“AS SOON AS WE TOUCHED DOWN IN HONG KONG THE HEAT WAS INTENSE AND I LOVED IT!
Even the journey to the Hotel was exciting, absorbing the environment of: industry, jungle, sky scrapers and modernism, it was all new to me and enriching.
Our first meal together was at the Forbidden Duck, a 3 starred Michelin restaurant to enjoy Cantonese cuisine. To be eating in a Michelin starred restaurant was something I had only previously dreamt about. A constant stream of delectable dishes then flowed, deep fried oysters, char sui pork and braised beef, all served with delicate jasmine tea. As a first meal the rest of the trip had a lot to stand up to.
Before leaving for Hong Kong I really wanted to further explore the culture of this fantastic city. My dream was to have a cocktail in a sky bar at night and see the wonderous views of Hong Kong and Kowloon. Straight after dinner my husband and I walked through the streets of Hong Kong in search of a Sky bar. The walk through the streets was a treat in its self, bustling streets and hypnotic bright neon signs, with never ending sky scrapers.
A dim sum brunch greeted us on the second day, once again another awe-inspiring restaurant with a never-ending variety of dishes for us to try. Pineapple buns and rose infused jasmine tea are now my new favourite way to start my day. I loved the opportunity to try such a vast range of dishes, as if I had been given the menu I would never have been able to choose this selection. I’d been to a dim sum restaurant in Bristol but cautiously chose things I felt were familiar, now with this experience I have the confidence to select a broader range of foods (show off to my friends and family).
A SHORT TRIP TO THE SCHOOL
Every visit we were greeted with the warmest of welcomes and I was overwhelmed with the hospitality shared. The students were a credit to the school, particularly for coming into school in their holidays to exchange their culture with us. Their English was impeccable, and it was clear they were keen to know more about our culture too. The students demonstrated how to make char sui pork, a dish I had tasted the night before and again in a pineapple bun for brunch. We later had the chance to make this for ourselves, a dish I know I will be making again back at school.
After a brief tour of the school we made our way to Stanley market, passing multi-million-dollar properties along the way. The environment was a stark contrast to the growing sky scrapers of Hong Kong Island, there were beach-style mansions and beaches. I was excited to go to the market as I wanted some gifts to try and share the experience with my children back home. Walking through the market I was not disappointed, an array of Chinese trinkets, paintings and electrical gadgets were available. Once again, I was impressed by the warm greetings offered by complete strangers, compared to other cities I had experienced where you are hassled and bated for a sale.
AN EARLY START AS WE SET OFF FOR CHINA
We were joined by a gentleman from the Ming Ai institute, who kindly acted as a guide as we went through the boarder of Hong Kong and the approaching country of China. I’d previously known nothing about this vast country and he helped to explain the intricacies of Chinese culture and the advancements that China had made over the recent years.
The drive through China was a different experience than Hong Kong, gone were the jungles and sky scrapers. Instead there were open planes and vast bridges, it seemed calm and immense. We drove over the Humen bridge over 9 miles long, once China’s longest bridge, an incredible feat of China’s engineering.
On the approach to the Lee Kum Kee factory we drove over a bridge which was named in honour of Lee Man Chat and the Lee Kum Kee factory, LKK was the major employer for the town. When we saw the size of the site we then knew how this was all possible, 300,000 acres! Included in this site was all the soya sauce brewing tanks, packaging plant and the ancestral home of the Lee Kum Kee factory.
In the foyer there was a family statue of the Lee Kum Kee family which stood over 2 meters tall! This was carved out of solid white marble, all to offer us the warmest of welcomes in their absence, astonishing. As our tour guide took us around the museum I was astounded that we were lucky enough to have been given a tour around this prestigious museum to Lee Kee Sheung and all that he has achieved and his family since then. In the cinema (yes I said cinema) we watched a small film about the LKK empire, at this moment I realised what a enormous company it was. With various subsidiaries to their empire and multi-billion-pound investments that they had made to keep their company innovative. A recent purchase was the ‘Walkie Talkie’ building in London, I really had no idea about how impressive this company was and what could be achieve from a bottle of sauce. From the tour and the brief film, I learnt about how all this was achieved, pragmatism and innovation. The LKK business model is new to me and I can see it has great potential, this is something I am going to share with the business studies department at school in the UK.
Our last stop at the LKK factory tour was the packing site. This building contained a vast arrangement of computerised packing machines, each machine can produce 10,000 jars of sauce every hour! It was staggering the speed at what these machines worked, also the strict controls in place to ensure quality. Every jar of sauce has it’s own passport style number, they can trace every product that they produce. This is done to trace quality control issues, if any and also to prevent fraud of copy-cat products. This was an aspect of food production I had never heard of being a problem before.
DAY FOUR WAS MY MOST FAVOURITE DAY
I’d hoped that the Wong Tai Sein temple would be magical, it overwhelmed me as well as the oppressive heat. As it was Sunday it was busy, bustling with worshipers and tourists. We were surrounded by incense sticks, umbrellas and fans to protect us from the intense heat.
