I visit an island of peace and green amidst a bustling metropolis.
June 18, 2015
From the hotel, we walked all the way to Causeway bay/Times Square. These are high-end shopping centers that we didn’t even intend to visit. Lucky for us, the MTR Subway station we needed was in the center of these shopping centers, so we got to have a quick look at the area. Our first time figuring out the subway system was a breeze. I had to merely hold my wallet (which contained the “Octopus card,” a fast pass that works on all transportation vessels, as well as various convenience stores and coffee shops) to the turnstile, and I was on my way. The underground area was clean, with people-movers and escalators helping speed the process along. The MTR itself was also exceptionally sterile, and in all our time in Hong Kong, we never had to deal with shoulder-to-shoulder crowds. In fact, most of the time we even got to sit down.
The ride was swift and smooth, and we exited after only one stop.
On our way toward Hong Kong Park, we had breakfast at a cafe inside a posh business building. Here I got something that was on my bucket list and that I was craving: milk tea! I don’t know if it was my excitement, my dehydration, or the quality of the milk tea itself, but I can say that it was definitely the most delicious milk tea that I have ever had in my life thus far.
Bucket list item, check! I also got a fruit cup, which contained various fruits (including dragon fruit) and which really hit the spot on such a hot day
To get to the park from the MTR station, we wound our way in between skyscrapers and over elevated walkways. Busy streets below and reflective buildings above.
Soon, we found signs (in both Cantonese and English) leading us toward our destination.
The park is in the middle of one of the most densely populated places in the world. And yet, peace and serenity are not difficult to come by. We strolled through the park for over an hour, yet only passed a few people.
Tropical flowers were neatly pruned by the side of a paved pathway, and we spotted jackfruits hanging heavily from trees. The heat was oppressive, but shade was easy to come by.
We came across a huge pond, teeming with koi and turtles. The contrast between the viridescent park and the imposing massive skyscrapers was breathtaking.
We wandered around for a while, taking pictures and enjoying the shade. On one side of the pond, we came across a pathway covered by rock, and we stood behind a waterfall that spilled out into the pond.
We came across a Tai Chi garden, which was a walled area of white pillars and minimalist landscaping. A group of women were partaking in a yoga class. A few elderly locals were going through the slow, precise movements of Tai Chi. The garden was absolutely silent.
At the end of the Tai Chi area, there was a large tower with a spiral staircase. Our group accidentally split in two, and we had trouble locating the other half of our party. The man who was doing Tai Chi stopped to ask us what we were looking for, even though he spoke hardly any English. We told him that we were just looking for our friends, but thanked him for offering. 103 steps and many huffs and puffs later, we made it to the top of the tower to see if we could spot our friends from the vantage point. To our surprise, we found them at the top, alongside a gorgeous view.
After climbing back down, we made our way to the Edward Youde Aviary. Completely free of charge, the aviary is a large covered space full of exotic birds.
The entrance had multiple gates of hanging green chains that prevented any birds from flying out. We immediately found ourselves on a raised walkway at canopy level.
Again, this area of the park was exceedingly peaceful. All our time in the massive aviary, we only passed two or three other people, plus some workers sweeping leaves from the path. Birds trilled from branches and from far below. All sorts of songs from all sorts of tropical places. Immediately, we spotted a vibrantly red parrot, perched just below the walkway.
Feeders with papayas, peaches, and other various fruits were hung close to our level. I spotted a massive black bird far below on the ground. Pamphlets and plaques helped us identify which birds were what. By this point, we were profusely sweating, and sunscreen drips made long trails down our arms and chests. We applied an extra coat while watching birds flutter about. Even though the day was young, this was the last coat of sunscreen I applied, and I never once got a sunburn.
Once we exited the aviary, we immediately filled up our water bottles in the first drinking fountain we saw, which happened to be right in direct sunlight, making the water lukewarm. At this point, we didn’t care much, and kept mentioning to each other how it was better for our metabolisms anyway (having 3 Food Science majors and 1 Nutrition major in the group is handy).
From here we made our way back the same way we came, passing the pond and heading back towards the entrance.
Still within the park, we went into the Flagstaff Tea Museum, also completely free. Air condition was very welcome, and we took our sweet time exploring the exhibits.
Tea pots from different Dynasties were displayed behind clean glass. Dried teas on platters, early forms of packaging innovations, and videos on clay-forming were at different exhibits. I felt like each room was pretty bare, but the Museum was definitely worth a gander. Especially with free A/C and free clean bathrooms.
After we motivated ourselves to traverse the humid outdoors, we hopped over to the building next door, the Lock Cha Tea house.
Both Lock Cha and the Flagstaff museum were originally built during colonial times, and had the look to match.
Chinese tea in an old teahouse was surreal. There were what seemed to be about seventy different tea options, and I’m sure I would have been happy with any of them. I chose Four Seasons Oolong, which was white, delicate, and had a fragrant floral note. It was extremely exciting when our waitress delicately poured hot water into the leaves with a rhythmic precision.
Along with our necessary teas, we ordered a few food options. We ordered jasmine balls filled with red bean paste, dumplings filled with shrimp, Chou Chi (dumlings with meat and peanuts), and a taro cake with carrots and daikon. Definitely my favorite meal in Hong Kong. Whether this was because it was really our first, or whether the food was really that good, I don’t know, but it truly was an experience.
After our bellies were satisfied, we left the comfort of the air conditioned tea house for the humid Hong Kong air, and made our way toward the Peak Tram.