1. Hong Kong

February 12, 2021 Aga Season 1 Episode 1
1. Hong Kong
1. Hong Kong
Feb 12, 2021 Season 1 Episode 1

In the inaugural episode of "TravelZoom" we are going to Hong Kong.
The host, Aga Skoczypiec,  interviews Pete Spurrier, the author of an exceptional series of guidebooks to Hong Kong. Pete takes us on a tour through Hong Kong's colonial past, and tells us how the city has changed since he moved to Hong Kong in the early 90s.

She also talks to  Jowett Yu, the Executive Chef of Ho Lee Fook - a popular contemporary Chinese restaurant in Hong Kong. Jowett shares his thoughts on Cantonese cuisine and the gastronomic scene in the city. 

Finally, a trip to Hong Kong would not be complete without experiencing its many islands - over 250 to be exact.  We visit the vibrant island of Cheung Chau to hear how an unexpected discovery led to Hong Kong’s first and last Olympic gold medal.

You can find more episodes on:
 and you can find Aga on

Show Notes Transcript

In the inaugural episode of "TravelZoom" we are going to Hong Kong.
The host, Aga Skoczypiec,  interviews Pete Spurrier, the author of an exceptional series of guidebooks to Hong Kong. Pete takes us on a tour through Hong Kong's colonial past, and tells us how the city has changed since he moved to Hong Kong in the early 90s.

She also talks to  Jowett Yu, the Executive Chef of Ho Lee Fook - a popular contemporary Chinese restaurant in Hong Kong. Jowett shares his thoughts on Cantonese cuisine and the gastronomic scene in the city. 

Finally, a trip to Hong Kong would not be complete without experiencing its many islands - over 250 to be exact.  We visit the vibrant island of Cheung Chau to hear how an unexpected discovery led to Hong Kong’s first and last Olympic gold medal.

You can find more episodes on:
 and you can find Aga on

Pete Spurrier  0:04  
It's crowded, it's busy, it's humid,

Stephanie Chow  0:07  
efficient. No matter what problems you have, you can solve it in lightspeed.

Pete Spurrier  0:11  
It's a place of surprises. It's a place that people don't expect. This mountains, this islands that are bays and reverse beyond the city.

Jowett Yu  0:20  
It's dense, it's chaotic. 7 million people squeeze in these tiny space, there's nowhere else in the world that looks like this.

The Host - Aga Skoczypiec  0:31  
Today, we're going to Hong Kong. If you've ever been to Hong Kong or heard anything about it, you will likely know it is one of the most densely populated places in the world. With the population of seven and a half million. Hong Kong has the largest number of skyscrapers of any city, a staggering number of 9000 high rise buildings. But let's take a brief look at this history. Hong Kong started as a small fishing village, and it later became an international trading port and Financial Center. Today, it is a special administrative region of China. But until 1997, it was a British territory. How can British you ask? Well, in a nutshell, it all started with the Brits exporting opium grown in India to sell it in China. They use the profits from the sale of opium to purchase such Chinese luxury goods as porcelain, tea and silk. These products were of great demand in the West. opium though, led to widespread addiction in China and was causing serious social and economic disruption here. China's attempt to suppress illegal opium trade resulted in the first Opium War between Britain and China. Britain emerged victorious. And in 1842, China ceded Hong Kong islands to Britain. So how was Hong Kong when the British first arrived,

Pete Spurrier  1:53  
the geography of Hong Kong is just a mountain range, which is basically submerged in sea. So when, when the British came in, decided to build a city here, and there was no flat land, they had to make it by reclaiming it. So you'll find that every piece of land which has tall buildings on it is new. And that's why the land is so expensive, because it's all been created by human effort. Because it's unplanned. It's steep hill science, it's hidden deep valleys, which is difficult to build on, at least in the past. So we're lucky in a way that the early colonialists couldn't build on these hillside lands. So we've still got them today.

