Neon lights. Businessmen in suits walking to the office, phone in hand. Everyone walking everywhere phone in hand. The harbour and The Peak. This is the Hong Kong you’ll see for sure when you visit. Hong Kong is packed with so many things to do and see and eat, it’s easy to forget that it’s actually quite a small place. That has an upside: you can be in an entirely different kind of Hong Kong in less than an hour.
Lamma Island, with its hippie island charm, is a half hour ferry ride from Central. And then there’s the New Territories in the north, where I spent a portion of my childhood. Yuen Long is one of the New Territories towns that you can easily visit if you want to venture out of the tourist and expat areas. It’s Hong Kong on a slightly more difficult mode – the streets are just as busy, but the people generally don’t speak English. Restaurant menus don’t accommodate tourists and Westerners are a rare sight. Also, they have a KFC that serves pizza-flavoured chicken. Just saying.
The easiest way to get there is to take bus 968 to Yuen Long West all the way to the final stop. The fare is 23.4 HKD, use your Octopus card to pay when you get on the bus. If you want amazing views, sit upstairs in the front. When you arrive, all you have to do is remember where that bus terminus is and you can take the same bus on the way back. There are so many things to do, but here are some ideas for a laidback day of strolling around town.
There is food all over the city: buns, dumplings, dim sum, fruit, juice stalls – you will not go hungry. Prices are low and although English won’t get you far, this is a chance to be adventurous and try whatever looks tasty.
Wife cakes from Hang Heung Cake Shop 恆香老餅家
On the “main street” in Yuen Long there’s a small but famous pastry shop that sells one of the best (if not the best) wife cakes in Hong Kong, freshly baked every day. Wife cakes (or sweetheart cakes) are small, traditional pastries with a very flaky crust and a soft, subtly sweet candied winter melon filling. Warning: you will get flaky crust everywhere.
Pork lard rice at Tai Wing Wah
You heard me. Look at that rice. Think it looks plain? How good could that possibly be? TRY IT. Tai Wing Wah is known for serving the kind of traditional cuisine that’s rarely found in restaurants anymore, so there’s a lot there I won’t get into right now. But you have to eat rice smothered in pork lard and soy sauce at least once in your life. You get to mix it yourself: they simply serve white rice and give you a bottle of lard and a bottle of premium soy sauce. Half a spoon of each should do it. LARD UP! Note: only available during late afternoon/evening.
Have a meal outdoors
As soon as you hop off the bus at the Yuen Long bus terminus, you’ll see these outdoor restaurants. You’ll find these throughout the town, and they’re a perfect place to have a beer and some local food and just watch life in Hong Kong unfold.
To be continued…
Hmm. All of this is food. Obviously there’s more to do in Yuen Long, although admittedly nothing is as good as eating pork lard. But let’s talk about that next time!
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