Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Bonkers in Honkers (Part 5)

The day of the big game dawns bright (but not so early after our visit to Stanley last night..) and we travel back to Stanley for the "classic" breakfast at Rolf's (Spyagia) down on Main Street. Then onto Shek O again by taxi as it is another fantasticaly clear day. By the time we arrive (just before Noon) it is alrady very crowded and after the umbrella ladies have worked their magic we are happily reclining in our deckchairs surrounded by what appears to be most of the population of HK. I swam out to the pontoon and the view back to the beach clearly showed how crowded it had become with very little sand visible between the arrayed sun-worshippers.

Having had such a massive breakfast we did not bother with lunch and headed back to the Hotel at around 4pm in order to get ready for the evenings entertainment. After a quick shower and change of clothes our next challenge was to find a taxi to the Hong Kong Stadium.

In theory we could have walked it in around 25 minutes. It was however over 75degress and the humidity made such a plan very unattractive. However, on a Saturday afternoon taxis were plentiful but fully booked no matter where we stood and waited (at the hotel, out on Wong Nai Chung Road and then at the bottom of Stubbs Road). A couple of taxis stopped and the occupants offered a lift - but only had space for one until one chap kindly gave us a lift in his cab to a nearby restuarant where he was meeting a friend to walk on to the Stadium and let us have his cab thereafter. It turned out (small world) that he knew a former colleague of mine in London. In any event, we arrvied at the Stadium in good time to enjoy a pint of beer, buy some Lions shirts and then take our seats high in the stand amongst a sea of red (Dad and I were also wearing our newly acquired shirts although they were not really suitable for the sub-tropical heat and humidity of HK - we certianly felt hot and sweaty up in the stands - goodness knows what the players must have been feeling at pitch side!).

The match was keenly fought albeit with frequent water breaks. Given the temperature and humidity the players certainly made a huge effort (including Mr Farrell who ended up getting involved in some fisticuffs with a South African clubmate). The Lions were deserved winners although the extent to which this provided a menaningful prelude to a tour of Austrlai in Winter is somewhat debatable. Neverthe less the corwd (c.29,000) certainly enjoyed it and we made many friends (including a bunch from Austalira celebrating a 50th birthday of one of their number - they had sponsorship and everything!)with fellow Lions travellers as we all made our way towards the post-match celebrations in the direction of the Casueway Bay an Wanchai.

Predictably Wanchai was heaving and after a couple of drinks dad and J headed home and I caught up with some old friends. I go t abck at arpudn Midnight and J was still at the Hotel bar and in consequence we decided on a night cap which ended up being one of many as various Lions supporters trcieled in from the vairous bars and joined us for a few drinks (including a chap from Nepal who seemed to ahve used the Lions tour as an excuse for a medical safari which included various check ups en route).

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Bonkers in Honkers (Part 4)

Up at 9am to find breakfast. We decided to walk to the parade of shops/pubs/restaurants in Happy Valley beind the race track gievn taht it was such a pleasant (albeit slightly warm) and sunny morning. Unfortuantley the Jockey and the Stable which I had in mind would probably do breakfast were both still closed so we ended up at a pub which I recalled visiting ater the 7s one year - cannot now remember its name and had a full English breakfast.

Given that it was such a beautiful day we decided afterwards to take the bus to Stanley again and then head on over to Shek O beach. Having collected our trunks from the hotel we caught the No. 6 bus which took us over the top of the Island (again fabulously clear views as we travelled down Repulse Bay Road). We then picked up a cab from Stanley Plaza to take us around the penisular to Shek O. This is a lovely drive as you are moving along the other side of Tai Tam Bay from where we used to live and can see Red Hill, Pacific View and Stanley in all its glory.

We got to the beach at around noon and the "deckchair ladies" in their large hats sorted us out some shade and places to sit (HK$90 for a deckchair and an umbrella - and she will install it all for you!). Despite the blazing sunshine I have never seen these ladies wear anything other than long trousers/jeans and full length shirts - they must get extraordinarily hot!

Shek O beach is set in a bay with cliffs at either end and a wide sandy beach dotted with lifeguard platforms. The car park adjoins the beach (and is usually extremley chaotic) and there are various small kosks and restaurants on one dside of the car park selling food, soft drinks and beach toys. There is one road in to Shek O (past a very exclusive golf course) and there is a lovely art deco bus station just as you get into the village. On weekends its gets very crowded as it provides easier beach access than the neighbouring beach up the road at Big Wave Bay.

We had a very lazy afternoon sunbathing and swimming (the water a little cooler than Dubai) and J and I bought some chips and samosa from one of the little kiosks in the car park for lunch.

I left Dad and J on the beach later in the afternoon and headed back to the Hotel to get changed and then on to the tailors to pick up my new suit. I then headed over to the office to meet up with some of my former colleagues for a few drinks. I ended up going for drink with N at The Junk in Wanchai where we ran into one of the many old style consultants (MB) who appear to have been in Hong Kong forever.