The entrance to the temple was impressive every step of the way. Beautifully carved lions heads and dragons framed the scene. Every way you turned was another perfectly formed picture, I continued to explore the temple as I didn’t want to miss a single thing. My phone was my best friend as I photographed every moment, as I look back at my photos now I still feel honoured to have seen such beauty.
I didn’t think at this point the trip could get any better, until we arrived at the Nian Lian Garden. I have practised yoga for a few years and had been intoxicated by stories of Nepalese temples. So when I walked around the garden I felt every possible dream had come true, inside I experienced inner peace and a state of calmness I had never felt before. The temples within the garden were incredible and perfect in every way. As I ventured further into the garden I was treated to a very special moment. At the top of the garden there was a Buddhist alter along with other effigies from the religion, they were enrobed in gold and exquisitely carved. At this moment I truly felt blessed and I knew this experience was life changing.
Shanghai lunch was in beautiful Michelin starred restaurant in the Infinitus plaza in the heart of Kowloon. This was my favourite meal of the whole trip, the setting, the restaurant, the food all made this meal feel something very special. We were treated to the world known Shanghai dumpling, which I remember being shown during the competition final at the Ming Ai Institute back in the UK, the flavour did not disappoint.
The big event was next, the Junk boat! Earlier in the trip I had asked about going on a junk boat and the great people at FUNHCCA made it happen. As the boat approached the sound of the canvas sailed beat the air the anticipation heightened, I could not believe we were about to embark onto the last remaining junk boat of Hong Kong. The views from here were awesome, many of the building we had seen by night at the sky bar glistened in the sun light and we were able to see far beyond the Victoria harbour. We must of sailed around the harbour for about an hour and the blistering heat was dispersed by our new LKK umbrella, heaven must be very similar to this.
OUR PENULTIMATE EVENING MEAL TOGETHER WAS THE PINNACLE OF THE TRIP
Another Michelin Starred restaurant and the infamous Peking Duck: we were taken to the entrance of the kitchen and saw the art of carving the duck Hong Kong Style, the duck meat was carved and simultaneously laid out neatly fanned on the plate, like a piece of art.
As the waiter re-presented this to the table he demonstrated how to make a Peking Duck pancake roll. Definitely a new skill to show off back in the UK, having made some rolls myself I am now the Queen of Chinese cuisine….
TOURING HONG KONG LKK HEADQUARTERS
Very different to the China experience, we had the chance to look through the achieves of LKK and learn more about the marketing history of the brand. Additionally, we were given exclusive access to the LKK oyster sauce manufacturing site. This site produces all the essence for the oyster sauce and its recipe is strictly confidential.
Each part of Hong Kong had it’s own feeling, here it was far busier and the streets were full of cars and pedestrians carryout their daily grocery shopping. We entered the Tai Po market and the smell hit me, it was indescribable, and I was eager to get to the upper floor and escape it. I was told that I would soon become accustomed to it.
After leaving there we joined together for out last supper. With heavy hearts we all discussed the highs and the lack of lows on this once in a lifetime trip over a Chinese hot pot and variety meats. We had made such great friends with the other teachers and their partners and none of us wanted it to end. We all made our own plans for the final day of the trip and many of us were meeting the following morning for Cha Chaan Teng breakfast.
THIS GROUP OF STRANGERS HAD BECOME GREAT FRIENDS
We have all stayed in touch and have a Whats App group to continue to share resources and most of all our great memories.
This whole experience has changed how I see myself as a teacher, I have become far more experimental and enjoy sharing this elaborate cuisine with my students and friends. I have already used the experience from the Bristol heat and shown Year 5 students how to make Cantonese dumplings, including the precise folding technique. These proved to be so popular, the students produced over 100 dumplings to serve at our Art and Technology exhibition. They went down a storm and the students have gone home with recipes to cook at home with their families.
Following the trip, I feel I have become more of a cultural person in every sense. I am keen to be more courageous when ordering food and feel confident to direct my students towards Chinese dishes. I know the noodle making, the chicken wings and the Char Sui will be taught during lunchtime activities or part of a whole school agenda for culturalism. This trip will go far beyond the dishes I have learnt, I am able to share my personal experience on a mentor level, encouraging students to explore the new and dive into the unknown. I have become a better person because of what I have experienced. Working at an international school it is imperative that I have compassion for other cultures and encourage others to develop their understanding too, this trip incorporates all of this.
On a final note I am unable to give enough thanks to the Ming Ai Institute and Lee Kum Kee for everything they have given me whilst on this trip. I turn forty this year and my husband and I chose to enjoy this experience together as a gift to each other and a celebration. I would never have thought I was able to win such a competition, it felt too good to be true at the beginning. Surely a teacher from Bristol doesn’t win a trip to Hong Kong, but I did and WOW it was amazing.“