The Host - Aga Skoczypiec  2:32  
And this was Pete Spurrier, an author and publisher, known for his series of guidebooks he's written about Hong Kong. So how was Hong Kong when the British first arrived, the local population was merely seven and a half thousand people, many of whom lived on boats. Under the British Hong Kong developed, and by 1941, it was already a large metropolis of 1.6 million people. That year, Japan occupied Hong Kong during the Second World War, food shortages impelled many residents to flee to mainland China, and the population dropped by more than half. After the war, though, Hong Kong soon experienced an economic boom, becoming home to a multicultural international community. China regained control of Hong Kong in 1997, under the so called one country two systems' policy, it meant that city would continue to enjoy a high degree of autonomy, including its own government, currency, and independent judicial system for a period of 50 years. That is until 2047. However, the transition so far has not been without its challenges. While the political situation at the moment might be somewhat complicated, Hong Kong is still one of the most unique cities in the world, with this breathtaking skyline, verticality of its architecture, its bustling streets, and street markets, and delicious street food. There is a lot going on in the city. But Hong Kong isn't just the skyscrapers. About 40% of its territory is covered by beautiful country parks, with diverse ecosystems, remote beaches, and hundreds of kilometers of scenic hiking trails. And here comes Pete again.

Pete Spurrier  4:25  
Before the city was built, it was just mountains. When you go out to the older villages now and they are in the mountains, that's the only place they can build them. And because it's mountainous, a lot of that land hasn't been built on. That's why you're able to keep 40% of the land as Country Park. Because you look at the map of Hong Kong, it looks quite small, right? But actually, it's not. It's very complicated. It's all hills and valleys and forests. So it's very dense, there's a lot hidden in it. So to my surprise, I'm able to make a new route find new routes of hiking almost every month.

The Host - Aga Skoczypiec  4:57  
There is something for everyone here as you can imagine we have a lot to cover today. So let's get started.

Brian Chung  5:04  
This is TravelZoom, a podcast which explores places beyond the surface. Here's your host, Aga .

The Host - Aga Skoczypiec   5:13  
So Pete, I'd like to start by asking you, how would you describe Hong Kong in a few sentences to someone who might not be familiar with the place?

Pete Spurrier  5:21  
I think it's a place of surprises. It's a place that people don't expect. I think when people first hear about it from overseas, they just expect tall buildings stockmarket busy streets. But when you come here, you find it's a lot more than that. There's mountains, there's islands, there are bays and rivers beyond the city. And it's a place which you can spend, not just your whole holiday exploring, but actually months and years if you decide to live here, because actually, when I arrived in Hong Kong, I knew nothing about it. The only image in my mind that I had of Hong Kong was martial arts, Bruce Lee films, plastic toys, when I was growing up in England, in the 1970s, if you turned over any toy car, it said made in Hong Kong on the bottom, that was all I knew.

The Host - Aga Skoczypiec  6:02  
So Pete, you've been living in a place for quite a while. And I would love to hear your perspective about how Hong Kong has changed and evolved over the past 27 years.

Pete Spurrier  6:14  
Okay, when I came here, it was 1993. That was four years before the handover. And there was a lovely energy in the air, actually, because people knew one arrow was ending, and another one was due to start. And there was a sort of crackle in the air, no one knew what the future would hold on. When I look back at that time. Now, I remember thinking in 1993, but 99, seven was so far away. And what a shame, I wouldn't still be here to see it. Because I only thought I would be here for a few months. I came here just by accident. After a trip across Asia. Hong Kong was a very good place to find work, settle down for a while, find a job, make some money to carry on traveling. I thought I would do that for two weeks, then maybe two more weeks, or then a month, then this is a lot of fun than two more months. Oh, I think I've met so many interesting people. I'll stay another month. So I never thought I would be here to see the actual handover. And now here we are in 2021. I'm still here. But I don't regret that at all.

The Host - Aga Skoczypiec  7:08  
You really didn't intend to stay longer than then few weeks.

Pete Spurrier  7:11  
Not at all. But I got sucked in Hong Kong quite quickly. I must say my first impression. I didn't think I would enjoy it. Because you know, Hong Kong, it's crowded, it's busy. it's humid. When I arrived. It was in September. I didn't know yet but a typhoon was coming in. So you had that feeling in the air of air pressure, making your clothes stick to your skin. There was almost like steam was rising from the harbor, it was so hot. So I thought well, this is not a very comfortable place. I won't stay very long. But then I got jobs. And he started socializing with the people I was working with. And it was a great place. And I thought that's pretty cool. There are people here not just from Hong Kong, but from around the world as well from Asia and from Europe. It taught me that Hong Kong is a real meeting place where you can meet people from everywhere. And I think it's always been that way. It's not a new thing. Hong Kong has been a meeting place for cultures from for at least 200 years. And it was for me it was just a lucky accident to discover it. The British have been here for 200 years or so. But Hong Kong is not just a place where the native Chinese met met the colonial British. When the British arrived. The Portuguese were here already. Because they've been in Macau for 200 years prior to that. The Arabs have been trading by ship up the Pearl River st Rita Kwan Zhao. Prior to this, when the British came that was followed on by people from South Asia, today's India and Pakistan. People came from there for as part of the Army or as or as business people. And so you'll find that a lot of Indian and Pakistani families have been in Hong Kong, since then, for sometimes six or seven generations, which is actually longer than many Hong Kong people because a lot a lot of Hong Kong people, their parents or grandparents came here from China in the 1950s or 1960s. So there's a lot of complexity to Hong Kong's multicultural makeup, though you don't know when you when you first arrive.

