Day #20

“Silently and serenely, one forgets all words,

Clearly and vividly, it appears before you.

When one realizes it, time has no limits.

When experienced, your surroundings come to life.”

 

Some forms of Chinese poetry, and some of their Japanese counterparts, always evoke a feeling of peace in me, which I have found on an RoI (Return-on-investment) basis, to be unparalleled. The poems also sound as if, at the time of their inception, the poet was riding high on some pure, premium quality Green Tea! I, myself, have dabbled previously in both, their poetry and their tea, but this time around in Hong Kong I decided to go all out and visit a traditional Tea House.

This one happened to be located inside the Nan Lian garden, itself a slice of paradise (comes highly recommended for anyone visiting HK). I was alone on that sweltering day, thirsty, looking for a place to rest. As I went in, an attendant came outside to help me out. As she walked me past the empty tables, I took in the sights and the sounds. The place was all wood, far as the eye could discern, dispersed carved panels depicting traditional Chinese people doing traditional Chinese things. The table tops were spic and span, well-polished; you could sense by looking at their design that there was more to them than met the eye. The absence of any other soul in the place made its presence felt. As I chose a seat and settled in, I could feel the masterful plucks of the erhu filling up the air around me. The sound was a heavy and all-encompassing fog, like the settling smoke on a cold winter night.

The server came along with the menu, and as I fished around my wallet to check my working capital, I decided I would go for “the experience” today. I lay my index finger on the top right corner and slid my way down, and settled once I found my drug. It was a Jin Fo Shou tea. A quick google told me that it was a rare form of high quality tea, whose name literally translates to “Golden Buddha Hand”, and which is cultivated exclusively on the below hill. Intrigued is an understatement.

The tea came in a tiny porcelain petri-dish, along with a manual on how to go about preparing it, the Chinese way. Thankfully, the server took pity, and walked me through the fascinating baby steps:

  1. Fill kettle with water from tableside tap
  2. Open secret compartment on table top and place kettle on mysterious looking boiler plate (I will, for now, assume this is the way it worked in ancient China too)
  3. Bring out three sets of cutlery:
    1. A mini teapot to let the tea soak in the goodness
    2. A slightly smaller buffer cup (nope, not autocorrected) whose purpose will be to hold the tea before distribution among various people at the table; this is done so that everyone gets to drink the _exact_ same thing as everyone else at the table. Details!
    3. And lastly, a tiny ceramic cup for your own self. Calling it a cup doesn’t somehow do it justice – let’s call it a “tea holder”
  4. “Warm up” all of these cups with the perfectly boiled water from the kettle (Oh yes, multi-tasking required. Focus, people. Focus!) And drain the liquid in a secret drain right in the middle of the damn table! Chinese old timers can put the Q07 pair to shame, I am sure.
  5. Now using a peculiar looking spatula (wooden, of course) slowly and carefully pass on the tea leaves into the teapot, and let the china from 4.1-4.3 do its job.
  6. As the slightly golden liquid finally reaches your holder, pinch the cup between your thumb and index, take in a whiff from the escaping vapors, taste a sip, and relax.

That tea was a mild conquest of the senses; not an attack mind you. The music, the wood, the *clinks* of the ceramic, the customs. The experience was calming, natural as if I had willingly surrendered my city to these invaders and accepted them as my own..

As I left after what seemed like a few hours, the sun had started its journey downwards, but I was comfortable at my zenith. As I sat down on the nearby wooden bench, my mind raced yet was in no hurry; it hammered out this little piece:

“As my eyes close

My senses open

They soak in the peace

Music flows between them

A sense of calm in the air

Flowing yet still

Bridging the divide

Between the thought and the mind”

 

(I could have sworn they added opioids in that tea, somehow!)

This is a part of a mini-series of independent posts, starting here

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Day #18

I woke up to the sound of banging doors. Assuming it was my niece trying to find and wake up her mamu, I rolled onto my side, hoping she wouldn’t find me now. (Yeah, when in Rome!) I looked at my phone screen: 7 AM; about the right time for me to wake up, but my niece?

Next thing I remember, the door really started to rattle and I could here a siren in the distinct background. This cannot be good. I tore myself away from my bed, moved across the hall, in the direction of the siren. As I got to the gate, I was told that this isn’t a siren. It is an exhaust fan, being operated “organically”; by the howling winds at more than 160 kmph. Welcome to Hong Kong, the land of Typhoon-induced holidays!

As I sat and sipped my tea with a groggy mind, yet to wake up from its slumber, my eyes darted from the breakfast table to the tightly shut window, ever so often. Having lived in places where I had never had the chance to witness one, and being lucky enough to be present in a Level 8 Typhoon was quite a nice happenstance. I didn’t really know anything about their Typhoon grading system, but the number 8 seemed impressive, so… I was impressed. While there weren’t any real worries, but there was that tiny hint of concern in the air. The doors were bolted, windows one step away from being boarded, news reports streaming in about how the typhoon was now a level 9, now a level 10, posts on facebook by witnesses of beaches submerged, winds blowing at 180+ speeds, windows getting smashed, clouds no longer appearing harmless, but rather akin to those deadly icebergs…

Done with my routine, I went to the glass, watching the wind strip away a little bit of grass here, a cable or two there; as the rain hammered and poured below, it was carried away almost horizontally by the charging gusts of air. It was a sight to behold, along with the constant siren-like warnings of the exhaust.