I then headed back to Stanley where I met up with Dad and J at Spyagio on Main Street where I had one of Rolf's famous tenderlion steaks. Rolf is another character who seems to have been in HK forever. Originally from Austria he used to manage a large hotel before coming to Stanley and making Main Street his home (he used to operate the restaurant Main Street before moving to the end of the road taking the chef with him). We then went for a couple of beers in Smugglers - another part of the HK environment that never seems to change (- still as seedy as ever!) and then headed back to the Hotel for a final beer and then to bed.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Bonkers in Honkers (Part 3)

A very quiet start to the day after the excitement of the night before commencing with a visit to the office to pick up my asiamiles vouchers for the turbojet to Macua. I had a chat to some of my colleagues and promised to join them for a drink tomorrow evening. We then headed off to the ferry terminal (on HK Island)and swooped my redeemed asiamiles for three return tickets to Macau.

The Turboject is a catamaran which heads off to Macua every 15 minutes or so during the day for the 1 hour trip down the Pearl River Delta to the former Portuguese enclave. I used to visit Macau fairly regulaly when based in HK and it always provided a welcome contrast to the hustle and bustle of its bigger brother. These days Macau is very much about the huge casinos which have been built over the last 5 years or so (Venetian, etc.). However, it still has some of the old world charm of the rather sleepy town left by the Portuguese and our first port of call was to the expat mainstay Fernandos on Coloanne Island. Macau itself is a series of Islands linked to the mainland by huge bridges that stretch over the Peal River and Fenandos is around a 30/40 minute taxi journey froom the ferry which takes you over one of the many bridges and past the airport to the forests and bays of the Island. We also went past the Westin Hotel - a rather old-fashioned and (in contrast to the opulent new casino-hotels we passed on the way) rather dated looking member of the Starwood group.

We arrived at the tail end of lunch time so were easily able to get a table (no booking allowed and generally a wait during peak periods). Fernandos started life as a beach hut diner next to Coloanne beach and was established (it is said) by a former chef at the Lisboa HOtel. I am not sure if that is correct but nevertheless a trip to Fernandos was always a popoular part of the itinerary whenever we came to Macau and it did not disappoint. We all had crab in a pot - a sort of hotpot with a whole crab and various herbs and vegetables cooked in a superb sauce. It must have taken a good couple of hours to eat - trying to break into the crab (and avoiding burning ones mouth on the suace which remined piping hot throughout the meal) was part of the fun but did take up some time. The bread accompnaying the meal (and the Portuguese wine) was superb and we were very replete when we eventually finished!

We had a brief wander along the beach and then headed to the old town where we pottered around some of the churches and the ruins of St Pauls before heading back to the ferry terminal for the trip home.

Despite the huge late afternoon meal, we decided to go for a quick drink in the evening and ended up at the Darby - just along the road from the Hotel where we did a few quiz questions and managed to eat some samosas and potatoe skins.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Bonkers in Honkers (Part 2)

Wednesday dawned bright and sunny and we kicked off the day with a visit to the "Flying Pan" in Wanchai for a fry up. This establishment is something of an institution - providing fried breakfast 24 hours per day - and is handily located at the corner of Luard and Lockhart Roads. After fortifying ourselves for the day ahead we set off for Stanley on the No.6X bus - sitting on the top deck is the best way of seeing the sights on the way to Stanley past Ocean Park, Deepwater Bay, Repulse Bay/South Bay and Ma Hang. The views were as clear as I have ever seen them with the many islands (and the huge container ships making there way to and from the Harbour)surounding HK clearly visible.

On reaching Stanley I took J. around the temple next to the plaza (containing the skin of the last tiger shot in HK - in 1941 outside the police station in Stanley) and then to the small fisherman's temple around the corner in what is now a small country park. We had left dad (who had already seen the temples on previous visits having a coffee in Saffron (now relocated at the ground floor of the plaza) - and our first disappointment of the day was finding that Saffron no longer made their chocolate caramel slices - a mainstay of our mid morning coffe breaks in HK. Dad was most dischuffed.

We soon put this behind us with an extended visit around Stanley Market. E. had carefully briefed me where she wanted me to go (mini-Boden is apparantly all the rage) and so we stoked up on Children's clothes, Rugby shirts (from the rugby shirt shop in the market - it is apparantly going to close down as the Chinese factory has been relocated to Vietnam and the owner cannot now get them cheap enough) as well as belts and a rucksack for me. After an al fresco lunch at the sitting our area overlooking the harbour next to the market, I headed back to Admiralty in the afternoon for a suit fitting and then joined Dad and J back at the hotel to prepare for the evening's excitement at the Racecourse next door at Happy Valley.

