Another wonderful day on Hong Kong. Another wonderful, rich adventure. And what I realized a couple of years ago on my trip through Reno played-out here, as well: one can’t seek an adventure without actually having an adventure, and an adventure never looks in my mind the way it finally happens. That is the adventure. That was the adventure, today.
My son wanted to take us to Po Lin Monastary to see the “Big Buddha” that he can see from his dorm room. About two hours each way, it was a long day, but soooo worth the trip…
Afterward, he wanted to take us to a “nearby” fishing village, Tai O, where the smells were pungent; the sights colorful with stark contrasts between the view of the water and the organized chaos of the village; the sounds crisp as fishballs sizzled in oil and cuttlefish steaks seared on the grill; the textures variegated–a tapestry of the rich, local, down-to-earth culture that seeps between the seams of bright colors and metal roofs.
As we walked through the village smelling not only fish, but also pastries and spices, we began to think, of course, about our next meal (NOT because the Dim Sum feast was starting to wear off). We peered in restaurants and looked at menus with no English. We noticed sit-downs and street food and coolers full of soda, beer and water. Then we spied the restaurant across the way with red Chinese lanterns and a full outside deck, and we thought together, that’s the place. The concrete pathway that meandered through the shops and homes seemed endless, but we were sure if we kept walking we would find the way. Turns out that it wrapped so far around the village that we found ourselves back at the bus terminal and not anywhere near where we wanted to be. But we continued.
The conversation that ensued in the dim light of dusk took on a familiar pattern when several people are looking for something. “The restaurant is RIGHT THERE, so we have to go back.” But we were just there and saw nothing. “Maybe it’s through what looks like a house.” Maybe we have to find a walkway between houses. “How can we see it and not get to it?” Finally, Luke started walking down alley-ways between buildings and he stumbled-upon a sort-of promenade. A new, expansive deck along the water past homes and boats where we thought we would find our way. After trying to urge his son to show us the path to where he knew we wanted to go, a local man gave in and attempted himself shouting instructions and gesturing with open arms that we should keep walking, then take a u-turn. And finally we found it. Julia’s Three Lanterns Cafe.
So what to say? The food was solid, and surprising–pizza and beer! Actually a mildly welcomed-relief after such intensely rich, varied food in the city. But sometimes, quite often actually, the magic isn’t in the thing you are seeking, it is in the experience of getting there. So here the magic wasn’t in the food, though good. It was in Julia’s warm enthusiasm for her home, for creating a peaceful experience for people, for inviting others to share in the view and the water, and for her food. The sun had set, the lanterns were lit, the customers had mostly trickled-out back to the city, and so we shared a quiet deck and a memorable evening. She even encouraged Luke to come back and stay a couple of days–she would put him to work, and he could learn more Chinese from her grandmother who speaks no English.
As with all great memories, even if he, or we, never return, the warmth of the moment will live on in our minds. If we had given up on the adventure, it wouldn’t have been one at all. And that is the point of adventures.