Good day to tuck in.

This is a part of a mini-series of independent posts, starting here

Day #13

This is a part of a mini-series of independent posts, starting here

The dusk is visible in the leaping splashes of what used to be still water, but which I am now involved with in a dog-eat-dog race, as I put forth one arm after the other pushing back my enemy. Talk about savoring my first foray into a swimming pool in Hong Kong! I am going to squeeze a few paragraphs out of this –
yes, I am that happy about the whole deal.

Let me start with the pre-swim prep. After doing (unnecessary/obsessive) online research mining reviews on Hong Kong pools, I was a bit skeptical. Most forums would go on about public pools being crowded and so on. I feared a scenario like this:

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But hey, I am really geared up for the whole deal and how bad can the crowd really be? I am a veteran of the Dadar battlefield and have the scars to prove it. Plus, I mean its been almost 2 weeks since I last tasted chlorine; I rather miss it. All I really wanna do now is suit up and jump in. YOLO. (Well technically, not jump in. Since the pool is just 1.4 metres deep…)

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Anywho, desperation and good sense win over, but as I swipe my Octopus and enter the fairly large Kennedy Town Swimming Pool facility, my steps falter, unsure, as if testing the waters. I become conscious of the fact that I am probably the only Indian guy in the whole place at the moment. I begin consciously trying to be as invisible as possible, hoping to blend in, for some reason, with my predominantly Chinese brothers and sisters.

At the gates of the changing rooms, there is an odd sign which says, roughly, “Anyone above the height of 1.35 metres or older than 8 years old won’t be allowed in the changing room of the opposite sex”. It is one of those things which you know, deep down, that there is some backstory to it. One of the two conditions was surely an addendum and my bet is on the latter. There is absolutely no way, after all, that some tiny dude did _not_ misuse it at some point in the past, and prompted the law-makers to rethink things! 😀

Well, as I enter the men’s locker room, my efforts to “blend in” are rendered futile as I come across my first culture-shock. For the sake of civility, I shall not venture into details, but samajhdaar ko ishaara kaafi hai (A gesture is more than enough to the wise). Takes some time for my eyes to adjust to this new darkness. No one on any forum cared to mention this phenomenon, of course. Thanks, internet!

The first couple of laps are nice and slow, as I stop to smell the roses; not really counting the laps anymore, free/frog-styling, soaking in the warm water and the cool breeze, sighing with content after every lap. Boy, have I missed this. The pool is mildly warm and a little crowded, but reality is way better than expectation. After a few relaxing rounds, I get a little competitive with random strangers, setting arbitrary goals for beating them to the finish (always fun!).

I notice something peculiar after some time in the pool. There is a general lack of body hair on everyone! They have as much hair as would a skinned potato (Nothing wrong with it, of course) I feel like Anil Kapoor from the 90’s swimming among the people.

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Yeah, I know – Disturbing. Now you feel my exact mental state for the next few seconds after becoming conscious of the fact!

As my swimming session draws to an end, I have the pleasure to view the sunset from the quiet, open-air pool deck. As the Sun takes in a deep breath for its long dip in the far off depths of the ocean, it brings down the shutters on an almost perfect day…

Foodie list for Hong Kong

This is my list of personal preferences from trying out different places. The list is under construction. Do keep checking in as and when.

Captain’s Bar – Ginger Ale (Non-alcoholic) + Keep munching on the complementary nuts and chips they give. Trust me. (Also, probably a good place to land a banking gig if you’re into that :D)

Bersola – Deviled Pizza

Jinjuu – South Korean restaurant (As if “South” is really needed here :P) in the LKF area. Tostadas + Bibimbap was a good combo. And try the Spicy Kimchi Mary if in for an adventurous ride

Chilli Fagaara – (Sichuan Chinese) The gastronomical equivalent of a roller coaster. Apt for adrenaline junkies. Absolutely loved it. What I consumed – Krispy Rice, Tofu, String Beans, Steam Rice, Dumplings:

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Fantastic food; Few tips:

  • Whatever you order, specify “mild spicy” to the server (no one likes a hero; bravery and foolishness are first cousins)
  • DON’T attempt to eat any chillis whole
  • Go with a fat wallet. It’s not cheap
  • Order some lychee soda or something cool. You think you don’t need it, but trust me
  • Drink a glass of cold milk before you sleep, if you don’t want open rebellion from your digestive system the next morning
  • Tequila on David – Mexican. Standard fare was pretty good – Nachos, Fajitas, Beans & Rice. Choc lava cake to kill for.