The Host - Aga Skoczypiec  9:01  
Let's talk a little bit about the Heritage Preservation. When I look at the picture of Hong Kong from mid 20th century or so it looks quite different. Obviously, it looks different. But my impression is that not that much has been preserved. You wrote the entire book about heritage and what's left of it in Hong Kong. So can you perhaps talk a little bit about how much there is? 

Pete Spurrier  9:26  
Yeah, unfortunately, there's not very much. Not very much built heritage left. And the reason for that is just what we were talking about earlier. All the land here that's been built on is mostly reclamation. And so there's a limited amount of it. When you want to build something new, you've got to either reclaim more land or demolish what's standing on the land already. So when you look back at photos of Hong Kong from the 1800s, it almost looks like Venice, or something it looks like some grand European city with Stone Architecture, colonnaded buildings, three story mansions. On the Waterfront. And wouldn't it be lovely if that was still here today because in many cities, even in Asia, you can still see that kind of architecture. But in Hong Kong, there's just so much. There's so much of a limit on land that whenever you want a new building, you've got to knock the previous one down. I think what you find now is that a lot of young people in Hong Kong are quite interested in heritage, which is great. And I think that's partly because they realize so little of built heritage is left. So what is left now, probably will be preserved because there's so little of it, and it's got a greater cultural value. But when you look back at those photos of old Hong Kong, it's sometimes very sad because you would love to walk down those streets, walk into the old General Post Office, or the old princess building, which was a three storey colonnaded marble confection. It looks wonderful. But in places like Penang and Malacca, elsewhere in in Asia, even Macau, a lot of that is still standing. Because the land is less valuable. There's less pressure on the land in Hong Kong, were crammed into this little piece of flat land between mountains on two sides of the harbor. And that land is so valuable, people just have to build on it.

The Host - Aga Skoczypiec  11:20  
So you're still a serious hiker?

Pete Spurrier  11:22  
Yeah, every week, I go somewhere. Now, I've been been lucky enough to write about hiking as well. I still write a magazine column every month now about hiking. And I've been doing that since 2006. So I've got to find a different place to hike every month to research those books. I walked those long distance trails. I think I walked about 500 miles just to research the first book. But it was a pleasure. I I do that on my day off anyway.

The Host - Aga Skoczypiec  11:48  
Are there any stories that you can remember off the top of your head around those places that you just mentioned?

