Dennis Wright's Blog

So Long Hong Kong

Posted in Far East Cruise 2007, Hong Kong by Dennis Wright on April 29, 2007

On the night of 18 April, after buying the Sony digital SLR, we ate at what I call a “real deal” Hong Kong noodle bar. Very cheap, but for newbies like us we were left wondering what to do with the paddles. We worked it out.

On the morning of the 19th, a final trip to Mong Kok, which really captures the spirit of old Hong Kong. This time the flower market and bird garden.

This view of Mong Kok was taken from an elevated covered walkway which really helps you get around the area.

 

 

I have already extolled how conveniently located our hotel was. Well, it has one more big benefit. It is a stone’s throw from the Ocean Terminal shopping centre and cruise ship embarkation point. The embarkation hall was in the adjoining Marco Polo Hotel but we still needed a taxi to move our stuff.

We joined the cruise, got on board ship and found our stateroom. The accommodation was lovely but no flowers awaiting us (I had ordered some for Naomi and knew full well Pauline had ordered some). It was just as well. The air conditioning was not working and the flowers would have wilted. I rang the Front Office to complain. They said they knew about the problem at our end of the ship and were working on it. I also queried the absence of flowers and was asked if they were for Mrs Dawson. “The only flowers I got here are for Mrs Dawson”. Aha! You mean from Mrs Dawson! “No, they are for Mrs Gloria Dawson.” Nah, forget it.

We went back on shore to take our leave of Hong Kong. The ship sailed at midnight.

View of our hotel from the ship as we sailed out of port.

Our room was still uninhabitable so one of the supervisors from the Front Office, a very charming lady called Jane Avila, sorted us out with temporary accommodation in an inside cabin for the one night. Being inside was disconcerting but at least it was cool and we could sleep.

The next day was a day at sea and we went back to Jane to see what she could do for us. She asked for the morning to sort it out. She was so friendly and was taking our complaint so seriously we felt we owed her a bit of time to resolve things. Meantime the flowers arrived. The red roses I ordered and a beautiful arrangement from Pauline and all the kids.

Jane came up trumps, bless her. She offered us two alternative staterooms to choose from – one on the Lower Promenade Deck and another on the same deck as our original cabin, but further forward and thankfully cool. We took the latter.

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Hong Kong Wrap-up

Posted in Far East Cruise 2007, Hong Kong by Dennis Wright on April 28, 2007

I’m running way behind with this blog. At the time of writing we’re docked at the North Chinese port of Dalian, but in blogtime we’re still in Hong Kong. Time to do a quick wrap up on Hong Kong so we can move on.

No apologies though for having covered HK in a fair amount of detail. It has been all we could have hoped for and more. Except for those old junks with crooked sails. I’m sure I’ve seen old pictures of HK harbour featuring junks, but if they were ever there they aren’t any more. Or at least we didn’t see any. But we did see some sampans in Aberdeen harbour on the south side of HK island. A taxi ride to get there this time, the MTR doesn’t cover the south of the island very well.

These boats are for tourist rides only. Loads of them. It looked a bit like Growltiger’s last stand. We were hounded the length of the quay by a wizened old lady insisting we go on a sampan ride. We held out under pressure.

The other HK experience of note was a couple of trips to Mong Kok, the older shopping area with a number of specialist markets catering mainly for the locals.

We spent a while in the goldfish market.

We saw this skirt made of clothes pegs in a shop window at Pacific Place when we went back on our last day at HK to collect my new glasses.

 

Haggle Hassle

Posted in Far East Cruise 2007, Hong Kong by Dennis Wright on April 25, 2007

My trusty old Minolta SLR no longer had a place in the digital age, but Sony had bought the Minolta camera business and last year launched the Sony Alpha 100 digital SLR which would work with my existing Minolta mount lenses. To boot, the new Sony has anti-shake technology built into the camera itself (not into the lenses as with other makes), so those old lenses would reap the benefit.

Naomi thought we should buy the new camera in HK, partly to get a better price but mainly so we could have a good haggle. She had tried out her brinkwomanship to great effect a few years ago in Gibraltar when buying a Casio digital camera (the one used for all the HK photos in posts to date) and was hungry to re-enter the fray.

I felt like Brian from the Monty Python film – eager for my goods at the stated price but kept waiting and obliged to haggle.

