Stories From The Road

Cheung Chau Island

January, 29, 2012

CHEUNG CHAU ISLAND, Hong Kong, SAR, China – The tables were scattered about and an old woman walked back and forth screaming orders to her chef.

“This place is extremely famous for its homemade fishballs and noodles. But it is one of the last ones and it will close at the end of the month”

*     *    *

Today was an early day, awoke at 7:00 AM after a long night out and boarded the MTR to Central. Once in central a short walk brought us to the harbor piers and our journey to Cheung Chau Island was under way.

Located off the southwestern coast of Hong Kong island and in between both Hong Kong island and Lantau island, Cheung Chau island is a small fishing island. Its name, when translated, means “long island and rightfully, so, stretching farther than it is wide. At its narrowest, Cheung Chau is only a few meters wide. Historically and to this day, this island has been inhabited my fishing families, which becomes apparent when one views the numerous fishing boats that crowd the harbor. The harbor is polluted with trash and visitors are often greeted by the robust smell of rotting fish. There are also no cars on the island.

The Harbor

Street Vendor Selling Dried Fish

The streets are narrow, lined with shops and restaurants. Many of these shops sell fresh seafood or dried seafood for cooking and health benefits. Many visitors are encouraged to buy their fresh choice of fish and to bring it to a local market and have it cooked. It is the stalls selling the dried seafood that smell the worst.

Crowded Streets

Our guide for the day Chris, a student at Lingnan University told us that we are going to go to lunch at a famous restaurant. We walk down the main street and turn into what looks like nothing more than a hole in the wall. Instead it was small single roomed restaurant called Lun’s Ice House. Ice Houses were once a common type of restaurant on Cheung Chau serving traditional Chinese noodle dishes.

Lun’s Ice House

“This place is extremely famous for its homemade fishballs and noodles. But it is one of the last ones and it will close at the end of the month” said Chris.

It turns out that with increases in globalization and the influx of companies such as McDonalds, small business such as this cannot afford to stay in business. Its the same story everywhere, and a shame since the food was extremely good. By the time that this blog is posted, Lun’s Ice house will be closed for good. We enjoyed a hearty meal of noodles mixed with various types of meat. During the meal the god of wealth entered the establishment and gave everyone gold coins as a part of the new year celebration. On this day, the Chinese believe that it is everyones birthday.

Pork and Rice Noodles – Lunch

*     *    *

With lunch finished, we began our tour. Our first stop was the pirate Cheung Po-tsai’s cave. Po was as pirate during the eigteenth century and is said to have stored his treasure in the cave. Today the cave is still accessible even though there is no treasure, its makes a nice little adventure. It is located on the northern tip of the island and overlooks the ocean.

View from Cheung Po-tsai’s Cave

After everyone climbed through the cave we headed back toward the town center for a stop at a famous desert restaurant (note: it seems that the chinese refer to everything as being famous). Located at 12 Kin San Lane, Katie Desert is a small establishment selling a variety of homemade deserts. I had their Baked Alaska, which they are famous for and a black cow. The Baked Alaska was delicious although very different from a real Backed Alaska, the difference being that this one lacked cake. For those reading this that have not had a Baked Alaska, it is Neapolitan ice cream surrounded by cake and frosting and doused in rum and lit on fire. The black cow was a drink that consisted of coke and chocolate ice cream mixed together.

Baked Alaska

Our day continued by visiting Pak Tai temple on the other end of the island. The temple was fully decorated for the new year and it was great to see locals going inside and praying. One feature at this temple is the ability to have your fortune read for 15 HKD ($1-2 USD). To do this , one kneels down at the altar and takes a cup, which is filled with sticks. You are to hold this cup at an angle and shake it up and down until one of the sticks falls out. The stick that falls is matched up to a piece of paper with your fortune and then it is interpreted by the fortune teller. He interprets it in terms of either your love life, your career or your future. I had my future read and it did not sound good. he told me that this year would be tough for me with the fall being the worst part.

Pak Tai Temple

Altar

Offerings

Fortune Teller

When we finished at the temple we cut our trip short and returned home due to the weather. On a nice day, the other side of the island is full of pristine beaches and even a wind surfing clinic, which I definitely plan to return and take part in.

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