Sunday, March 25, 2018

Roast Duck and a Light Show.


Today, it was the early bird dinner for us.  For some people in Hong Kong, there was still some time left to linger over high tea.  But, we were hungry.  Not only had we spent the better part of the day walking but we had also skipped lunch.

From the botanic garden and zoo, we made our way back to Wellington Street and Yung Kee Restaurant.  Established in 1942, Yung Kee is known for its Cantonese fare and more importantly, its roast goose!  You cannot come to Hong Kong and not have roast goose....no, not a good idea.  Yung Kee's roast goose is special because it is roasted over a charcoal fire.  Charcoal burning is banned by the Hong Kong government so Yung Kee is one of the few restaurants to have been granted an exemption.

I was just Googling to see if I could find out when Hong Kong imposed the ban on charcoal fires and was shocked to find several search results pointing to articles documenting how charcoal burning had emerged as a popular method of committing suicide in Hong Kong.  The articles date back to around 2003-2004.  At first, I thought it was people committing suicide by throwing themselves into a pit filled with burning charcoal....so unimaginable how that would be.  But apparently, people are killing themselves by inhaling the fumes from burning charcoal....similar to carbon monoxide deaths with exhaust fumes from cars.  So horrible.  I would like to think the government ban is to reduce air pollution and nothing to do with lowering the rate of suicides by charcoal burning.

In any case, back to lighter words.  Yung Kee is a very elegant restaurant by any standards.  We walked in, in all our grubby clothes, and were seated a nice table in the main dining room upstairs.  The kitchen and carryout counter as well as a few dining tables are located on the groundfloor.

It was barely 5pm when we arrived and so the place was pretty empty.  Given how many tables the room accommodated, I am glad we did come early because I can imagine just how slow service would be once the room was filled with diners.

Grubby looking or not, I had promised Bro I would splurge on dinner tonight so we would just pick whatever we wanted to eat from the menu.  Not often the poor guy gets to dine in luxury when we eat so he knows a good opportunity when he sees one.  Still, we are both not wanting to over eat so we really didn't order all that much food.


The first thing to arrive at the table were the specialty drinks we ordered per the recommendation of the waitress.  It was hot drink, sweet and flavored with some Chinese herbs and dried longan.  It was actually quite nice. 


The next dish to be delivered was a vegetable dish - baby bak choi topped with tofu skins (aka yuba) and goji berries.  The sauce was unusual for Cantonese dish in that it was milky in color, more like a soup than a sauce.  Perfect for adding some moisture to our rice.



Then the star of the meal arrived - our roast goose.  Since it's one of the most expensive menu items, we only ordered a small portion just in case we didn't like it.  It was accompanied by some preserved soy beans.  Perhaps I'm being too critical but for all the hype, the goose was nothing special to me.  I think the skin could've been crisper.  Perhaps we got served a goose that had been sitting out for a while.  So, in hindsight I was glad that we did not order a larger portion and we didn't even go for a second order of the smaller portion.  Okay, but I can now check roast goose off my Hong Kong bucket list though I will try another restaurant on my next trip here.  I've not yet given up on having that swoon worthy Cantonese roast goose!



Our bill came up to about $75 USD which was not cheap considering how little food we had.  It was for the experience!  Outside, I paused in front of the kitchen window and took a photo of all the roasted goose and roasted goose  heads handing on the rods.


I wonder what they do with the heads - make stock?


By now, the sun had set and dusk was setting in.  It was time to head back to Kowloon but not to our apartment.  I had one more place for us to go to before we could call it a day.

Instead of taking the MTR back to Kowloon, my plan was for us to take the Star Ferry across Victoria Harbor so we had to make our way to the pier.  The same quiet streets we had walked along this morning were now all lit up with neon lights and the sidewalks were filled with people.