Pete Spurrier  11:54  
Oh, yeah, I mean, I've been hiking in Hong Kong since 1993. So I've sometimes got into scrapes, I've been chased away by wild dogs. I've met Cobras on the trail and then had to run away from those were the thing that sticks in my mind, which was actually quite educational for me as well is that I went hiking. It might have been 1995 during a typhoon, but I had one day off. So I thought I'm going to make the most of it. I'm going to go out on the mountains. I went out into the Northeast new territories, just quite remote, quite a bit takes you a long time to walk there. It was heavy rain, don't mind. But I slipped down a hillside into a valley. And because the rain was so heavy, my hiking was very slow. And it started to get dark. And I thought oh, well, I'm not going to get home to Calvin tonight. But on my map here, there's a village. So I'll just knock on a village house door and say to somebody, you know, sorry, I'm stuck here and lost here. Can I sleep on your floor? Pay you some money or whatever. So I headed to that village. And I was walking walking through the through the forest in the dark in the rain. And I thought where's the village? I mean, on the map, it should be here, right? And I looked around me and I saw the ruins of houses. And this was the village. It was in ruins. Nobody had lived there for 30 years. Yeah, but it was still on the map, right. And in these days, you didn't have phones or anything. So I was just going on a paper map. So I had to sleep in this ruined village in the rain all night. Which is fine, isn't it? It's just rain and it wasn't cold. It's Hong Kong. This was in the summer, summer typhoon season. But as I was looking for a place looking for shelter, just to sit under, you know, the roof of a religious temple or something, I suddenly saw a giant spider on the wall in the size of my hand I've never seen before. And then another one and then another one. And this village was just infested by hand sized giant spiders. I don't particularly like spiders. I especially don't want to spend the night in a ruined village full of them. But I had to. So I was so jumpy about these, these giant spiders crawling on me in the night that I didn't sleep. You know, I just sat on this. On the wall, this temple watching the rain pouring to the forest until the sun came up. And then when the sun came up, I thought okay, now it's time to walk back the way I came. But I couldn't because the rain had come down to such an extent. The valley was now swampy. The hillside was slippery. I couldn't get back up the hill. And I was supposed to be at work right this morning. So I ended up pulling myself up to the hillside on trees and coming down into another Valley, which was also abandoned. There was another ruined village there and then around the coast to another valley with another village. So isn't it strange, you know, because these places are beautiful valleys with beaches and seas. You know, you can be fishermen here or you can be farmers, no roads to them obviously. And then ended up walking around the coast until I found a village which had people living in it. And then there was a phone box. So great a phone box. I had a coin on me. So I called my boss in the restaurant and said oh I'm so sorry. 24 hours late for work or whatever. He said, You better have a very good excuse. And I told him and he thought it was hilarious. He was laughing. So I kept my job. But it did teach me that in the new territories, there are these remote places where you can find abandoned villages. And that's fascinating in itself. And I looked into it after this. And I found out that these places were very busy until the 1950s and 1960s. They were full of farmers fishermen. But then the economy changed. You know, Hong Kong's economy changed to be more concentrated on manufacturing. Suddenly, there were factories in Kowloon , making shoes and plastic toys, and whatever. And that was better money. So people migrated from the villages to count in for work. And then even further, sometimes they went to Manchester or Melbourne or San Francisco to open Chinese restaurants. They thought they'd come back after making their money, but they didn't. So they locked their village house door, and never came back. And now you can go to these villages, they're still there. Usually, now the front wooden door has fallen in the rain has got into the house, then the wooden rafters start to rot the roof falls in, then the walls fall in, then you'll often find that it's just the door left the stone archway of the door. But before the house collapses, you can often find family photos on the wall, wedding photos, even letters from home in the cabinet, sentimental things that you think people would take with them when they leave our house, which sort of says to me that they never intended to leave forever. They always intended to come back. But life being wanted to use their plans changed. And these places are now just these villages and houses are just slowly melting into the jungle. Sort of sad thing so you but also very fascinating.

The Host - Aga Skoczypiec  16:41  
based on what's left, what would you recommend for anyone to visit

Pete Spurrier  16:46  
was if anyone's interested in heritage, then the new territories is probably the place to go. Because that was less developed. The city started off on Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. So there's always been more building and demolition and more reclamation and more demolition there. But the new territories was developed a bit later. So if you go a bit north north of Canada, and you can find old villages, you can find ancestral homes, all these things which date back to the Ching Dynasty, in most cases. Because of these structures were built by the clan villages, they've usually preserved them quite well. That's not true everywhere. In the new territories, there is a lot of sprawl of village houses in place as well as flat land. But in among those you can find places which have been declared as monuments by the government. So these ancestral halls, these study halls, or villages, and that can be a nice place to visit. So you can do a nice day just roaming around the new territories, maybe starting typo. There's a railway museum of the old railway that used to go to Kent on pictures of old Hong Kong were the new territories, you can take a bus up to Kadoorie farm in on the way to Canton, and then down into containers walled villages with gates gates towers, because in the old days, there were bandits there were pirates in the new territories. People arranged their houses in a grid format with a wall around them for safety, and you can still see that you can do a round trip and come back to Kowloon in the evening. If you're looking for an itinerary on a short trip to Hong Kong, I'd recommend the territories for at least one day doing a round trip from Kowloon . And finishing off in the markets of North Kowloon and other busiest street markets.

The Host - Aga Skoczypiec  18:18  
If you had to choose some of your personal favorites. What would you say?

