Saturday, 11th/Sunday, 12th November 2006 – London, Hong Kong, Macau
Saturday went pretty much as you’d expect. We left for Heathrow at 12.30, and even taking the long way round we were there in plenty of time to hand over the car to the Purple Parking attendant (who, disappointingly, wasn’t at all purple) who takes your car from you at the terminal and brings it back when you come home. It’s a bit of a luxury, but it does mean when we land back in London on Wednesday morning at stupid o’clock (04:50) we’ll be met by the attendant with the car and can get straight on our way without any of the complicated shuttle bus malarkey you usually have to go through if you leave your car at any of the long stay car parks.
Anyway, a little while later we were checked in, after a brief fit of confusion over tickets. For some reason we didn’t have a receipt which meant I had to go to the ticketing desk to ask for one before we could check in. This was the point at which it became obvious that we didn’t have a receipt because Virgin hadn’t actually taken any payment and the booking was still sitting in their queue (and had been since early September). I don’t mind them not taking their money, but even so this seemed a bit careless on their part. Still, I paid for the tickets there and then, and upgraded us to the emergency exit seats (cost £75.00 but worth every penny because it meant I could stretch out in relative comfort instead of spending 12 hours with my knees somewhere round my ears). That done, and security cleared, we decided it was time for lunch, so a trip to Chez Gerard was on the cards.
A plate of smoked salmon, followed by a lamb tagine with couscous meant it wouldn’t matter what the airline “food” was like, though perhaps a litre of water on top of the couscous might have been a bad idea. I swear that stuff expands inside you as soon as you add liquid. It meant we both sat around feeling incredibly full until it was time to board, but at least we were able to do that in the peace and quiet of one of the business lounges, rather than fighting for space outside.The flight was about an hour late taking off, since some poor woman was taken ill and had to be taken off the flight. Of course that also meant her husband got off, and their baggage had to be off-loaded, all of which took quite some time. However, the pilot was confident he could get most of that time back, so no one was too stressed. Eventually we got off the tarmac, and were soon being served dinner (vegetarian noodles – I needed carbohydrates after my morning run).
We both watched a film or two (“Little Fish” with Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving and Sam Neill – a less than cheerful tale but superbly well acted; incredibly downbeat – and “The Queen” with a brilliant performance by Helen Mirren. I enjoyed both of them). Anyway, films watched, we took a sleeping pill each and stretched out to sleep. I discovered another advantage about being 70lbs lighter – I fitted in the seat properly and didn’t end up with the imprint of the entertainment system handset in my bum for the first time ever. I must have been comfortable, because I remember very little until just before the crew started waking everyone up to serve breakfast, about two hours before landing.
I’ve never quite understood why it has to be breakfast, since we landed at around 18.00 local time, but anyway that’s how they do it. I managed to watch half of “Dead Man’s Chest” before the captain switched off the entertainment systems and we were soon on the Tarmac at Hong Kong. Because we’d arrived the day before everyone else, Estoril Tours were only responsible for the two of us, so they whisked us to the Jetfoil terminal in no time, and within 10 minutes we were underway. We’d still got our cases with us this time, because we’d been told if we handed them over then we’d have to wait at least 45 minutes extra at the other end, and we didn’t think that was a good idea. Of course usually there’s just a ramp to the ferry, but this time I had to lug a 29kg suitcase down the stairs and onto a wildly rocking vessel. Fun, eh?
At the other end we were soon at the hotel (the Rio) where the rooms proved to be vast if somewhat badly laid out (nowhere near enough drawer space for one thing, and 6 coat hangers in total for the two of us). I managed to negotiate another ten coat hangers, though after I signed for them I discovered we’d be charged $200 HK dollars (about £15) if we didn’t hand all ten of them back at the end of our stay…
After unpacking we headed downstairs in search of dinner, and opted for the hotel’s Japanese restaurant. A couple of Japanese beers proved the ideal accompaniment for a selection of mixed fish sushi, a Japanese beef sushi each (meltingly wonderful, beautifully marbled Kobe beef), and some barbecued eel. It was a lovely meal, and we wondered why the place was so empty. OK it was late, but they stay open till 4 in the morning, but apart from another couple, the only people in there were the staff (all 8 of them). We finished our meal and went in search of the bar, which was similarly quiet apart from Rachael Kimball and her boyfriend, Simon. We stayed for a couple of drinks, then ordered one to take to our room, only to be told we couldn’t take the glasses out of the bar! The very sweet barmaid, Sandy, found a solution though. An empty glace cherry jar was quickly washed and rinsed and we decanted our drinks into it, then went to our room where we used the tooth-glasses to drink from. Odd and it took us a while to stop laughing about it!