish which is cut in a different way -- and consequently has a different texture -- from Japanese sashimi, on our table.  As we hastened to tell her that we hadn't ordered that dish, she told us that it was on the house because the restaurant was celebrating its 10th anniversary.  And because it was tasty as well as on the small side (especially compared to the dishes we had ordered), we actually had no problems polishing off all of this!

After the amazing feast that my friend and I had there, I definitely want to return to Apgujeong Korean Tent Bar really soon.  I'm actually rather surprised that the eatery was not very full last night -- though, I suppose, the fact that it was a Monday night could help explain this, along with the place not being the easiest to find since it's not located a floor above the row of restaurants that many people may mistakenly think is all there is to Knutsford Terrace's dining (and drinking) options.  

About the only "problem" I have with Apgujeong Korean Tent Bar -- apart from its name not tripping easily off my tongue! -- is that after enjoying the dishes we had last night so much, it's going to be difficult to resist ordering them again when I next visit.  At the same time, it's something I feel I shouldn't do as there are so many other interesting dishes on the menu to try, some of them -- like with the jokbal -- for the first time ever! 

Something else that occurred to me while writing this blog post is that I may have trouble getting some of my other friends to agree to eat a meal featuring "exotic" ingredients like freshwater snails, pig's feet/knuckle/trotters and such.  But, hey, I'm figuring that Hong Kong may be one of the best places in the world to find such willing folks.  Now if I were still living in Wisconsin, then I would feel like I'd have no such chance or luck! ;b