What is the difference between a restaurant and a reservoir? To most Hongkongers, the difference may not be a conscious one but definitely an obvious one. It is in the pronunciation. Cantonese, the mother tongue of Hongkongers and the Southern Chinese, doesn't have the "r" or "v" consonant sounds. Worse still, Chinese (including Cantonese) is monosyllabic with, interestingly, one exception*. Saying aloud the multisyllabic English words doesn't come naturally to a Cantonese speaker.
^There are two hiking trails snaking to the east and north along the reservoir. Taking the one to the north leads you to at least a four-hour trekking over the mountains and on the beautiful beaches (DON'T swim there cos the undercurrent has killed a dozen of swimmers including the uncle of my friend). This is almost the splitting point.
* The exception is the trisyllabic "圕", pronounced as Tushuguan in Putonghua.
So speaking English without making an effort to pronounce and differentiate the two sounds, a misunderstanding can take place:
After a big lunch, a young man drove his native-English speaking Israeli friend to the countryside. Hoping to give the lady a bit of a surprise, he hadn't told her about the destination until the lady could not conceal her uneasiness of not knowing what they were going on, much like an itch at the very middle of the back which she could not tickle it herself however long her arms stretch, and asked about it.
"Now that you've asked, we're going to a big resawar," the man, looking straight ahead of the car onto the road as it was moving along a narrow countryside single carriage, replied in sort of a mute way with some reluctance.
The best guess the Israeli lady could make was apparently, as Hong Kong is renowned for its gastronomic delights, that they were going to yet another restaurant. That made her sick. After much ado about straightening out the pronunciation, she understood that the destination was a reservoir.
I was sitting at the back seat when the conversation went on.
Since Hong Kong has no natural lakes, river or substantial underground water sources, it is not self-contained for water supply even though it has seventeen reservoirs, most of which are scenic enough to warrant a special visit. Almost 70% to 80% of the daily water consumption is met by supply from the Guangdong Province of southern China. The arrangement was made between the British Hong Kong Government and the Chinese Government back in the colonial days of Hong Kong.
^The route is not a dirt road but paved. The Chinese characters say SLOW. The best part of taking this route is that if you're too exhausted to walk for another three hours back once reaching the end point, you can hire the on-call taxi service. Mind the on-call taxi service phone number written on some slope nearer to the end point.
When you come to Hong Kong, you'll be advised not to drink from the tap. My brave, defiant OZ friend learned it the hard way by drinking from the tap.
"It tastes of swimming pool water!" she grumbled.
The official explanation is that the water was chloridised (chlorides added) for the benefit of dental health. Very heavy-handed so indeed.
^Luckily, you'll be arriving at the end point in another hour. Beyond the dyke and the headland is the South China Sea. I recommend you to walk down the long ramp from the end point to the dyke to feel the blowing of the sea winds and listen to the splashing of the oceanic waves.