Hong Kong: the New Territories

photo: Panorama shot at 10,000 Buddhas Temple

Very wide shot showing a thousand-armed Buddha statue with apsaras.

It was past time to get some proper dim sum. I asked at the hotel desk this morning, and the young woman told me there was this really good place nearby, but she didn't know the English name ... I got her to write down the Chinese name, then got the name translated and directions from the other front desk (don't ask). It's called "Joy Cuisine," it's on the 1st floor (ie. one above the ground floor), and it's right around the corner. I went up, and found a slightly glitzy interior with two rows of large chandeliers down a long room. They had an English menu with some pictures, and I ordered (very traditional) har gow, shui mai, and ... don't know the name yet, but an old favourite of mine which is minced pork in deep fried glutinous rice balls. The latter are prepared as a set of three, and each is pear-shaped. On either side of the narrow end there's a very small black mark to serve as eyes, and between those there's a sliver of almond to look like a beak so they look like three birds in a nest. So cute! I bit their heads off and ate them.

Oh, so very, very delicious. Probably the best dim sum I've ever had, all three items were excellent. More than I've been paying for breakfast, but still very reasonable at $113HK ($19CAN) - and when will I ever have dim sum that good again? I'll probably go back tomorrow, and quite possibly every day for the rest of the trip.

I took the MTR to the Sha Tin station in the New Territories, where I found myself confounded by the bus terminal, a lot of traffic, and two large malls. Asking nice staff at the malls eventually got me on the right track to the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery, although I think I came up by the back entrance. Nice place well up in the hills. A lot of gold plated life-sized figures around the place: I'd dispute that all of them were Buddhas: some were Chinese mythological figures, other Apsaras, but they had an awful lot of really small Buddha figures lining the inside of the temple itself so I'm not disputing the count. I took the main route on the way down, and that's lined all the way with life-sized gold figures of often silly looking monks and ... others. The most memorable was a guy who had what amounted to a pair of baby's arms sticking out of his eye sockets. I also noticed him carved in stone in another area of the temple grounds, and now I'm wondering who or what he is.

photo: There were a couple hundred of these things ...

life-size, gold-plated monks lining the path to the temple

From there I got back on the MTR and proceeded further north into the New Territories, this time getting off at Tai Po Market. Tai Po is one of the New Territories towns, and I quite liked it. Not quite as frenetic as Hong Kong, although still very busy. I went to the fairly large and slightly rowdy and messy Market, with its ground floor half fish, half meat, first floor half veg half clothing, and top floor of "Cooked Food" - but that was the last word of English I got out of the whole place, and I was too cowardly to try to order something in the general chaos.

There are houses! You know, with two or three storeys, and that might actually contain only one or two families? I mean, not a lot of them - it's still mostly apartment towers - but there were actual houses, and I haven't seen one of those in a week. And there were cats too, and that made me realize I hadn't seen one of them in a week either.

I got buns for lunch. I come by this honestly: my mother started feeding us Chinese bakery buns before I can even remember, and I loved them. I've eaten them my entire life (not as much when I lived in Georgia), so coming here and having them available on every corner and in every MTR station is kinda awesome. And generally they're better than what you get in Toronto (price is about the same here or slightly higher).

What I took to be the centre of Tai Po is a pedestrianized square lined with a huge variety of very active stores and booths. It seems to serve as a social gathering place, and half-a-market: I actually quite liked it.

By wandering about in no particular hurry and following the occasional sign, I eventually found the Hong Kong Railway Museum. Not something anyone should rush to see (it's small and only mildly interesting), but nice if you're there ... and points out that the MTR puts Toronto to shame as they started later than us, have more track that works more efficiently, and they're still adding track. At least Toronto is building again.

The only other thing to see in Tai Po (according to my oh-so-reliable Rough Guide) was the Man Mo Temple. A large number of dangling conical coils of incense filled the air with an amazing amount of smoke. It's a weird space: small, and it felt like a cross between a temple, an incense store, and someone's living room. Memorable and fun.

As I've mentioned, bad English in print is actually quite uncommon here. But t-shirts are always a good source, and I saw one today that declared itself to be "Original & Authentig" (sic).

photo: seen at the 10,000 Buddhas Temple

Green and purple shaded plant at the base of a tree