Tai Wai to Tai Mei Tuk – Bikes and Barbecues in Hong Kong

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For those of you who don’t know Hong Kong, the region is divided up roughly into several areas.  Firstly, you have Hong Kong Island. This is the main financial area of Hong Kong. It’s got the big skyscrapers and the incredible, iconic skyline. It’s here you’ll find the buzzing hive of the financial district and the homes of the Hong Kong rich and famous, perched up high on the Peak, or down by the sea on the Southside.  Jump on the Star Ferry and cross over to the other side of Victoria Harbour and you’ll find yourself in Kowloon. Attached to Mainland China, this area has a far more local feel. It’s crammed full of people, life, and neon signs, with thousands upon thousands of residential buildings competing for space in the sky. To escape all this, take a Ferry to Lantau or one of hundreds of tiny outlying islands that make up the third area of Hong Kong. Lantau, Hong Kong’s biggest island, is home to the world’s largest seated bronze outdoor Buddha (what a title!), hills, mountains, skraggy cows, and a fishing village built on stilts in the water, seemingly unaware one of the world’s most teeming metropolises lies only 3o minutes away. Finally you have the New Territories. This remote and beautiful region is where we spent a sunny Sunday last weekend. The New Territories take you up as far as the border with China. The area is full of fast growing commuter towns huddled around train stations, tiny ancestral walled villages and miles and miles of hills, hiking and waterfalls.

We hired bikes in the town of Tai Wai. Yanking the rusty seats to the right height, shirtless men in oil stained shorts tied baskets to the handle bars with plastic twine. The route begins by taking you along the river. Old men sat in deck chairs blast music from stereos at the side of the cycle path. Hearing the drums of dragon boats, we pause to watch the race.

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Further along, the pathway opens up against the huge reservoir of Plover Cove. Looking back across the water are the tower blocks we’ve left behind. Looking forward we see nothing but hills. A huge, white, female buddha stands proud on the slopes, towering above the little houses beneath her.

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After about 3 hours cycling in the blistering heat we arrive at Tai Mei Tuk, sweat pours down us. Our faces shine. We buy water from a man with a handwritten sign at the road side and drink it down, grateful and needy. The real treat of the day is still to come.  We say goodbye to our bikes and continue on foot to the Bahia Restaurant Chung King BBQ.

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This place is incredible, yet Hong Kong’s expats don’t seem to know about it. We are the only white faces, the only English voices. We sit outside near water that is bobbing gently with boats. Couples in little yellow rowing boats, drift around the water under brightly coloured parasols. As we arrive, three BBQs, glowing with white-hot coals are brought out to the table by more shirtless men, stomachs rounded over their waistbands. It’s not elegant, but then, with dirty feet and sunburnt shoulders, neither were we. We are given plates and tongs and taken to the fridge. The whole room is refrigerated and full of all sorts of BBQ treats; marinated chicken, fresh mackerel fillets, squid, hunks of beef steak, kebabs, sausages, corn, mushrooms, peppers and mounds of bread, cut and covered in garlic butter.

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The meat sizzles on the BBQ, the skins of the fish turn crispy and start to bubble and hiss. Little pots full of clams are brought out.

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Foil packages are filled with brocoli and mushrooms. We put them on the grill and they steam cook, infusing the vegetables with the taste of soft, sweet garlic.

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We end the meal with hunks of pineapple and bananas, cooked until the skins are black and the flesh soft. We stay, sipping cold beer, until the sun begins to go down and the water turns purple, orange.

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Comments:

  1. Rosalyn Cranham says:

    Sounds like a wonderful day and more successful than when Gilli and I hired bikes. The BBQ looks fantastic, your brother would love it.

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