Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Lantau Road Trip

"Cows!" we exclaimed at the first sight of wild cows wandering on the road along the southern coast of Lantau. And we felt the urge to stop the car and take hundreds of pictures of them enjoying their lunch on the curb-side pasture. Of course, our enthusiasm soon died down as roving cows became a more common scene than say, taxis passing by.

A couple of weeks ago we took the rare opportunity to do a road trip to Lantau in the restricted area normally closed to outside traffic (unless you live there). I managed to apply for a special one-day pass, thanks for a new scheme by the government to allow a certain number of outside cars in on weekdays in hope of boosting the tourism in that area.

I thought we should make the best use of the pass by making a few stops normally hard to reach by public transportation. We made our first stop at the dam of Shek Pik Reservoir - yup that's where we stopped to take pictures of the cows. It's also a scenic spot with the Lantau Peak and country park right behind the reservoir (on the other side it's the largest prison in the city then the ocean right behind - not bad a view too) The gloomy weather wasn't the best for photos but at least the sky cleared up somewhat after the earlier morning storm which almost forced us to cancel the trip.

And just before we reached our final destination of Tai O, we made a detour to Shum Wat Village, reachable either by walking 2.5 hours from the nearest town (Tung Chung), or a 10 minute drive from the main road down a single lane, steeply downhill and winding path. We sat down at House No 7, where an old lady was operating a canteen-style restaurant (named Cape No 7 after a Taiwanese romantic movie) to serve the hikers and visitors with a simple food and drinks menu. Apart from the usual bowl of noodles, soda and cold herbal drinks (made with wild foraged herbs), she also offered traditional Cantonese sweet soups and oyster omelette. The omelette was great with fluffy texture and slightly burnt edges and filled with baby oysters caught just off the shore right outside the village the night before.

We arrived at the fishing village of Tai O just past 1pm, right on time for a late lunch. A few years ago we came to Tai O for a day trip and enjoyed the dishes at one of the local restaurants called Crossing Boat Restaurant, so this time we went back to the same restaurant and ordered pretty much the same. The deep-fried cuttlefish patty was as tasty as the one we had the last time, with a good bouncy bite from bits of cuttlefish inside and served right off the deep-fryer with the tangy sweet and sour sauce on the side. Other dishes such as roast goose and stir-fried vegetables with shrimp paste were decent as well.

After lunch we took our time wandering on the streets, going through shops selling random homemade goods and other specialty food items (shrimp paste and salted fish are the most popular stuff to buy). The old man working at the famous charcoal-grilled gai daan jai stall was there, so of course we wouldn't miss the chance to have one of those - it's not as crispy as those by the electric maker but it has more a smoky flavor with a batter with a richer eggy taste.

Then we stopped by an artisan café called Solo Balcony inside one of the stilt houses. On weekends and holidays the place got packed but on a random day like this, it was quiet with just a few customers taking the table on the terrace. The café carries quality beans from boutique roasters and offered a good selection of coffee drinks. My cold drip cup using beans from Panama has a light and refreshing body and slightly acidic with a hint of caramel taste. They also offered a few homemade desserts and on the owner's recommendation, we chose their daily special tofu cheesecake. It was excellent with just the right sweetness, wobbly soft and aromatic with the honey pollen on top.

With the typhoon just brushed us by a few days ago with heavy rain looming all week, I was glad that we could make that trip with the sky cleared up a little bit. Now we just need to find new places to have more of road adventures!

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