Friday, February 13, 2009

Cai Laoshi

Tai O is a small fishing village located in a remote area of Hong Kong's Lantau Island. To get there, you take a bus that winds alongside beautiful beaches and over the top of narrow mountain passes.

The reward at the end of this mildly harrowing journey is a collection of houses built over the water on stilts. In the middle of Tai O, there is a main street that caters to the fairly small number of tourists who pass by, with vendors selling dried sea creatures and other local specialties.

One afternoon, we found ourselves wandering out past this little strip, into the middle of the residential part of Tai O, which featured shacks covered in what appeared to be aluminum covered in spray paint.

It was a fascinating enough place that when we came to a small restaurant, we decided to take the plunge and grab a table out on the street. The locals found this to be pretty amusing, as old timers on stools across the way were fixed on us and young people walking by turned their heads for longer looks.

And then there was the issue of ordering food. As I previously posted, my Mandarin was not much more helpful than English. This was especially true in areas, like Tai O, that are not in the cosmopolitan Hong Kong vein. But, before too long, we had a nice collection of sliced meats and vegetables to eat under an absolutely lovely evening sky.

A little while later, along shuffled a guy who back in the US we might describe as an "old salt." Choy was his last name, or Cai as it is pronounced in Mandarin. Well, for the next hour or so, Cai Xiansheng joined us, eating his bowl of noodles and schooling us in all things Chinese and American. Cai Laoshi's topics notably included...

A detailed story about the time that Howard Hughes pretended to be in need of help.

Information about what Mao Zedong read when he was working in the library at Beida...It wasn't Karl Marx, by the way.

For our part, we were in no rush to leave. Locally prepared food, a gorgeous south China night, and lessons from Cai Xiansheng. The kind of stuff that no tour book could ever have directed us to...



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