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Aaand we’re back! Sorry for the delay, we were busy soaking up the rays in Hong Kong, traveling back to Tangshan and getting right to teaching. To get back to the trip, I wanted to re-iterate how much I loved that tea house! The whole culture of the miniature tea pots with various designs depending on the type of tea leaf, and intricate system of pouring and sipping was really fun for me. The really nice clay teapots in China are small and made of red or black-colored clay (typically referred to as purple or red). The most famous clays are called yixing zisha (red clay) from the Yunnan province in Southern China. These pots and cups are so small that I thought they were only for show, but really the traditional style is just somewhat miniature, and only one type of tea is meant to be brewed per pot, because the clay absorbs the flavor of the tea it brews. Also, after many pourings, the dull finish of the pot begins to shine like it was polished. I have been able to sample many types of oolong, pu’er, green, black, white and red tea, but green still remains my favorite. One of the most famous green teas is called Long Jin or Dragonwell, and it has a great, earthy and strong taste. As Laura Jacobs has reminded me, I’m very lucky to have sampled lots of pu’er black tea, because it’s an expensive and somewhat rare in the states. It tastes a little like Thai tea without the milk or sugar. Pu’er is interesting because it is sold in circular “bricks” that increase in value depending on their age. We have seen some bricks of Pu’er that are hundreds of years old and sell for thousands of dollars. Long Jin green tea is completely opposite of Pu’er, as it is considered best when drank during the same season in which it was harvested. Tea has always been a major comfort and source of satisfaction in my life, and I am really enjoying learning all about the different types, benefits, and flavors over here. I’m not much for wine, but am understanding through tea the desire to try all different flavors, types, etc. I hope to purchase my own tea set and bring back lots of different types to host some authentic tea tastings. (Sound like a great fundraiser to anyone else?!)

Lets see, the night after rainy Victoria Peak we took Richard’s suggestion and headed to the Red Pepper restaurant near our hostel/hotel in Causeway Bay. The food was good, but unfortunately my stomach problems came to a head with the spicy cuisine and I kept David and I up until 5am with really serious cramps. We slept in the next morning and I got some herbal chinese medicine that came in little black balls and smelled really strongly of herbs. My stomach hurt for most of the day, but we headed out to neighboring Lantou island via a ferry. Lantau was a pretty sleepy, traditional fishing village, complete with many clammers along the edge of the water. There wasn’t too much to do in the port, so we took a bus to Tai O fishing village, which is famous for its dried seafood and fishing village on stilts. The rows of dried seafood were stinky and a little scary, but pretty interesting to see. There were huge dried squids stretching at least 4 feet, and sadly lots of dried sharks fin. As a result of my stomach situation and sheer disinterest, we didn’t try and of the salty, dried goods, but enjoyed the unique architecture of the quiet, secluded village.

Stay tuned…next up we will recount our adventures in Macau, the Vegas of China!


(Also, the last photo of the “No Hawking” from the IFC building was posted especially for Megan Newhouse.)

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So we are currently in Shenzhen, because tomorrow we fly back to Beijing (boooooo). We had a great time in Hong Kong, and I am so glad that I got to see such a cool town. Anywho, on Wednesday we went to see the Noonday Gun, a big gun that they shoot everyday at noon, carrying on a tradition of the old British Navy. It was MUCH louder than expected and everyone was rubbing their ears in pain after it went off. After that we just headed downtown and did some generic touring of the big buildings, which was cool. We then took the Star Ferry, a very efficient and cheap mode of transportation that connects Hong Kong Island to the mainland and various other islands nearby. Everything we read said this was the #1 thing you have to do if you go to Hong Kong, but it was just a ferry. I don’t really understand what was the big deal. It would be like saying if you do one thing in New York City, you have to take the Staten Island Ferry. We just took it across to the mainland because the museums are free on Wednesdays, looked around the science and art museums quickly, and Her Worship (Erin) was tired so we went back so she could take a nap before the true excitement of the evening.

Every Wednesday night, the only legalized form of gambling occurs at the two racetracks in Hong Kong. The Happy Valley Racecourse is a beautiful horse racing arena in the middle of the city, and every Wednesday the place gets packed for a hot and humid night of gambling. Unlike the ferry, this was an actually noteworthy event, and we were very glad we went. The British loved their horseracing, so when they occupied Hong Kong, they built two racetracks. When the British left, the racetracks stayed, because the Chinese love gambling more than anyone loves anything. In one Wednesday at Happy Valley, more money is bet than in an entire week of horseracing in the UK. The Chinese are OBSESSED with it. Everyone in attendance was frantically reading some sort of horse gambling newspaper that had all sorts of information in it, placing wagers, and then watching the races. The place really exploded when the horses came down the stretch, even in the first few races which are the weaker/slower horses. It was a pretty electrifying experience, and the arena itself is gorgeous. There are skyscrapers surrounding the track, and the stands and track was very nice looking also. One of, if not the coolest sporting venue I have ever been to. It was an interesting mix of Chinese and British people too, yet another example of how gambling really brings the world together. We placed a few bets on the horses that I researched, narrowly missing out on a huge haul in a photo finish where I picked the 1st and 2nd place finishers, but not in the right order. We left down about $4, but it was a very cool night. We wandered a bit, found a great international grocery store, bought a bunch of stuff to bring back, and then took the trolley (just like in San Fran) back to our hostel.

On Thursday we arranged to meet up with Richard Kligler aka St. Baldrick aka the organizer of the St. Baldricks event where I (David) was shorn. We met him at Times Square, a trendy shopping area near where we were staying, then walked through some food markets. Hong Kong (and most of Asia) really likes Durian, a stinky, milky fruit that kind tastes like damp armpit, and dried seafood of all kinds. Needless to say these markets don’t smell too good, especially when it gets warm and sunny outside. We went to Central again and saw the world’s biggest bank vault at the HSBC tower. It was so big it literally had an escalator inside of it! Richard knew a lot about the various buildings so it was nice to hear about the buildings instead of just saying,”Oh look, another huge financial building.” We hiked up past St. John’s Cathedral towards the Victoria Peak Cable Car station. We took the cable car to the top of the 2nd tallest mountain in Hong Kong, which offers extraordinary views of the city. Unfortunately it started to pour once we got to the top, so we only got some hazy pictures of the skyline (we went back though and got some great ones). Richard took us to a great restaurant though, and we had our best meal of the trip (best mushrooms I have ever tasted). We waited for the rain to subside, then headed back down on the cable car.

As soon as we got off the cable car, the rain started again. We quickly walked through a public park/aviary downtown, which was really cool, and then stopped in a tea shop to get out of the rain. This was our first true tea shop experience, and we learned a lot about tea and tea etiquette from Richard. I have never met anyone that knows more about and likes tea than Richard, and we tried 3 different kinds: a pu’er tea, which is a black tea that is put into bricks and gets better (and costs more) with age, a green tea called long jin, and another fruity black tea. It was interesting to learn that the first brew of tea is not drank but instead poured onto the cups and pot to help bring out the flavors. Their is a huge tea subculture that I never knew existed. The rain started to let up, so we left, after Richard showed us one of his favorite restaurants, Red Pepper, which Erin and I ate at later. It was another great meal, making that day the best food day we have had since being in China (in my opinion).

More updates to come….

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