Saturday, 8th/Sunday, 9th November 2008 – Hong Kong, Days 1 and 2
After a certain amount of panicked packing the night before, and the cancellation of all appointments on Saturday, we got off to a leisurely start after a late breakfast, loading up the car at 1 pm and heading for Heathrow airport, leaving Andrea in charge of house and cats…
We arrived about three minutes after we’d told Purple Parking to expect us, handed the car keys over at the entrance to the terminal, and trundled through to the check in desks, which were very quiet indeed. There the very friendly woman on the counter didn’t ask about the fact that my case was overweight by 7 kilos and checked the bags through to Hong Kong. We then sped through security, and decided that in case the food on the plane was awful, and because we had a lot of time on our hands, we should have lunch at the seafood bar in Terminal 2. We settled in and ordered a bottle of Pinot Grigio and a seafood salad (me) and a crab salad (Lynne), and were pleased to note that the waiter was incredibly friendly as were the other members of staff. When we finished he even said he wished all customers were as nice as us, so the day was off to a much better start than is sometimes the norm at Heathrow. In fact ever since T5 started to work, the airport has been much better to deal with.
Anyway before we knew it we were on the Lufthansa flight to Munich (and were served a dry cheese sandwich so the lunch was a good idea). Theoretically we had over an hour to transfer between flights, and despite the website insisting that would be plenty of time, I was sceptical. As it turned out I needn’t have worried. The changeover at Munich was incredibly easy, taking about 20 minutes from gate to gate with no formalities to go through (though there’s always the slight worry when you don’t get reunited with your luggage that you may never see it again). We sat in the business lounge for half an hour for a coffee, a glass of wine and some fresh fruit before ambling to the plane. The seats we had were OK – especially given how much of a fight I ended up having with the Lufthansa online check-in system on Friday night – with enough leg room, even for me. The service on board was friendly and efficient, starting with addressing passengers by name when they boarded, even those of us in economy, and the food served during the flight was surprisingly good, especially the beef served for dinner. There wasn’t much to watch – their entertainment system is a bit limited and mine kept switching itself off every so often – but we did both watch Mamma Mia and then a documentary about bears, in particular Knut the polar bear at Berlin zoo. After that (and dinner) we took a sleeping pill each and passed out for three or four hours. It could have been longer, but the idiot sitting in the row forward of ours decided to open the blinds an hour earlier than the cabin crew would have done, and woke us up. However after pulling my pashmina (or Kashmiri if you’re Andrea’s mum!) over my head I dozed till breakfast (noodles was the only choice by the time they got as far back as us), even with the all-night card school going on in the middle of our row.
We missed a lot of Sunday due to flying over several time zones and landed in Hong Kong late Sunday afternoon. Our luggage arrived shortly after we did, and we dragged it out of the hall to be met at the exit by the uniformed staff from the Intercontinental Grand Stanford, a remarkably pleasant hotel in Kowloon where we intended to spend our first two nights. The car was on its way, would we just like to take a seat and a bottle of water each, and they’d be with us as soon as possible. Ten minutes later and the limo (a very nice air-conditioned Mercedes, complete with smartly dressed driver) was at the door and we were on our way to the hotel. Once there we were barely inside the lobby when one of the hotel staff dashed over to us and whisked us straight to our room, insisting that we could do the check-in formalities there. And a very nice room it was too, with a massive comfortable bed, a fun view of the outside world (though not a harbour view – they cost more) and more white fluffy towels in the bathroom than two people could use in a week. Oh, and more free water, a box of chocolates and a plate of fruit…
We unpacked, showered off the journey dirt and adjourned to the Ambassador Club for the cocktail hour where we hit the Champagne and canapes, before asking the concierge to organise us a cab to take us to Aqua Roma where Lynne’s colleague Cheryl, who has been based in Hong Kong for the last two years, had organised us a good table overlooking the harbour for dinner. The food was impressive, as was the view, though I don’t think the harbour lightshow is quite all it’s made out to be.
In fact you could almost miss it to start with. The first trick was getting to Peking Road, because it seems Hong Kong is full of roadworks at the moment, and the second trick was finding the door of 1 Peking Road, because it isn’t actually on Peking Road, it’s round the corner! Once we’d found it, it was well worth the effort, with charming staff, and raspberry caipirinhas to kill for!
The scallops with foie gras were pretty good too:
And Lynne enjoyed her penne with pumpkin:
While I had the prawn and scallop risotto with peas, which was pretty damn good:
And then a crazed waiter set fire to a strawberry brulee…
We walked back – after a couple of moments of bafflement as to how we could get to where we wanted to be because of the closed roads/pavements. The route was slightly circuitous but it took us along the waterfront and provided a great view (Hong Kong definitely looks better in the dark), as well as allowing us to view the Christmas lights:
And from there, via the Ambassador Club for a late night brandy, to bed and to sleep.