Our first full day in Hong Kong starts with a visit to Maxims Palace at City Hall, Edinburgh place, a cultural center with a large second floor restaurant serving some of Hong Kong’s best dim sum from trolleys on Saturdays and Sundays only.
It was necessary to queue using a ticket system, so while our hosts waited, we enjoyed a few minutes in the walled garden with it’s flowering local trees including the Spider tree , Hong Kong Orchid tree and Camel’s foot tree. All around this tranquil space rose the leviathans of commerce, soaring into the low clouds as peaks of glass, concrete and steel.
The food was very good with a variety of dim sum served from the trolleys (some of which had a small video screen on the front playing scenes from the kitchen) Some of the dishes were familiar: Har Kau ( Prawns in soft transparent pastry), Shu Mai (minced pork, prawn and mushroom dumplings), others less so such as the Taro dumplings. At the time, we didn’t know what this was, it appears that Taro is the tropical equivalent of the potato , other variants being the West Indian Dasheen or Eddoe. It is technically a member of the Colocasia genus or the Elephants Ears houseplant!
After lunch we took the Star ferry across to Kowloon in order to spend the afternoon at the Hong Kong museum of History. The Star Ferry is iconic Hong Kong, a ten minute ferry ride across Victoria Harbour for less than 30p, delivering some of the best views of the city. The smells of marine diesel, rusting steel and the sea took me back to my days working on offshore oil rigs.
We disembarked in Kowloon and made our way through the crowds of Indian hustlers offering us tailor made clothes, watches and even , sotto voce, hashish if we looked likely. En route to the musuem we stopped at Hullett House, the former marine police headquarters and an architectural gem. A relic of former colonial Hong Kong, you could almost feel the ghosts of former British Police chiefs moving through the cool high corridors and arcades.
Our next stop was the Hong Kong Museum of History , where the history of the former colony was very well laid out over several floors including some moving exhibits from the Japanese occupation to a display of the toys and cheap electrical items exported to the west during the Sixties and Seventies.
We took the MTR ( Mass Transit Railway) back to Admiralty in Wan Chai, and from there to The Pawn for beers and non alcoholic cocktails on it’s verandah overlooking the busy street and tall skyscrapers. After almost seven months of hopefully permanent abstinence, I was a little tempted by the vintage cigars on offer, the menu details even how long your Cuban panatella or corona will smoke for. Attitudes to smoking in bars are relaxed in Hong Kong with many outdoor areas for smokers.
Around 7.30 we took a taxi home to our son’s apartment high up on the mid levels and then out to Chili Fagara, a Sichuan restaurant in Soho. Fagara is an educational experience, Sichuan cuisine has long been . linked to spicy, fiery food, but tonight we learned that there are three taste sensations known as “Ma,” “La,” and “Tang.” The road at Fagara begins with soothing, tastebud-opening Tang dishes, along the way takes in numbing Ma dishes, and finishes with hot, climatic La dishes. So we started with shredded Chicken in lettuce leaves, Lemon Chicken and King Prawns in a black bean sauce, moving on to Ma dishes including a Lamb dish with outrageous numbers of whole red chillies, Sliced aubergine in a fiery red sauce with the sichuan peppercorns (known as fagara) and finally a very hot beef dish that was as hot as anything I have ever tasted. We drank Tsingtao beers from ceramic bowls which helped increase the surface area of mouth against chilli heat reducing alcohol. As a finale we ate crab and sweetcorn soup served in scooped out pumpkins which cooled us down further, although at this point I was starting to fear for tomorrow.
Our final stop was the curiously named roof top bar in Soho, the Blck Brd Lounge , for a cocktail and a sample of yet more of the lives of Hong Kong’s Jeunesse Doree. Shortly before Midnight, Zebedee said ” Time for Bed”