We had already looked at the runners and riders and had made some tentative selections. We arrived at around 6:30 after a two minute walk through the underpass from our Hotel (literally opposite the race course). The Stable Bend Terrace was fairly full when we arrived and the BBQ in the middle was smelling delicious. We had booked the international buffet (HK$500 each for all you can eat and drink) and we soon got stuck into the food!). The first race was incredibly successful for all of us as we backed the first winner at 5.5 to 1. We also won on the second race (although mine was only a place). However,the main excitement was the arrival of the British Lions rugby team enjoying a bit of R&R before their game against the Babarbarians on Saturday. We had been sitting next to a couple from England who were on the table next to us and who had said they were travelling with the Lions and knew the coaching staff. However, they had not mentioned that the Lions would actually be watching the racing with us and as you can imagine it was a matter of particular excitement for our little party with Dad and J getting some autographs (including Owen Farrell) and photos with the team (including the mountainous Richie Gray). It also transpired that the couple we were talking to were big mates with the Lions coach Warren Gatland. We only relaised this when (after the team had gone home - presumably becaude of a 10pm curfew) he came over to the table and we were able to have a chat to him (and take the obligatory photos). Whilst our selections (certainly for the last few races)were not particulaly successful (although I think Dad won some more money) we had an absolute blast talking about the rugby.

We were the last to leave the racecourse and managed to find our away back across the road to the Hotel where we decided that it would be a good idea to have another drink at the outside bar (where J managed to knock over a glass leading to plastic glassses outside for the remainder of the stay!). I managed to break my room key in the lock when I went to bed and it was touch and go whether the maintenance man would be able to get it out (he did - eventually). I also managed to trip over on my way to the loo later in the night and spent a good half an hour trying to stem the flow of blood from my nose and then another half an hour trying to make myself look less like the victim of a car crash. All in all an eventful day.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Bonkers in Honkers (Part 1)

As foreshadowed in my previous post, we ahve just returned from our trip to HK (more or less) in one piece. As we covered a lot of ground, I thought that I would split up the posting of our adventures so here goes the first part.

The journey (overnight from DBX) was uneventful and we arrived to overcast skies and slight drizzle at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Wanchai around mid-afternoon. Everybody we spoke to told us that the weather over the past few months in HK had been rubbish but that it was predictd to get better towards the weekend. We crossed our fingers.

After checking in and freshening up, we headed off to Sam Wu the tailors (now relocated at 1/f Tower 1 in the Admiralty Building)for a survey of the suit prices and also to order some more shirts. We decided to take the tram and notwithstanding missing our stop outside Pacific Place arrived there within 1/2 hour. After some good natured negotiations (I have been using Sam since HK days) we agreed on a price of HK$5,000 for a suit (two pairs of trousers) and three shirts - around £420 all in and to be ready by Friday. Having completed business for the day we then walked to Fenwick Arcade for Dinner at The Quaterdeck. I am sure I have previously recounted our meals here when we lived in HK (see However, by way of update, the Fleet Arcade still remains something of an anachronism in HK. Essentially it is a club that is open to the general public but which caters for sailors (I think mainly US military) who vist HK. It therefore has various facilities such as barbers and trinket shops to ease them into HK life when on shore leave.

The Quarterdck was formerly a MacDonalds (apparantly the only one to serve alcohol in the World) which was converted a few years ago into a more upmarket restaurant serving international food - steaks, fish and chips etc. The best bit about it is that it is one of the few places in HK where you can sit at ground level with some food and a drink right on the shore line with views over Victoria Harbour and it is located in a quiet part of Wanchai close to a park and to the Convention Centre.

We had a very pleasant meal (Mussels for Dad and I and F&C for J) and then wandered back to the Hotel via Delaneys in Wanchai for a quick beer.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Heading East

Just found out that I neglected to publish the post below before heading off to Hong Kong. Now returned so thought that I would publish anyway and then do a recap.

"Just putting together final preparations for our visit to Hong Kong tonight. This is the long anticipated return to HK for the Lions rugby game against the Barbarians which forms the first leg of the Lions tour to Austraia. Dad was trying to decide which sporting event he would like to go to as part of his 80th bithday celebrations and finally plumbed for this game as it combined an opportunity to watch the Lions with a return to some old haunts next to the South China Sea. I had been back in HK last December on business and we had also stopped off en route to Hua Hin in thailand for our Easter hols last year with the family so I have been back a cople of times reasonably recently. However, this will be Dad's first visit since we left HK during Christmas 2009 so we are all very much looking forward to it (his Cousin J is also coming along).

Apart from the rugby, I have booked the Stable Bend terrace for some food and racing at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (the Stable Bend was the venue for our first visit to Happy Valley with Mum and Dad when they visited us when we first arrived in HK in 2004)and we are also due to spend an afternoon in Macua as well as catching up with some old friends so it promises to be an action packed few days."