Category Archives: Travel tips

Silk-stocking milk tea

Wherever I live (and I’ve lived in many places) I always support local heritage and traditions. Not blindly, only if it adds value or something special to local life.

On Hong-Kong-side, where Gage Street meets Lyndhurst Terrace, you’ll find the Lan Fong Yuen restaurant, which, since the 1950s, has served a drink called “silk-stocking milk tea” from a little green booth just outside its front door.

Lan Fong Yuen

Lan Fong Yuen

The booth, a registered dai pai dong (an outside eatery), is owned by Lum Muk-ho, a man well into his eighties; but government policy does not allow a dai pai dong owner to pass the licence to another person, so someday it will have to close.

From the booth, they sell the “milk tea” to go, but I wanted to check out the restaurant inside. It was smaller than I expected – but very busy – and is frequented mainly by workers from the local shops and offices. Snack-type dishes seemed popular, so I ordered some French toast and, of course, a glass of the legendary milk tea.

However, when the tea arrived, I was reminded of the old saying: ‘If it looks like a duck … then it probably is a duck’. To my eyes, it looked like tea with con-densed milk. It even tasted like tea with condensed milk. So, it probably is.

To say I felt disappointed would be an understatement.

The day Mr. Lum goes to the great restaurant in the sky will be a sad day. But, after he’s gone, I shall not support any effort to save the little green booth.

I’m guessing this booth became a fixture simply because nobody could be bothered to remove it. In my view, it has no real heritage value, and adds nothing special to local life. At the appropriate time, someone should remove it.

I won’t tell you how to get there as I don’t want to waste your time.

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The beach at Pui O

Although Hong Kong has quite a lot of beaches, I think it’s fair to say they usually don’t feature on the majority of visitors’ itineraries. A visit to The Peak? Yes! Shopping in Tsim Sha Tsui? Yes! A day at the beach? No!

However, when the temperature reaches thirty and above (as it did this week-end), where best to cool off but at one of Hong Kong’s beaches?

Digging for clams - Pui O Beach

Digging for clams - Pui O Beach

The busiest bathing beaches are on Hong Kong island: Shek O, Repulse Bay, and Deepwater Bay. But more than a million people live on that island – producing a lot of waste – and I refuse to swim at any of those beaches.

In my view, the best beaches are those furthest away from the conurbations, such as those at Sai Kung, on Lantau, and on the other outlying islands. Getting to them is more difficult, but it’s worth the effort: they are less crowded – and if you or your child accidentally swallows some seawater, you don’t need to worry.

One of my favourites is the beach at Pui O, on Lantau. It’s long and, unusually, made up of different-coloured sands, from white to dark grey, giving it a ‘marble cake’ appearance in places. But don’t let this put you off – it’s completely natural.

It’s also well equipped with lifeguards and shark nets, and it’s busy (not crowded) at weekends with bathers screaming playfully in the surf, groups of young children digging for clams, and teams of older youths playing football on pitches scratched out in the sand; this is a family-friendly beach.

Ooh La La - Pui O Beach

Ooh La La - Pui O Beach

When the heat becomes too much, take a respite in Ooh La La, a popular bar-cum-restaurant overlooking the beach, where you can recover with a good Mediterranean-style lunch and a couple of cold beers.

But if you’re not that hungry, further along the beach you’ll find a fast food kiosk. You’ll also find public facilities including showers, changing rooms and toilets.

HOW TO GET THERE:

  • Take the MTR to Tung Chung.
  • From the Tung Chung bus station, take the 3M or A35 bus. Get off at Pui O Village.
  • Cross the road. Walk down Chi Ma Wan Road. Take a right turn at the small shops.
  • Follow the concrete path across the fields all the way to the beach.

Octopus reduces stress

If you are a visitor to Hong Kong, you’ve probably arrived with a list of things to do, places to visit, and things to buy.

My well-used Octopus Card

My well-used Octopus Card

Well, to reduce stress while you’re here, there’s one thing you MUST buy the moment you arrive – an Octopus Card.

Octopus Cards are rechargeable, stored-value, smart cards used as a payment system, primarily, on the city’s buses, trams, ferries and MTR network. Sadly, they cannot (yet) be used in taxis.

Place the card onto the card reader, wait for the ‘beep’, then proceed; the exact fare has been deducted. When travelling on the MTR, you must ‘beep’ in and (at the end of the journey) ‘beep’ out – but don’t worry, payment is only deducted on the way out.

You can buy an Octopus Card (and add value to it) at any MTR station. There are different kinds of cards for different requirements – just ask for advice at the Customer Service desk. But the purchase price does include a HK$50 deposit for the card.

It can also be used to pay for small purchases in supermarkets, shops and restaurants such as Circle K, 7-Eleven, Starbucks, McDonalds, and KFC – as well as vending machines, photo booths, parking meters and car parks.

No cash, no coins, no hassle, and no stress! Along with about 95% of the population of Hong Kong, I use my Octopus Card for almost everything, and I can go days without spending hard cash (no Scottish jokes, please!)

Oh, one very important reminder! Don’t forget to surrender the card at the end of your stay if you want your HK$50 back.