I checked out the price on the first night in HK. Igal suggested asking in Fortress, a chain of electrical shops a bit like HK’s equivalent of Currys. Their price was about the same as best UK internet rate, but I knew we could do better.

On second night in HK I kept asking in more shops. Some were offering ridiculously low prices but looked too shady to trust. Wouldn’t power up the camera for us to try – claimed the battery wasn’t charged. We tried a more likely looking shop in Nathan Road and thought we were onto a decent deal. The price was a good discount relative to UK, the shop owner seemed knowledgeable. When we said we wanted to buy, though, it took a long time for the owner’s lackey to find a sample in stores. Naomi was not convinced the box was sealed. The salesman started trying to recoup on the discount by pushing me to buy an upgraded memory card. Then kept droning on about an anti-scratch cover for the rear screen. We challenged him on the international guarantee – he gave us a Mickey Mouse form to fill in that I reckon would get laughed out of any Sony repair centre.

I was getting cheesed off about the “you really need to buy this as well…” salesmanship and Naomi was concerned it was not a new camera. That and the dubious guarantee were all too much and we pulled out of the sale. The shop owner went well nigh ballistic – not desperately professional.

We were right, though. Credit to Naomi in particular for her instincts and she was spot on. The next night we bought the camera at an even better price from a far more professional shop in the Mong Kok district. Sealed box. No attempt to keep selling us unwanted add-ons. Clear explanation of how to get international guarantee from Sony Customer Centre in nearby building (which we did next morning).

It really was worth all the haggle after all.

The Star Ferry on the way back to Kowloon – on the first class deck.

 

17 April 2007: At large in Hong Kong

Posted in Far East Cruise 2007, Hong Kong by Dennis Wright on April 24, 2007

Another reason why our choice of hotel was good. Not only was it:

  • competitively priced,
  • prestigiously located,
  • offering glorious views of the harbour and laser show, and
  • convenient for linking up with coincidentally local itinerant Farshis

but … it was right handy for the Star Ferry to Hong Kong Island.

The quay on the HKI side is close to the International Financial Centre and in particular 2ifc, home to the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, an 88 floor building which is 6th highest in the world. There is a public viewing gallery on the 55th floor which is where we took these pictures:

From there via MTR from Hong Kong Central to Admiralty. We bought single tickets but the locals use Octopus Cards. They work very much like the Oyster Card on the London Underground. Just like the Chinese to nick all of Ken Livingstone’s best ideas.

From the typical marble/glass/steel station you emerge direct into the typical marble/glass/steel Pacific Place shopping mall. Very upmarket. Recommended by Alison da Silva.

I took the opportunity to get some new glasses. Actually, I was bushwhacked by Naomi who manoeuvred me into the high class optician’s shop on 2nd floor and got me chatting to the bouncy, hyper-enthusiastic optician who I subsequently referred to as “Tigger” but whose real name was probably something like Eye Fit Yoo. My old glasses were deemed too manky and HK prices too good to pass up. Naomi had prescription from Ross Maskell at the ready. Tigger kept alarming Naomi by demonstrating how frames could be bent in all directions but flipped back into shape when released. We found some German Mykita titanium frames and ordered the specs in very low dispersion plastic lenses, for lowest possible weight. They would be ready Thursday 19th but only just before we were due to get on our cruise ship.

From there to Hong Kong Park and the walk-through aviary (spot all the birds!)

Then up the Peak Tram (more funicular than tram) to Victoria Peak – the highest point in HK – for the scenic views.

 

Shame about the low clouds.

16 April 2007: An unexpected encounter

Posted in Far East Cruise 2007, Hong Kong, Video by Dennis Wright on April 22, 2007

While we were still in the departure lounge in Manchester, Naomi called Ros Farshi and discovered that Igal was in … Hong Kong! The Farshis had just got back from Pesach in Herzlia and Igal had gone straight off to Hong Kong for an electronics trade fair.

 

So, once at HK airport I called him on his mobile. He was caught totally by surprise and a bit bemused, but pleased to hear from us and we arranged to meet up. This was his last night in HK and he had the evening free. By chance he was staying at the Kowloon Hotel which is directly behind the Peninsula Hotel and mere yards from ours.