There is this wonderful thing in Hong Kong known as The Central Elevated Walkway. It is an extensive footbridge network spanning Admiralty, Central and parts of Sheung Wan, near Victoria Harbor. It basically allows you to walk through parts of the city without ever having to contend with street traffic. It also allows traffic to flow more smoothly because there are fewer delays due to pedestrians crossing the streets.  We noticed the steps leading up to the walkway and since it appeared the walkway was going in the direction we wanted to go in, we decided to take it.  Best idea for walking this part of the city!   There's plenty of signage inside the elevated walkway to guide you.  We just kept our eyes out for any signage reference to the Star Ferry or Tsim Sha Tsui as that is the destination on the other side of the harbor.


As we made our way on the walkway, we had no idea how far we had to walk so occasionally I would peer out the glass window not only to take in sights of the city as night was falling but also to see if I could see the waters of Victoria Harbor.  Water means we would be nearing the ferry pier.  I would say it was about a 20 minute or so walk for us.  Not bad really.  Would've been far longer had we taken the walk on the streets because we would have had to wait at the cross walks for traffic signals to change. 



With our Octopus cards in hand, we soon submerged ourselves into the crowd of people waiting to board the ferry as well.


I vaguely recall the ferry ride from my childhood.  One thing that I do remember clearly is that we were seated on bench seats and there was a breeze flowing through the large open air cabin.  It was the same experience tonight.  It's been at least 40 years since I've been in Hong Kong.  I cannot imagine that the ferries have not changed since then!

It's a very short ride across the harbor.  We didn't have seats near the windows so we didn't get a full view of the lights of either Hong Kong as we left the city behind or Kowloon as we reached the pier at Tsim Sha Tsui.  Nonetheless, it was nice to have taken the ferry rather than riding back on the MTR.  Something different.


Takes just a few minutes for one ferry to empty out before it gets filled up again!



We had arrived back in Tsim Sha Tsui in time for the final event of the day - the Symphony of Lights show that takes place every night on the harbor front.  It's a sound and light show and I read somewhere that about 17 buildings participate every night.  The show was just revamped in December 2017 with a new soundtrack performed by the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra.

I had no idea exactly where we had to go to catch the show so we just walked along the promenade in the direction of Jordan Road which was the direction we would have to go to get back to our apartment.   It  was also the direction that most of the lit up buildings were. 


I know I've written these words countless times already but it was a mob scene here, this despite it being a Sunday night.  I guess no one is in any rush to get home and relax for a few hours before the start of the work week.

We eventually came upon what I would describe as a raised viewing platform.  More people were going up the stairs then down.  Makes sense to stand a bit higher to catch the view so I figured this must be the place to see the light show from.

There was no room to sit so Bro and I stood at the edge of the railing, securing our front row spots for the show.  As I had expected, people would try to squeeze us out so I pushed back everyone except for the one girl.  She was shorter than me so I was willing to give in to her.  My aggressive Asian "no butting in front of me" gene has resurfaced!  We had about 40 minutes to wait before the start of the show.  There was a tall clock behind us so I kept a close watch on time.  I took some photos waiting for the performance to begin.  My zoom lens is a slow lens so it was hard to take photos except for when I was able to rest my camera on the railing.








According to the clock, the show started a few minutes late when the lights began to dance across the buildings that were participating in the nightly event.  Here's a snippet of video of the show which probably lasted for about 10 minutes.  Unfortunately, we were standing a bit too far away from the loudspeakers to hear the music really well.


When the show was over, we were more than ready to call it a night.  In fact, I think Bro would've skipped the show had I not dragged him along.  We had a choice of whether to take the MTR back to the apartment but we realized, once we got onto Jordan Road, that it really wasn't that long a way to go back on foot.  So we walked, along with a million other people, up Jordan Road.  This time, we didn't need a map to tell us how to get back to Temple Street.

 Back in the apartment, I cranked up the air conditioner.  Time to hit the shower and get ready for tomorrow.  We're off to Macau!