Pete Spurrier  18:22  
My favorite hikes are the ones that really take you into the wilderness. So particularly Lantau Island, which is the largest island in Hong Kong, but not very developed. And before the airport was built, it was even less developed. But still the mountainous parts of Lantau. You can walk all day and not see anybody. So I love that hike, which goes on the southwest points of Lantau. And you can walk three or four hours. And usually you understand that anyone else for four hours, which is incredible, isn't it? And you can look back in the other direction. And you can see the city right you know, there's 7 million people there. But on your walk for hours, you didn't see another soul and to me that's a lovely change, which you can enjoy. And there are similar ridges in Kowloon north of Kowloon and the new territories particularly in the northeast, there's a there's Pat Sin Leng, which means the ridge of the eight Immortals. It's eight peaks in a row. It's actually more than 8.  I think it's 10. At least it feels like it when you walk it. It's when you're up there, you can see so much. You can see all the new territories around you. You can see it's China, you get these tall grasses waving in the wind. It's very elegant, lovely landscape. And yet you're usually on your own of this teeming city. And I'd also recommend everyone visiting if they're fit enough to climb up line rock. It's a bit of a climb, but if you're in a hurry, you can take a taxi up to shorten paths which gets you halfway up there. And if you then climb up Lion Rock which is just exactly between Kowloon and Sha Tin. You can look back at Kowloon and Hong Kong Island across Victoria Harbour. You get a picture of the whole city in one view really. You got Kowloon below you you can see the railway line coming out of a tunnel below your feet goes down The harbor then you've got Hong Kong. And once you're up there you can get an idea of what the whole of the city looks like. And then walk down the other side and end up in Kowloon.

The Host - Aga Skoczypiec  20:11  
any favorites in the city itself?

Pete Spurrier  20:14  
I would say probably if you're looking at the old Hong Kong district like Yau Ma Tei in the middle of Kowloon, so you've got old buildings like cinemas which which show you how people used to live, you know, before television, everyone went to the cinema a few times a week, or you've got old street markets. You've got the old fruit market, which is still an operation It was built in the 1920s. You can see where that all used to get landed there on the coast, and then sent out to Hong Kong restaurants and shops. You can look at the old temple there in the middle of Yau Ma Tei, which is to the Goddess Tin Hau, the goddess of fishermen. So when that was built that was obviously right on the coast, but now you know you couldn't hit the sea if you threw a stone in the sea is half a mile away, shows you how Hong Kong has changed. And Yau Ma Tei is an interesting place also for looking at old shops, the old trades and that sort of thing. The markets open up in the evening you can that you can sit on the street and eat something. It's a nice district for walking around. Sheung Wan is similar, Wan Chai. These old parts of the city are always quite interesting.

Brian Chung  21:13  
You're listening to TravelZoom here's your host, Aga Skoczypiec.

The Host - Aga Skoczypiec  21:19  
One of my favorite places in Hong Kong is an island a 35 minute ferry ride away from the city called Cheung Chau. With no motor traffic Sandy swimming beaches, down to earth seafood restaurants and stunning views on the south side of Hong Kong Island. It's a perfect weekend escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. The island is also home to traditional temples, and a natural cave, where according to legend, the famous pirate Chung Po Tsai kept his treasures. No treasures were found in the cave. But there are locals here with pirate like unconventional nature. One of them is Mr. Lai Gun. Mr. Lai is 76 years old. He was one of the first wind surfers in Hong Kong. In the mid 70s. He set up a windsurfing center in Cheung Chau, and this center played an important role in developing local windsurfing. talent, including

Lee Lai Shan was born on this tiny island of Cheung Chau. She won an Olympic gold medal in windsurfing in Atlanta in 1996. It was a historic event because it was the first and last Olympic medal for Hong Kong. Before the handover to China in 1997. Lee Lai Shan took her first windsurfing classes under the watch of Mr. Lai. Mr. Lai is still running the windsurfing center Today, more than 45 years after its opening. He and many of his friends who started windsurfing, back then are still regulars here. Despite their age, they are in great physical shape and are still windsurfing. And I'm serious when I tell you they're going in it's pretty strong going on water, and after windsurfing, they normally enjoy a solid beer session and have a good laugh together. When it's not when they they might skip windsurfing altogether, and move directly to be a drinking, chatting and laughing. It is quite a special place and I am sure if you had a chance to meet them. You would also find their attitude to live very refreshing. So let's go to Cheung Chau and see what else we can find out.

