Two typhoons and a cuppa
The first typhoon hit 18 hours after our arrival in Hong Kong. The streets were all but deserted.
Over the five days we spent in this otherwise vibrant city, there were two typhoons in total. Needless to say it was 'a bit' rainy. But what's worse than getting wet? Correct, wasting time hanging around in a hotel room when you've flown half-way around the globe to discover Hong Kong's culture. At least that's what my brother and I agreed on as we scouted the premises for big bin bags or an umbrella. We found one of each - and were ready to explore.
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. Capitalism conceding defeat to a force of nature is satisfying - but also positively alarming.
Following a friend's recommendation, there was one place on Hong Kong Island in particular, we were eager to find. So we headed to Kowloon ferry terminal.
Given the weather, getting onto a boat might strike you as dodgy. We thought so too as rain slapped our faces, soaked through the 'waterproof' layers of our raincoats and flooded our shoes, and we were drenched to our underwear in a matter of minutes. Especially since this was before we stepped on deck.
But luckily the ferry offered more shelter than the city. My brother and I sat down on one of the wooden benches, as close to the middle of the boat (and as far from the railings) as possible. And watched the Kowloon cityscape dissapear instantly as we steered steadily into a thick wall of blurred deluge.
Fascinated, we watched the ferrymen go about their routine. My brother turned to me: "I have to think of grandad." He said. I smiled and answered: "Me too". I was picturing our grandad as a seventeen-year-old sailor in the royal navy back in the 1940s - as I watched the busy crew, dressed in navy blue and striped collars. And, 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 this 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 of the mainland.
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 between us, turned out to be more of a psychologically beneficial charade than an actual efficacy. Yet, we persevered with steady steps and unwavering determination!
All for a cup of tea.
Hmhm, for tea. The recommendation we were following up on was that of a tea house 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 wet as a fish. 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.
Finally, my brother found it. But this was at the point where we'd lost sight of each other and I was looking for him. Calm on the outside, semi-frantic on the inside, trying to keep it together by 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 and un-kidnapped. We found each other and he lead the way to Teakha, where we stepped inside out of the rain. And here is where I found more of Hong Kong's charm. In an instant, as the sweetness of homemade cakes under glass domes and exotic scents from freshly brewed tea beckoned, the city surrounding us 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 Teakha's menu even better than promised, it was also endlessly cosy. I could suddenly imagine living nearby and coming here to do work or meet friends. The apartment blocks surrounding us, which I had perceived as dreary, overcrowded and undersized, sprung into life: Plant pots lovingly decorating a tiny balcony; a washing line revealing a family with at least one toddler living behind that window; surely there'd been many a party and maybe one or two first kisses on that rooftop terrace over there!
The rain outside turned into a soothing symphony and the friendly ladies behind the counter greeted us with welcoming smiles. They also seemed very amused at the aquatic appearance of my brother and I. To this day I wonder how the other guests in the tea house had managed to keep their clothes so much dryer than we had.
Once we'd peeled off as many wet layers as was decent, we 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 two hours, Teakha became our home away from home. I got my sketchbook out; my brother flicked through a booklet he found on the windowsill with fun sounding events listed which were taking place in the community. Because we're time-optimists, we planned to go to all of them, especially the 7 a.m. rooftop yoga session the next morning. I'll leave it up to you to guess whether we managed to get up that early 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.
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 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).