Friday 24th April is a nice dry morning but with a haze once again and I am up and about at 6am as I have a lot to do and achieve. I have an early breakfast and I am away on the hotel’s courtesy bus bound for the Star Ferry at 9am.
“In Hong Kong, once you live it, you are sure to love it!” Population 6.9million + and returned to Chinese sovereignty on 1st July 1997. It is a vibrant and exciting city and lives 24hours each day and has something to suit every taste and interest. This is my third visit. In March 1983 I had stayed at the Hilton Hotel and in November 1999 I had stayed at the Renaissance Harbour View Hotel, both on Hong Kong Island.
It is a walk to Jardine House and yes BofS is still on the 15th Floor, Clifford Chance are now occupying 4 floors, Jardine Matheson Ltd are on the 48th and there are a lot more taller Towers all around than when I first came to Hong Kong in March 1983. I pass the central Post Office as I make my way to the HSBC building to change some currency. It is then on to Hong Kong Park, up to the top of the garden's viewing tower and I visit the Aviary with its interesting varieties of birds. I pop into Pacific Place, look round the shops on four floors and great food hall based on the lower ground floor. I check out the MTR at Admiralty and get an underground map and timetable. On my way back I walk through the lovely Zoological and Botanical Gardens.
Hong Kong is the Culinary Capital of Asia so you will find an incredible variety of cuisines. I have lunch and a couple of beers on Caine Road which is excellent with good and chatty service from the young waiters who run the restaurant. It is then down hill to find Lan Kwai Fong. I have a “Happy Hour” pint in the Hong Kong Brew House. I have a good look round Lan Kwai Fong, a buzzing centre for clubs, bars and restaurants. There is a lovely party atmosphere here and you are being enticed into every restaurant, such a shame I have already eaten. I move on to Li Yuen Street and look at the many stalls selling clothing, accessories and domestic goods. The place is very busy. I then walk back to the hotel as this is a complete new part of the city to me and I am able to soak in the noisy atmosphere of the busy streets all around. I could have well jumped on a tram as they cost HK$2 no matter how far you travel. You get on at the back of the tram and pay at the front when you leave. It is the only double-decker tram fleet operating in the world. I am having a shower at 5.30pm. I go to Pacific Plaza which is beside my hotel and to the Tak Hing Yuen Seafood Restaurant for my evening meal, where I struggle a little to order as the menu is in Chinese but the Head of the restaurant sorts me out and I have a great meal. The restaurant is on three floors and it is buzzing with groups cooking their own meals at many tables. As far as I can see I am the only European in the place. I pay HK$ 266 which included a 10% tip. I have an early night.
I am again up at 6am on Saturday 25th April but it is a wet morning and by 11am there is a thunder storm. There is light rain as I leave the hotel around 12.30pm but this has cleared up by 2pm. I return to the hotel after lunch and I have a shower and change and at 4pm I am on the courtesy bus bound for Admiralty and then a walk to Causeway Bay through Wan Chai by Lockhart Road, where I am meeting Dan in Dickens Bar in the Excelsior Hotel at 7pm.
Dan arrives bang on time and I am introduced to Paul who like Dan is a BA pilot and lives in Tokyo. After some drinks we go for a Chinese meal to Cheung Kee (Peking Cuisine) and then go to a bar to watch the West Ham v Chelsea game which Chelsea win 1-0. As a BIG Chelsea fan Dan is very happy. The area is buzzing with night life and we go on to have some more drinks in different bars. I hail a taxi which costs me HK$60 (this is very reasonable as it is taking me from one side of the city to the other) to my hotel but for Dan and Paul it is a short walk back to the Excelsior. We all had a very enjoyable night.
Alas Sunday 26th April is another wet morning so I see little point in going out. So my intended walking exploits on different Islands must wait for another visit. With all my packing done I need to vacate my room by 12 noon. I am going to park myself on the 28th floor lounge with views across the busy harbour, read the papers and my books and just relax; something I am trying very hard to achieve. At 2pm I order a seafood lunch with house white wine and this is served to me in the lounge. I am to be picked up at 7.30pm by Tour East and taken to International Departures at Terminal 1 and my flight is at 11.15pm local time. The bus arrives early and I am first on. I spot a man coming out of the hotel I think I know and as he passes me in the darkness of the bus I put my hand on his shoulder and I ask him “are you Bob Jackson from Glasgow?” and yes it was!! What a great surprise to both of us. Bob had been in Singapore and then took a cruise to Hong Kong and like me he was on his way to Heathrow and then flying to Glasgow. We chatted all the way to the Airport and marvelled at the structures of buildings and the road and rail infrastructure. We crossed Tsing Yi Bridge the world’s longest road-and-rail suspension bridge. This graceful 2.2kms is one of the landmarks of Hong Kong. Bob was travelling with Virgin and I was with BA so we said our goodbyes as we were going to different entrance points and different leaving gates.
Getting your luggage and seat allocation was so simple. Pre-book your seat on-line 24hrs or later, before departure, and you join a separate queue and then passing through security and customs was so simple. The airport itself (ranked 3rd in world 91.3%-Wanderlust 2009) is beautiful and efficient with free internet access. There are plenty shops and restaurants. The flight left at 11.45pm local time (there was a slight delay due to a communication fault) but we landed at 5am at Heathrow (local time) bang on time as the captain had said we would. It had been a good flight with good communication, food, drinks and service. I watched two films, Slumdog Millionaire and The Orphanage. We flew on a Boeing 747-400 at 38,000feet, at a speed of 504mph and an outside temperature of -67c. We landed at Terminal 5, so it was a case of coming down two sets of escalators, getting a shuttle train, up two sets of escalators and through passport control to collect your luggage. On checking with Airport Information there was no free internet services. I was on the 490 bus at 6am bound for Twickenham. My great adventure to New Zealand was over – I had a magic time.