Stephanie Chow  23:27  
Hello, my name is Stephanie Chow. I'm the volunteer club manager of Cheung Chau windsurfing center and also I happen to be a chef owner of an Italian restaurant on Cheung Chau - Choco Duck

The Host - Aga Skoczypiec  23:39  
For family and friends you are called Choco, actually?

Stephanie Chow  23:42  
yes friends call me Choco

The Host - Aga Skoczypiec  23:44  
Is that okay, if I call you Choco? 

Stephanie Chow  23:46  
Yes, please.

The Host - Aga Skoczypiec  23:47  
Can I also ask you what is your Chinese name?

Stephanie Chow  23:50  
My Chinese name is a little bit complicated. It is T...?

The Host - Aga Skoczypiec  23:55  
I'll stay with Choco if that's okay. Listen, I've been doing a little bit of research. And it seems like the first windsurfing gear was mass produced in California sometime early in the 70s. Of course, this is long before internet and the word didn't spread so fast back then the trends didn't go around so fast. So I'm just trying to get my head around how, in the early 70s this first windsurfing gear ended up in that small island of Cheung Chau and triggered all that movement and windsurfing community, then can you connect the dots for me, please?

Stephanie Chow   24:31  
It's a fantastic story. So as you said during the 70s, the windsurfing gear is was invented. I think it's 70 for a very young rich man living on Cheung Chau. One day he ended up at the City Hall and seeing that there is a boat show.  So this gentleman went inside seeing all these sailing boats and then he saw a set of windsurfer and he talked to himself What the hell is that? He bought a set without any instructions. coming along in the package, you just send it back to Chung Chow. So what to do with it? He went to the beach and then talk to some lifeguards. The lifeguards opened the box, didn't know how to do it. So the gear eventually ended up in the warehouse of the lifeguard station for three months. And then one day, a sailing boats came to their beach. A group of Westerners one of them they he was windsurfing. So the lifeguard paddled out with the kayak rushed to the gentlemen. So so so can you help me can you teach us Can you tell us something about the windsurfing gear, what to do with it? So that's how they started.

The Host - Aga Skoczypiec  25:37  
That's quite a story. You're a windsurfer yourself. Is that true that when it's windy, don't open your restaurant.

Stephanie Chow  25:45  
Actually, I copied the windy days off practice from a Greek restaurant. 20 years ago, Dominic and I my husband, we went to Greece. That was our first oversea windsurfing trip. So the next day we went to the restaurant that we wanted to try, we saw a sign at five o'clock. Sorry windsurfing try next time. And then we were so surprised, because we Chinese, you know what's more important for Chinese money, work to support yourself to support your family. And then suddenly, there is another group of people, you know, to put leisure in front of making money. Wow, that's so amazing.

The Host - Aga Skoczypiec  26:28  
I've got another question, actually about our legendary Mr. Lai here, and his group of friends who are all right now over 75 years old, just in such great spirits and really good physical form. What do you think is their secret? And what do you attribute their great condition to?

Stephanie Chow  26:48  
One of the reasons is that Mr. Lai is leading a very simple life. Although these gentleman's they were born during the 40s, almost at the end of World War Two. So actually, their lives at the time were very harsh, and they are used to hardships. They are diligent, and they have simple minded, they're always thinking about work, and then they think about relaxing, so they're not manufacturers distracting them. They always laugh, no matter what happened. They always laugh, they have wind, and then they wind surf, they come back, they drink, they laugh. If there's no window, say, hey, there's no way less drink less laugh. So as simple mind that leads to a healthy life. I think that's very important.

The Host - Aga Skoczypiec  27:32  
I asked Mr. Lai, and he's 77 year old body Mr. Poon, what they thought. Were here in the windsurfing center, you might hear some background noise, dogs barking, maybe the sound of waves as well. So I'm here with the legendary Mr. Poon. And I will ask him a few questions. Hello, Mr. Poon. Can I ask you how long you've been windsurfing for?

Mr. Poon  28:01  
I started at the ago of 35. I have been keeping doing this for almost 30 years or so. 

The Host - Aga Skoczypiec   28:13  
Wow, great. Did you go out windsurfing today?

Mr. Poon   28:16  
Yes, I did.

The Host - Aga Skoczypiec  28:16  
 I saw you going very fast.

