Hong Kong Island is synonymous with skyscrapers (and stellar hiking opportunities, but more on those another day), but islands replete with traditional temples, colourful fishing boats and three-storey tong laus aren’t far away. Cheung Chau is the third-largest of Hong Kong’s Outlying Islands – the largest and second-largest being Lantau Island and Lamma Island, respectively – and is best known for the Cheung Chau Bun Festival, which takes place annually and attracts hundreds of visitors to the island. Our visit didn’t coincide with this event, but fortunately there’s more than a mountain of red-bean paste buns to this islet.
Hong Kong is towering skyscrapers, colonial relics and ornate temples; it’s also rugged coastline, craggy peaks and beautiful flora. Hong Kong is bubble waffles, yum cha and char siu. Hong Kong is a place I could keep going back to and never tire of.
It was at this point in our trip that Hermione’s Time-Turner would have come in handy: there was so much left to see, but time simply wasn’t on our side. (I’m now treating this as a bona fide reason to return, affordable flights permitting.) After a fruity breakfast of longan (similar to lychee), mango and dragon fruit we set off for Tai Wo to meet Laurence’s aunt for dim sum at Jade Garden. Being a Saturday, it was insanely busy (read: 70 people ahead of us in the queue) so we changed plans and headed elsewhere. Service was slow by Hong Kong standards, but the pineapple buns, barbeque buns, vegetable spring rolls and pan-fried dumplings were sufficiently tasty. All’s well that ends well, as the saying goes. We then wandered round Tai Wo’s market, picking up some fresh mangosteen to eat later.
One of the things I enjoyed the most about our time in Hong Kong was the laid-back routine: feasting on seasonal fruit (mangoes, dragon fruit and lychee), devouring dim sum (which was delicious and reasonably priced to boot) and strolling around Sheung Shui before setting off on the adventure du jour. Adopting a more easy-going approach enabled us to recharge our batteries (since unlike the Duracell Bunny we can’t go at full pelt indefinitely) and made Hong Kong’s sky-high humidity levels and sweltering temperatures that bit more bearable.
By the time we returned to Hong Kong, typhoon season was in full swing. We woke to overcast skies and cooler climes; intermittent bouts of pouring rain gave us some relief from the humidity. With a relatively low-risk T3 typhoon warning, we spent the morning pottering around Sheung-Shui before heading out for dim sum. On our little tour of the neighbourhood, we paid a short visit to Liu Man Shek Tong; this is the ancestral hall of the Liu clan, to which Laurence’s family belong. Strictly speaking, it was closed for renovations but we were allowed in to take a peek.
Eventually the noisy numpty from the neighbouring bunk turned his music off and we were able to get a decent night’s sleep ahead of our final full day in Osaka. Waking up bright and early to accommodate our full schedule, we were such keen beans that we arrived before the Umeda Sky Building had even opened for the day. To fill the time, we picked up a cold drink (i.e. more pineapple tea) from a convenience store and relaxed in the shade. By the time we headed back over to the Umeda Sky Building, it was in the process of opening for the day; a small crowd of eager beavers like us were gathered around the entrance.
Cosmopolitan Kobe was slotted into our itinerary for one reason, and one reason only: Kobe beef. However, our day spent wandering this maritime metropolis taught us that there’s far more to Kobe than its cuisine. Since its brief stint as capital of Japan (lasting a grand total of five months, back in 1180), Kobe flourished as a shipping hub for the island nation until the Great Hanshin earthquake struck in 1995, reducing much of the city to rubble. Today, Japan’s sixth largest city is a cultural melting pot, with more to see and do than we managed to fit into our short day trip.
After a fairly relaxing (by our standards) day in Miyajima, it was time to return to the mainland and head for Osaka – a ferry, two trains and a subway ride further north. In the interests of enjoying our inclusive breakfast, we had a slightly later start to the day. There’s a degree of subjectivity to enjoyed as neither of us were accustomed to consuming miso soup, Japanese pickles or tofu for breakfast, but we did our best (and sought sanctuary in the fruit mixed with jam and yogurt).
After a speedy 7-Eleven-style breakfast, we gathered our things and caught the train to Miyajimaguchi. Upon arrival, we motored over to the ferry terminal, arriving just in time to catch the next JR ferry across to Miyajima. We spent the brief journey – which lasted no longer than ten minutes – on deck, snapping away at Miyajima’s photogenic coastline.
The prevailing image of Hiroshima is that of a city obliterated by the nuclear weapon “Little Boy”, on that fateful summer morning in 1945. Today, however, Hiroshima is far more than that: it’s a city which lives and breathes forgiveness, peace and hope.