Two typhoons and a cuppa
The first typhoon hit 18 hours after our arrival in Hong Kong. The streets were close to deserted.
Over the five days we spent in Hong Kong, there were two typhoons in total with an additional day of very rainy weather. As committed tourists however, my brother and I weren't having any of it. We only had four days to discover all of Hong Kong (one day was set aside for Macau) - no time to waste hanging around in our hotel room.
I said 'hit' but luckily, the typhoon passed Hong Kong with just enough distance to allow for the ferry between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island to continue business as usual on our first day. Unlike the fourth day, when everything shut down. Even the malls. I think that's when you know things are bad.
There was one place, in particular, we'd decided we needed to visit. A place a friend had recommended, located on Hong Kong Island. As we were based in Kowloon, we were happy to hear the ferry was still running.
We were very excited to take the ferry too, even if it seemed a bit dodgy given the weather. Rain slapped our faces. It soaked through the 'waterproof' layers of our raincoats. Our shoes flooded and we were drenched to our underwear. This was before we even got onto the boat. What a relief it was to find a little shelter under the ferry's roof, as it steered steadily into a thick wall of blurred deluge.
Here I must steal a paragraph to devote it to the ferrymen: We really liked the ferrymen! Probably because our granddad was a sailor and a very jolly, hard-working man whom we'll always love fiercely and the ferrymen reminded us of him. And because I, for the first time since arriving, felt like I was experiencing the character of this city, which, for the previous hours, had been eluding me. I'd had no idea what to expect from Hong Kong prior to visiting, but until that point, the metropolis had seemed like a business driven, dense place without much else to it and where its beauty, assuming it existed, was hard to find. Amongst the ferrymen, crossing Victoria Harbour, I found it for the first time. A realm removed from the impersonal seeming bustle.
By the time we got to Hong Kong Island, shallow currents were gushing down the streets. We waded through, mentally prepared to break into a swim at a moments notice. The one umbrella we had to share between us, was more a psychological charade than an actual efficacy. Yet, we persevered with steady steps and unwavering determination!
All for a cup of tea.
Yes, for tea. The recommendation we were following up on was that of a tea place named Teakha. Apparently, it served some of the best tea in town and - BY GEORGE! - were we going to have a cup. Even if it meant arriving there looking like drenched poodles. Never have my brother and I felt more British. And I dare say we shall never so again!
Following our offline google map route, we came within 20 steps of the place only to then spend another good hour or so wandering around in circles looking for it. We even managed to lose each other.
Then, at long last, my brother found it. This was at the point where we'd lost each other briefly and I was looking for him. Calm on the outside, semi-frantic on the inside, trying to keep it together by trying NOT to imagine him being dragged into a car with black tinted windows by the local triad - at that moment, and quite out of character might I add, I was taking my commitment to being, acting, and thinking like a tourist very seriously you see.
Thankfully, he wasn't far, un-kidnapped and able to guide the way to Teakha, where we stepped inside out of the rain. And here, ladies and gentlemen, is where I found Hong Kong's beauty a second time that day. In an instant, the city opened up to me fully, or I to it - probably a bit of both. Almost twenty-four hours after landing, I'd arrived!
Because not only was everything about Teakha even better than promised, it was, most importantly, cosy. I could suddenly imagine living nearby and coming here to do work or meet friends. The dreary, overcrowded and undersized apartment blocks surrounding us sprung into life: Plant pots lovingly decorating a tiny balcony; a washing line revealing a family with at least one toddler lived behind that window; oh the parties and first kisses to be had on that rooftop over there!
The rain outside turned into a soothing melody, homemade cakes from underneath their glass domes beckoned and the exotic scents of different teas embraced us. The lovely ladies behind the counter greeted us with warm, welcoming smiles - not devoid of an affable touch of amusement at our aquatic appearance. To this day I wonder how the other guests in the tea house had managed to keep their clothes, and selves so much dryer (than us).
Once we'd peeled off as many of our soaking layers as was possible whilst remaining decent in public, we couldn't wait to order! My brother and I dived into the menu.
I opted for the iced masala chai. My brother went with the keemun milk tea with red date honey. We both ordered a slice of green tea cheesecake, this wasn't even a choice, it was destiny.
For the next three hours, Teakha became our home away from home. I got my sketchbook out, my brother found a little booklet on the windowsill with different and amazing sounding events going on in the community. Because we're enthusiastic time-optimists, we momentarily planned to go to all of them, especially the 7 a.m. rooftop yoga session the next morning. I'll leave you guessing whether we succeeded or not. We both made the green tea cheesecake last as long as possible, delaying the inevitable end of its pleasure, and I attempted to calculate exactly how much of their chai tea I would be able fit into my carry-on. I fancy myself somewhat of a chai-tea connoisseur and this one made it onto my top three list (amongst the chai tea from Chai Ovna in Glasgow (Scotland) and Dylan's Toasted & Roasted in Old Manali (Himachal Pradesh, India).
When people ask me if I'd like to visit Hong Kong again, my answer is: "Of course! I have yet to try Teakha's Chai Cheesecake, Ippodo's Matcha Soy Latte, Caramelised Lemon Iced Tea, Sea Salt Yin Yang, Homemade Pancakes served with bacon and caramelized bananas, Honey-braised Steak Sandwich, Matcha Linguine with Sauteed Mushrooms and Poached Quail Egg, Esther's Banana Upside Down Cake, Pineapple Pound Cake with Macadamia Nuts ...
What they're asking is if I'd like to go back when the weather's better so I can see all the sights it prevented us from seeing the first time around. What I'm saying is that I need to go back so I can work my way through Teakha's entire menu (and take the ferry back and forth again a few more times).