Mr. Poon  28:20  
I knew I have been doing fine because all the element were there. Blue sky, gusty wind, crystal clear water and above all, my mentality has been prepared. I still had good time today. And I enjoy most of it

The Host - Aga Skoczypiec  28:43  
Do windsurf every day? How often do you windsurf?

Mr. Poon  28:49  
once I see the sun, Mother Nature tells me to pop up instead of staying home reading books. Mother Nature says to me go out and do some exercise and ever since I've been doing that.

The Host - Aga Skoczypiec  29:12  
And you're in a fabulous shape. I must say. I really admire you Mr. Lai, for great balance. You can carry your equipment down to the beach. You go very fast on water. Then you finish the session you have couple of beers, laugh, We I can see you very happy, great spirit. What is the secret do you think of your great physical shape? 

Mr. Poon   29:39  
First thing is the improvement of your mentality in your life. By and large you tend to encounter difficulties one way or the other. If you keep digging into what happened before, you tend to have mentality negative.

The Host - Aga Skoczypiec  30:04  
What's your favorite thing about windsurfing?

Mr. Poon   30:07  
Windsurfing improves you physically, and mentally. While I'm in the sea you feel happier. The excitement drives you to burn away fat in the body. You look at my body? I don't have happy belly in my body. And mentally you look at things more positive in your lifetime.

The Host - Aga Skoczypiec   30:39  
And we are approaching Chinese New Year. So it's going to be the year of the Ox. What do you wish yourself for the new year?

Mr. Poon   30:49  
I wish I can keep on doing the events, simple windsurfing for the rest of my life.

The Host - Aga Skoczypiec  30:57  
I'm sure you will. You're doing amazing. And you're a great inspiration. Thank you so much. 

Cheung Chau is definitely a hidden gem. It's frequently left out of the Hong Kong itinerary. But I do recommend you give it a try if you can. Oh, and there is one more thing before we move on from Cheung Chau. You might have noticed that I asked Choco about her name. She introduced herself as Stephanie Chow. Then she gave me her Chinese name when they asked for it afterwards. But what's going on with all these names? I asked my colleague Jeff Cho to explain it.

Hi, Jeff. 

Jeff Cho
Hi, Aga.

The Host - Aga Skoczypiec   31:41  
Can I ask you what your Chinese name is?

Jeff Cho  31:43  
My Chinese name is Cho Tsz Chun

The Host - Aga Skoczypiec  31:47  
can you briefly explain that habit of adopting Western names by local people.

Jeff Cho  31:53  
This has to do with the globalization trend in the last 20 or 30 years. And as you know, China or Asia as a whole opens up to the Western world and Western culture. More people started learning English and adopting English names to, you know, facilitate the interaction, both for business and personal lives. And in the case of Hong Kong, where I come from, there was an additional factor, which was the British colonial rule. So we were required to learn English in school from a very young age. And since the classes were conducted in English, it wasn't convenient for teachers to always change to Chinese for student names. And so we were expected to come up with a Western name on our first day at school. And obviously, this is more so the case with the foreign native speaking teachers because it's simply too difficult for them to pronounce or even remember the Chinese names. And so the way that we do it is that we will give ourselves a name that we like. And those are usually the simpler ones where we can find in textbooks, just like john Peter, Mary, Susan, and for a lot of people, this is how they got the English names.

The Host - Aga Skoczypiec  33:01  
Thanks for clarifying, Jeff. So I understand you had a different Western name before Jeff, is that right?

Jeff Cho   33:07  
My first English name is Giovanni.

The Host - Aga Skoczypiec  33:10  
And what happened?

Jeff Cho  33:12  
So when I got my first job, it was an internship experience in a hotel. And when I was there in the first day, and then they asked me, would you mind changing your name? I asked him why. It turned out that the general manager was also Giovanni, who was actually an Italian. And so they said to avoid having the same names duplicated, no clashing with the name with the general manager. They said, okay, you have until 5pm today to change the name and so I changed the name to Jeff.

The Host - Aga Skoczypiec  33:48  
We'll be back in a moment. If you liked this episode and want to hear others, hit subscribe, and you will have the new episodes delivered directly to you. When we're back, we'll talk about local cuisine with Joe to one of the most successful chefs in Hong Kong.

Jowett Yu  34:05  
My name is Jowett Yu. I'm the executive chef of Ho Lee Fook restaurant in Hong Kong.

