Frantically surfing the web last minute on Sunday to see where I might grab a bite before my House of Dancing Waters performance in Macau I came across Johannes Pong’s article on Macau from last September’s HK Magazine. His first recommendation, though not an obvious choice for most I presume, caught my eye with its description of “abandoned shipyards” along the way and its “cathedral-like grandeur”. And so, I jumped on a cab from the HK Macau Ferry Terminal.
I regret not doing my research properly because it ended up taking me $100 to get there from the ferry terminal (well, it was closer to the Cotai Strip), and, as I later found out, impossible to get out (I eventually had to take a bus). It all adds up to the mystery and appeal of it though, because this means very little tourists and an otherworldly ambience that placed it in the same category as Varanasi in India. Well, perhaps I am playing it up a little, but they do both posses a strange juxtaposition of the colourful and the old, masked in a thin sheath of sadness that penetrates the entire city, and perhaps which came from the history of the place.
So from the quaint yet colourful little villages of Lai Chi Vun, continue walking along the coast and you will hit merchants selling dried seafood and the old harbour. Continue further uphill and you will soon pass by eerie abandoned shipyards on your left. The shipyards, monstrous in proportion and completely rundown and derelict, are faced on the other side of the road by cute bright green and blue sheds often overgrown with plants and flowers. Where the shipyards finish you will run into Hon Kee on your left. Basically a shack assembled from tin sheets, wooden floorboards and a plastic canopy, Hon Kee was bustling and rapturous as we entered. A huge tree trunk at the entrance give it an almost tree house-like feel, and indeed, as JP pointed out, its high ceilings imbued it with a cathedral-like grandeur. The furniture was haphazardly put together in funky mix and match fashion, and its clientele an interesting mix of tais tais having afternoon tea, teenage couples with big SLR cameras in hand, and old villagers lounging around playing chess.
The owner Ah Hon, as JP explained, used to build ships until an accident two decades ago left his left hand paralyzed. Then one day, a race car driver from overseas came and taught him that if he stirred his coffee 400 times, the chemical reaction will transform simple coffee into a thick, foamy, substance. Ah Hon’s perfected his recipe with the right amount of water, sugar and coffee powder and hand-whips each cup 400 times kung-fu style to make a sugary, frothy, viscous café au lait. I paired my coffee with a bowl of instant noodles cooked with pork chop and a fried egg, something that sounds ridiculously simple, and yet, I utterly enjoyed.
JP later asked, unbelievably, whether I thought it was worth the trek to Lai Chi Vun? And I said, without a doubt, YES! I’d discovered my favourite neighbourhood in Macau, and I’m waiting to go back.
Hon Kee is at Estrada de Lai Chi Vun, Coloane Tel: 853-2888-2310