Cheung Chau and the Very Long Day

Yesterday was so long and I was so wiped out that I fell asleep while writing this and accidentally erased everything I’d written. So I think I’ll have another go this morning, shall I!
I was rooting for Argentina, but hey, it was a great tournament, and all very exciting, and that’s the point, right? Oh, but that was in the wee hours of this morning – which is how the day ended (or is beginning?). I’ll back up.
I began with breakfast in the hotel, and it ride a steamed mantou bun. Not my favorite, but not bad. It’s steamed sweet dough. I also tried some peanuts in my congee along with the mustard tubers. Then it was off to Pier 3 to meet my cousins.
We met at Pier 3 (the Discovery Bay ferry) and walked down to Pier 5 for the ferry to Chueng Chau. Chueng Chau means Long Island, and I had to giggle a bit at traveling halfway around the world to visit Long Island. There is a fast ferry and an ordinary ferry. We took the fast ferry, which got us there in about 30 minutes.
If Hong Kong Island could best be compared to mid-town Manhattan, then I would compare Cheung Chau to perhaps Nantucket or Gloucester. Its full of tourists on Sundays especially, but it is primarily a fishing town. No towering high rises. No designer shops. No fashionistas. Also no cars except for a few special vehicles such as the tiny ambulance we saw.
As we entered Chueng Chau harbor, the first sight is the fishing boats. They were anchored in the harbor (it was Sunday), and most were flying the People’s Republic of China flag – many flying both the PRC flag and the Hong Kong flag. We did see a pro-PRC political banner at the harbor, so this might, I suspect, be a not-so-subtle political statement.
Upon alighting from the ferry we found ourselves in a sea of colorful umbrellas, which people use to protect themselves from the sun. Sensible. We walked along the harbor for a bit. The way is completely lined with small shops and restaurants with dwellings upstairs. There’s washing hanging out to dry everywhere.
Yes, there is a McDonald’s, and the ubiquitous 7-11 and Circle K (the ferry is there after all), but the vast majority are small independent places. I’ll get back to that when I talk about lunch.
Eventually we turned up a road and found a small restaurant where people were drinking iced tea. I hadn’t had Honk Kong milk tea yes, so we sat down and got some Hong Kong milk tea – iced, because we were already melting and sitting outside. Glad I finally got to try it – it’s quite good strong tea, sweet and with milk.
We walked just a bit and found a shop owned by a woman from a region near Tibet. She said she is a member of an ethnic minority but didn’t say what it was. Her shop is filled with handcrafts from her region, many of them similar to things that I’ve seen from Tibet, I think. She has on display a headdress that her mother made and then she showed us a photo of her baby brother wearing it 40 years ago. It was beautiful. I ended up buying an embroidered bag that I put to use right away. The woman was careful to tell me that the bag I chose wasn’t traditional colors – it was modern. She asked if I was sure I didn’t want the ones with the traditional colors, and I was careful to tell her how lovely they were. This, however, is the one that jumped out at me.

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(Note – I’ve been writing this on my iPad and I really hope you’re seeing a picture and not code)
We walked on some more and came to a Buddhist temple. We were not required to remove our shoes, and I will note here that as yet I have not been asked to remove my shoes in any of the temples I’ve visited. None of the Buddhists who were clearly there to pray and make offerings removed their shoes either. I will need to ask some of my Buddhist friends about this, or, if you are Buddhist, or an expert in this area, please leave a comment.
I asked if I might take some photos and was told yes, so I did because it was so very beautiful.
Off to one side of the main room was a separate shrine with incense. In that room was a mosaic of tigers. On the other side was a similar room but the mosaic was of dragons.
At some point we passed a shrine where people burned incense to honor their ancestors. I have seen bigger ones around Hong Kong – there is a massive one right next to the Temple of Ten Thousand Buddhas. I get the sense that religious syncretism is fairly fluid here – but this is just a sense.
We continued our walking tour toward the beach, and then we headed uphill to go see Bethany, a Christian retreat center. As we walked deeper into the greenery and uphill, we came to another Buddhist shrine, and an intersection there that pointed the way to a Salvation Army center, an Anglican center, and the Protestant retreat center. And although it wasn’t listed there, we also passed a Catholic center. Many people considered this to be a holy place.
We saw some blue berries growing in a red pod. I’ve never seen this before and have no idea what they are.
Eventually we got to the retreat center, but found no one there. We went inside to regroup briefly, made a donation for some cold drinks, and eventually headed back down.
As we got back to the harbor, we came upon a funeral procession. It was loud! Clashing cymbals and drums and chanting, and the coffin, followed by the mourners. Someone carried the portrait of the woman. A couple of others carried wreaths of flowers. I would have liked to take pictures, but didn’t – at least from the front, out of respect. I did take a picture after the procession had past from behind, which captured the mourners at the back.
When we got to the harbor again, CW took the ferry back, and FC and I stayed to get some lunch first. We sat down in a place where we were the only westerners, and where the staff didn’t speak English, even though there was English on the menu.
Because I’d been to the Temple of 10000 Buddhas the other day, I knew that when the waiter placed the hot tea and the bucket on the table, we were meant to rinse our dishes and chopsticks first, so I did. We ordered prawns with cashews and spicy bean curd. As it turns out, the spicy bean curd wasn’t vegetarian. Oops. Well, I ate it. And I did all right. It was the right mix of mild and spicy dishes. FC ordered a beer. She brought him a bottle of beer that was big enough to serve four people.
After lunch we started heading toward the ferry, but I decided that I did have to take a picture of some buns. This is because there is an annual bun festival on Chueng Chau which includes climbing a giant tower of buns. So I stopped by the street vendor and took a photo with permission, and then the women asked if I wanted to get a bun since they were lucky buns. Well, how could I not buy a lucky bun? I got two so FC could have one She took them right out of the steamer – they were so hot we had to wait until we were on the ferry to eat them. They were tasty – the filling tasted a bit like peanuts. A friend who noticed a picture I posted said it looks like lotus seed. I don’t know I’d lotus seed tastes like peanuts.
That might have been a full day in itself, but wait, there’s more!
We got back to Discovery Bay, and I got to work with YC finishing up the chicken soup we started yesterday. She did a great job with that, and then we had that and salad for dinner. And chocolate cake.
After dinner we headed back to Hong Kong Island to go to a jazz club to hear a friend of my cousins’ who was singing. She was really good, and so was the band. It was open mic night, and my cousins wanted me to sing, so I did. Here’s what I learned from that. I probably should not sing at 11:30 at night after a really long day. I was so off-key I hurt myself. No matter, it was all fun. We were there with a whole bunch of people from my cousins’ church.
Eventually I got back to my hotel. I considered going down to the bar to watch the World Cup final at 3 am, but couldn’t wake up enough. I watched it in my room. In the moments when I could keep my eyes open. I did see Germany’s goal. Then I got a little sleep.
Today will be my last adventure in Hong Kong. Tomorrow I leave very early for Cambodia. Wow! That went by quickly. And that’s all I’ve got!

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