 

We had time to watch the nightly 8pm laser light show from our hotel window, grab a quick shower and meet Igal in the lobby of our hotel. The laser show is a tourist attraction by arrangement with 13 buildings on either side of the channel between Kowloon and HK island. The various buildings flash lights in different colours and lasers beam out from the building-tops in time to music which you can tune into on FM radio. The show lasts 13 minutes and is very cutely done.

[youTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38iD17PsUDo]

 

Igal was kind enough to buy us some dinner and took us shopping on Hong Kong’s main tourist shopping street, Nathan Road, which runs north from close to our hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui. Igal loves shopping at the best of times and an evening haggling in the handbag shops, buying bags for Rebecca, and he is in heaven.

Photo resolution a bit below the usual standard – taken on Naomi’s phone, no flash.

15 April 2007: Night flight to Hong Kong

Posted in Far East Cruise 2007, Hong Kong, Video by Dennis Wright on April 22, 2007

Our first hop, from Manchester to Paris Charles de Gaulle, was on a little Air France Airbus 318 but we had acres of room. Three seats between two of us and an exit row, so tons of leg room. Naomi joked that she wished we could make the pilot fly straight through to Hong Kong.

 

We knew what was coming. A surprisingly bumpy landing at CDG, at around 10.15pm French time. A real right pain finding your way around the airport – it is shaped like a string of beads and we needed a shuttle bus to get us to the right section for the long haul part of the journey, then through security all over again. I hate CDG. Naomi helped an elderly lady from Hong Kong with her bags up the escalators.

 

The flight to HK itself was a nightmare at eleven hours 40 mins departing around midnight, but not before we had been sat on the tarmac for around half an hour. It was an overnight flight so the lights were kept low and most people tried to sleep. Especially good at that was Miss Ping in the aisle seat. She dropped off immediately. I was in the middle seat and Naomi by the window did not settle at all. We couldn’t sleep, kept wanting to stretch our legs, get a drink from the “bar” at the back of the plane, etc and kept disturbing Miss Ping. In the end we gave her the window seat.

 

At least the food was good. Bon Appetit from the Chief Rabbinate of France. No chance of settling down to watch the film or read a book.

 

There was a Chinese man on board with a ponytail and a sleeveless top showing off his tattoos. In the morning, shortly before we landed, he went through his exercises with such practiced ferocity he could have been a prizefighter. He came across as someone who might frequent shady bars in the old port of Shanghai and get into brawls every other night. I told Naomi he was on his way to Hong Kong to collect the rest of his cash for a hit job in Paris, but he was probably nothing shadier than a rep for a vacuum cleaner company who had been to Europe to visit his ailing aunt.

 

Hong Kong Airport sets the tone for the whole area – hi-tech, spacious, airy, ultra modern, glass, marble and steel. Free wifi and the chance to email our comms agent in Berlin. Bags retrieved, we took the MTR (Mass Transit Railway) to Kowloon station. The train is ultra modern, like a design template for the London Heathrow Express, but with a natty visual display to show you your progress between stops. It is quite a long journey as the airport is out on the west side of Lantau island – you have to cross to the east side then over to Kowloon.

 

Kowloon station is massive, multi-levelled and glass/marble. In the middle of wheeling luggage around I get a call from R Portnoy enquiring about arrangements for our anniversary Kiddush in June. He knew where I was and apologised in case he created roaming charges.

 

All HK taxis are retro style Toyotas in red with silver roofs. Our hotel was the Salisbury, in Tsim Sha Tsui – the southern tip of Kowloon, looking out on Hong Kong island. The hotel is run by the YMCA and is one of three ideally located high rise hotels on the waterfront. We were next door to the prestigious Peninsula Hotel, but paying a fraction of the price for a perfectly clean and comfortable 14th floor room.

[youTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ovmbQRr3kuw]

Postcard from Hong Kong

Posted in Far East Cruise 2007, Hong Kong by Dennis Wright on April 18, 2007

Just a few taster photos from our trip to Hong Kong. These will be tidied up and added to in due course, to tell the story properly.

Taken from the waterfront, looking from Kowloon to Hong Kong island, but we have much the same view from our hotel window.

A bit wonky, needs photoshopping.

Backstreet near our hotel.

Naomi by the waterfront.

Statue presented to people of HK by the Cartier Foundation, apparently. From the back it looks like an elephant with a propeller up its trunk. I’m sparing you a photo of that.

The clocktower by the Cultural Centre.

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