Saturday, December 1, 2007

China - Day - 13 - Llama Island

Ahhhhhhhh, Llama island. Technically not our last day of traveling, but for the sake of saving the best for will serve so in this blog.

A former ex-pat British retreat from the hustle and bustle of the overwhelming pace of Hong Kong, Llama islands is a small island found to the East of the mainland. Reachable by high speed ferry in about 30 minutes, this place was my cloud nine.... it was a place only imaginable in the faintest of dreams, and a place that will forever exist in my mind accompanied by all 5 senses that were truly awakened there.

Llama Island has two main towns, each on the opposite coastline. The gem of the town we chose will remain secret to me, and will only be shared with those people in my life I deem worthy enough to enjoy such a treat. For this place could easily be mistaken as normal and even quirky by the untrained eye, and that....well that would just be tragic.

Before I go on, I need to thank Jim again, and one final time for bringing this place up and offering it to our trio. Not to forget the fact that he treated me to the best meal of my life there, which I will soon describe with such detail that your mouth my actually die a little inside from jealousy. Jim is a scholar and a gentleman, and for taking me to this place...a saint. Thank you.

Ok, back to the point. From the ferry we walked down the main drag in town. No cars exist on this island, and only a few golf carts help with deliveries to the storefronts and restaurants. You can hike around the entire island in about a half a day, which I bet is incredible, but alas, we had no time for such treats. Even still, had we the time to hike, our plans would more than likely changed after we walked through the first restaurant.

Harbor to our right, and wall of incredible live seafood to our left we found ourselves in the middle of heaven. I'm quite the little saltwater aquarist and despite my failings at keeping most anything alive other than algae, I do have a great understanding of what it might take to keep things alive...having said that...the gentleman that ran this seafood joint was a genius. He literally had a wall 15 feet high and maybe 6 feet deep of aquariums, filled to the brim with every possible sea creature, from snail to rainbow colored lobster, all caught that day less than a mile from the dock. We spent the better part of 30 minutes surveying the "menu" and speaking with the owner. I was broke at this point and lobster wasn't really an option for me, shit ramen noodles would have pressed my bank. But Jim, in his infinite wisdom, saw the potential this creature served to our tastebuds, and insisted we dine there later that night. And who was I to argue....a giant snow crab was staring at me, daring me to eat him.

We instructed the owner to save us a waterfront table, and promised to return when we had the sufficient appetite, and continued down the small path to discover the rest of the island.

We passed through all kinds of produce stands, and small hippy shops filled with beautiful music and goods. Jessica found some nice scarves and a little downtrodden with the idea of eating seafood for dinner thought a smoothie was in order. Now eating seafood for Jessica, is about as enticing as well...nothing....she really cant stand the majority of it. To her credit, she's eaten more things and variety of things on this trip than even I dared, so she had earned her decision to opt out. I think her body was in rebellion of that decision, and it bestowed upon her a tremendous headache, she would say something to the contrary....but I think we all know she should have had the dinner we were about to enjoy with us ;)
Anyhow, after drinking down some organic smoothies we finished our walk passing by some small shrines with incense, banana trees, lush vegetation, and children enjoying the island life their parents had thrust upon them. We also found a tiny little bar with the best, freshest Guinness I have ever enjoyed, and it was about 3 bucks for a pint...You may now start to understand why I loved this place so...but the best was far from occurring.

We found our way back to our little slice of heaven, and found the owner adding the days catch to top off the tanks. He was busy negotiating prices with the fishermen, and I was getting hungry, so I sat myself. We got a rather choice little table with a priceless view of the setting sun.

The waitress, or should I say angel, came over to take our order...I let Jim take the honors as he was the Captain of this journey. He got up and walked over to the menu with the waitress where he proceeded in choosing our dinner with marksman like talent. He decided we should have 5 courses of deliciousness, snail, fish, lobster and crab...and some chicken fried rice for Jessica. That with the bottle of wine I snagged from a shop down the street constituted our ordered meal...

And so it began.

Jim had left the meal preparations up to the house's recommendation. First to bat were the can see them up above to the lower left of the snow crab in a little baggy. They came to us in a spicy little soup dish, in shell and everything. Jim and I dug in, and Jessica got over her gag reflex and started taking pictures (some of which I'll post soon.) Our first bite of that soup concluded any vocal communications for the rest of the dinner. From that moment on Jim and I only communicated through a complex series of grunts and groans from such depths of myself I doubt they will ever be uttered again. The snail soup was outstanding. But it's excellence was quickly outdone. Next we ate fish. Funny, I remember that fish being very good, and it's being consumed in it's entirety...but the lobster we had next had really wiped out all other memories of that fish...

OH MY GOD the lobster. As large as some small countries, the lobster was served opened in it's shell in a decadent buttery onion sauce of happiness. I have my life....eaten something so good. That lobster didn't even qualify as food, it was without a doubt, some kind of illegal drug that only the wisest of hippies know about. The tender juiciness of the lobster meat melted in your mouth for even teeth are not worthy of touching this animal. The buttery onion creamy sauce that smothered the meat served to help you from fainting out of pleasure. I remember actually feeling that meal in the back of my cerebral cortex....the pleasure center of my brain was giddy with joy. I think Jessica even got residual happiness from the meal as she indulged a bite....but Jim and I were goners so I don't really remember. Laughter mysteriously burst out between Jim and I....we laughed for no known reason... it was some primal instinct that kicked in and took over....I believe my soul actual crept out of my body and finished the rest of that meal for I have no actual visceral memory after the 3rd bite. And before we knew it, that monster sized lobster was gone.

I think the waitress wanted our buzz to last as long as possible before she brought out our last dish of snow crab, for it wasn't served until I landed back in my seat and started speaking something other than ancient tongues and grunts. That crab was rather incredible as well. Although nothing of the lobster level, but still the best crab I had ever eaten. The meat was perfectly cooked and basically fell out of the shell and into my mouth.

I think Jessica must have carried me out of that place because I was so drunken with pleasure that I doubt I would ever have left under my own will.

Here is your only clue as to the location/name of said establishment. If you ever find yourself here....for the love of everything that is holy....GET THE LOBSTER.

Thank you Jim.

That meal capped out what was a trip of a lifetime. I learned more about myself on that trip than I have in 24 years of living. I took about 900 photos and earned 6 stamps of honor in my passport. I interacted with locals without knowing a lick of Chinese and carried on with world travelers that only exist in my memory about who knows what.

Despite what our government may think or say in regards to China, many things I found true, people are the same anywhere you go. Politicians are corrupt, tourists are ignorant, and people are, for the most part, good natured and understanding. I bargained with pros only to find that after starting as enemies over the price of worthless junk, we became friends over the bond of trying to out wager each other. I found that if you are dumb enough to get robbed or taken or pick pocketed, you probably deserved it, your money will eventually help someone so sweating it may be silly, and you can learn a few lessons. Beer always tastes better when in a different country. Smiles are international and can get you help, un lost, a cab, a beer, and better yet a friend if only for a few moments.

This world we live in exists only in our minds. The person who lives down the street from you is no different than the person who lives 12,000 miles away and who lives in an opposite environment. Wars are fought between ignorant fools who don't eat enough Llama island lobster or drink enough Guinness. Passports are fingerprints, money is worthless and people are good.

I'm not sure where my travels will find me next, but I cannot wait to go, and part of me is already there waiting my arrival. I can only hope to share my future journies with such incredible people as my last.

Until then...

Days 1-2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6 Day 7 Day 8 Day 9 Day 10 Days 11-12 Day 13



Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed reading about your vacation.

I want to go to China so bad!