The Host - Aga Skoczypiec  34:12  
Ho Lee Fook is a hip Cantonese restaurant where Jowett reinterprets classic Chinese dishes and flavors, with premium ingredients, modern techniques and a contemporary approach. I asked him about the local gastronomic scene.

Jowett Yu   34:25  
I think Hong Kong remains one of the most dynamic, competitive and international when it comes to cooking. You can find in Hong Kong ingredients and cuisines from pretty much everywhere in the globe. And a lot of concepts are constantly opening and evolving in Hong Kong. And the customers are also pretty educated about cuisines and have a big stake in the city's restaurants.

The Host - Aga Skoczypiec  35:00  
It's true that Hong Kong attracts chefs from all over the world. It boasts the most restaurants per capita in Asia. The city has a rich gastronomic landscape with authentic Chinese and global cuisines, rustic local noodle joints, fine dining, hipster microbreweries and healthy vegan cafes. I'd like to talk a little bit about Cantonese cuisine. From my perspective, it seems that in the West, frequently, Chinese cuisine is put in one big bucket without taking any or very little consideration into local different varieties of Chinese cuisine. So in that context, how would you describe Cantonese cuisine to someone who might not be familiar with it? What's unique about this?

Jowett Yu   35:46  
I think Cantonese cooking rooted in Guangdong Province, that is a region that is rich in abundance of seafood, animals on the land, as well as poetry from the sky. And also in this Pearl River Delta was the rich estuary for fishing. So with this as a background, a huge variety of ingredients to cook from, as well as transportation system to move this amazing ingredients around very readily. The highlight of Cantonese cooking is light in terms of flavors, trying to accentuate the natural flavors of the ingredient itself by mostly a stir frying or steaming as a technique.

The Host - Aga Skoczypiec  36:33  
And what's your best seller in the restaurant?

Jowett Yu  36:35  
I would say definitely the roast wagyu short rib with jalapeno puree and green shallot kimchi. We will sell a lot of this in a night pretty much on every table.

The Host - Aga Skoczypiec  36:45  
If you were to choose three top absolutely must try local dishes or culinary experiences in Hong Kong what would you say? 

Jowett Yu  
I think you definitely have to eat wonton noodle soup because the noodles here are made from a specific technique that employs duck egg and lye water which makes the noodles have a really unique authentic texture. And the origin is from Guangzhou but become a staple of Hong Kong. Another experience I think is really important is going to eat at a Dai Pai Dong in Cantonese is called a big license venue. They're sort of cooking on the street, the kitchens on the street, and there's maybe about less than 30 of those licenses left because they're only passed down through direct plotline and they cannot be resolved. This is the city's attempt to clean up the city. The city doesn't want to allow these licenses anymore. They're definitely a dying part of Hong Kong's culinary history. Another experience would be taking a ferry to the island, whether if you're in Lama Island or Cheung Chau, or going to Sai Kung Pier, and go to the seafood restaurants that have this vast array of live seafood that you can choose from, they take it out of the tank and they cook it for you right away.

The Host - Aga Skoczypiec   38:11  
This is the same Cheung Chau we spoke about earlier. Choco also had some recommendations as to her three must try Cheung Chau culinary experiences.

Stephanie Chow  38:21  
The first one definitely is seafood, we have a long history of being as efficient as help and also as a trading hub. Seafood definitely is the first delicacy that I would recommend when you come to chow chow. And then the second thing that I recommend from chow chow is the different small shops. Because of the unique structure of community, most of the shops are run by the owner and also the owner is the chef. So the food quality is closely monitored. It's about the reputation. And then a third is the mango mochi

Jowett Yu  38:58  
I really enjoy the cuisine here. I think this is the best place in the world to eat Cantonese food, and probably one of the best places in the world to eat Chinese food. The amount of talents and the amount of availability to fresh products really make Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong, especially very unique than anywhere else in the world.

The Host - Aga Skoczypiec  39:19  
So what do you think? Is Hong Kong worth a visit? I certainly think so. This is our show. Thanks for listening. But before we go if you liked this episode, please subscribe wherever you're listening and spread the word about it to your friends and family. We will be back with another episode of TravelZoom in a few weeks. In the next episode, we're going to talk to you and it's going to be absolutely fascinating because the city is incredible. Meanwhile, take care and stay tuned for our next show.

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