With a heavy heart I left Hong Kong and all of it’s brilliant sights, sounds and smells and headed toward another kind of magic. In the Phillipines I spent some time exploring faith healers. Here in the West the concept of a faith healer is often ridiculed, but in many parts of the world faith healers are an integral part of the healing arts. In Manilla, Roxas Boulevard I was almost caught up in illegal gambling. One minute you are at an elegant restaurant and the next minute the dining room becomes a casino with all kinds of games of chance and money changing hands. As soon as the police or the mafia bang on the door–you never know which–the transformation to a dining room recurs. All very exciting, but not worth the risk of jail time–or worse.
Here are some pictures of Kowloon then and now. All gratitude, attribution and thanks to Alfred Mueller, Leonard Chien, Robert S. Donovan, Lakuda San and JM Rosenfeld for these beautiful pictures. The black and white and the picture immediately after it is of Kowloon in 1972, all the rest are of Kowloon now.
If these pictures make you want to hop on a plane, then you understand exactly how I felt years ago!
Just a note about how my meanderings will go. I’ve had the pleasure of having tea and adventures all over the world. I will post about many of these adventures but I’ll also post information about tea ceremonies and events in the US. Please feel free to email me your tea recipes, stories, events as well.
In 1972 I arrived in Hong Kong. Coming from Germany, Hong Kong was unbelievably exotic. Life in Hong Kong was filled with colors, sights and sounds that were overwhelming and wonderful, and I absorbed them all. I crossed over from the Hong Kong side to Kowloon on a big old chinese junk boat as a ferry which was filled with casual and elegant travelers, tourists from all over the world. The choppiness made you long for dry land while thrilling at the ride. Pressed against teeming hordes of sweaty workers, staring down at the dark green sea, sipping a cup of tea, I felt a sense of freedom and wonder that I had never experienced in Germany.
Asia was literally a new world for me. Hong Kong was my first step into a world that would come to change my whole life. I didn’t know that back then in 1972, but the seeds were being sown on that trip that would bring me back to Asia many, many times.
Today at the tea auctions in Calcutta, it is the Russians who buy the finest teas. To them tea is a priceless commodity even today. In contrast to Japanese tea culture, in Russia it is not believed that the constant hot boiling water will spoil the flavor of the tea. Probably because the tea they use is a heavy Assam which is thick like coffee. The strong flavor compared to a delicate green tea is not sensitive to the change of water when it is boiled too long.
The samovar, known as a Russian institution, is a large recipient usually made of copper or bronze (though it also exists in other materials from porcelain to gold). It is designed to keep water hot all day long with its charcoal heated hot air system. It is topped with a small teapot filled with ‘Tscheinik,’ a form of concentrated tea. The samovar also has a small spigot for adding water directly to cups or glasses. Tea lovers leave the samovar bubbling or ‘growling like a storm’ in their sitting room all day long. Even though the samovar was supposedly invented by an Ural metalsmith by the end of the 18th century, it is also used by Iranians and in Afghanistan since the 19th century, where the tea had already arrived on the Silk Route from Asia to Europe in the 16th century by caravan travellers.