I loved Vietnam, but to tell you the truth I was actually happy to be on our way to an organised city. My expectations were realised by the ease in which the airport train got us to Hong Kong Central at nearly midnight. Where we met a tired Louise. Louise being one of Kelly’s friends from London, who moved to Hong Kong a year or so ago. She offered (very nicely) to put us up for a few days.
Her flat is very well located on Hong Kong Island, so we got a taxi from central station with her, and it’s very cheap. The apartment I imagine, isn’t, as property and rental prices in Hong Kong are worse than London.
It’s a lovely little place up 5 flights of stairs with incense and Buddhist artefacts outside each door on the way up.
The following day was my birthday and as a special treat Kelly had arranged a visit to the Chinese passport office for me. Lovely. It actually did turn out to be very relaxing as the staff took our passports and told us to return the following day when everything would be sorted.
Hong Kong Island is basically on a mountain, so most of the streets behind the waterfront are stairs in themselves. It can get tough going when you wander up and down trying to find somewhere. On this occasion Google maps was confusing Kelly by placing the blue marker to indicate where we were in the wrong place. Not drastically wrong, but a few streets up or down. Just enough to be misleading.
After an incident where I blew my fuse and refused to pay 4400HKD (£44) for a Chinese lady to iron 4 things, Kelly and I parted ways for separate haircuts. In my case much needed, having not seen clippers since 2015. The items that needed ironing were those purchased in Hoi An, and were planned for Macau. Kelly managed to find a reasonably priced alternative at a better cleaners.
Now technically in China, Chinese was on the menu, as my birthday lunch. Comically (because the waitress didn’t speak English), we attempted to navigate the menu using google translate and order dumplings with no idea about the amount we would get. We ordered one of each item, hoping we would get a range of 2-6 and not a solitary dumpling for each. We lucked out and received the expected amount, with the prize pick being a tasty black truffle dumpling each. Super yum balls.
It was very rainy that day, which was welcome apart from when small people with umbrellas kept hitting my head. This happened alot and nobody seemed to adjust the height of their brolly for me. So it became a bit of a bore. A painful bore too, at times.
It reminded me of New York, in so much it has tall buildings, advertising, shops etc. A much taller, thinner London if you will, with both Cantonese and English adverts everywhere. Oh and some Antony Gormley statues dotted around, like London. We passed by Jordan Comic book Heroes garden which felt very Asian, all the statues being in the Chinese and Japanese Manga style.
We felt like learning a bit about the history of Hong Kong, rather than just experiencing its modernity. So we went to the museum of HK history. It’s massive. But a must do in my opinion to visitors. We had maybe 2 hours there and that hardly scratched the surface. Starting with the geothermal creation of the land itself, and passing through the tribes peoples, onwards through the Chinese dynasties before dedicating an entire floor to it’s history since the opium wars from 1850. It was a fascinating look into Chinese-Anglo (plus French, Dutch and Portuguese) clashes that culminated in the British invading China and reaching Beijing, then negotiating for Hong Kong, the port they really wanted. From this one could deduce the effect colonial incursions such as these had on China’s 20th century politics. Learn-ding is fun.
Louise had invited us to a Thai restaurant that evening with some expats, workmates, her sister Nicola and her husband Jimmy who were also visiting. We knew them from London and both being a good laugh, we were set for a happy birthday night on the town. Where a Thai lady I presumed to be the owner serenaded me with a birthday ditty in Thai and English. Strange, embarrassing, but welcome. We closed the night out with a visit to a music bar, that provided much discussion regarding the open mic night bands playing. All very skilled, very heavy metal in style, some really good, some wierdos, some very Chinese in style, but completely fun and unplanned randomness. I bought a demo CD that I thought was good, but won’t find out again until I get back to London.
I made it all the way through Thailand without having any adverse effects from the food, but the Hong Kong variety provided me with a few little parps the next day that promised to become big parps accidentally. Luckily it passed quickly without issue and we headed to Victoria Peak, the crest of the mountain at the centre of Hong Kong Island.
I think we could’ve picked a better day to head up an attraction that was solely so because of the view. The tram up was fun. A wooden, old worldly experience. Then a shopping centre, complete with the necessary escalators required to reach the peak’s observation deck. Where we observed a most brilliant… white.
Foggy white, and spitting rain. No view. Oh well. At least for lunch we would actually be seeing an old friend, in the form of Josie from our university. We met at a Japanese place, and had some exquisite sushi whilst chatting about working here. Apparently it’s easy enough to get a job, in answer to my curious line of questioning. However you would be extremely lucky to get anything near the 20 holiday days we’re accustomed to in the UK. Due to honouring most religious holidays, bank holidays are in the extreme. Therefore you only get 7 days vacation to choose at first, and work your way up.
Hong Kong’s locals burn the candle at both ends we were told, so naturally we were out for another drinking session that night. The excuse for which was karaoke. We entered to find Louise’s work friends mid-song, sat in a circle observing an intermittent screen. Occasionally a man would come in, bang around and fix our musical medley. Louise’s boss; Lisa had a very good singing voice and seemed quite into it. So when someone shoved the mic in my hand and provoked me into singing Justin Bieber, I looked over to Lisa and could tell I was stealing her moment. Oops. Well it didn’t get any better as the seriousness of singing descended into serious fun. Boys singing ‘Girls just wanna have fun’, and Katy Perry, the girls nailing Kei$ha’s ‘Tick Tock’ and ‘Smells like team Spirit’, plus the worst of moments when I needed to provide the Jay-Z rap part for Alicia Key’s Empire State of Mind. I had missed karaoke.
For the sake of everyone’s hangover Hong Kong had a bank holiday that Friday. So we slept late then took in some culture in the form of the Art Basel event at the Hong King Expo. For a few hours we wandered round seeing all kinds of awesome art, from different artists, galleries and sellers from around the world. Inspired and artistically sated we followed up with a rich Beef Bourginon dinner at a fine French restaurant, accompanied with wine. Wine. We hadn’t had any of that for a long time.
That night we truly learned that for the expats working here; Hong Kong is an escape from real life and a party. We met a few more of Louise’s friends who wanted to go out to a drum and bass night until 4AM. We declined the offer but learnt that 6AM finishes were normal even on school nights here. Maybe 10 years ago, I thought, or maybe if I had 10 spare livers to go through.
Next morning was a beach morning. I believe the beach was in the northern part of Hong Kong Island just before the new territories. Either way it was a convenient 30 minute taxi ride away. At the beach you bring your own food, BBQ meat, etc and a BBQ hand (let’s go with that job title) will light the grill, take your food, cook and serve it for you. That’s service. Meanwhile we just enjoyed the rays and chatted to Louise’s cool friends. It was short lived and we didn’t get to experience Billy BBQ hand’s work (he has a name now), because we had a ferry to catch.
Donned in my brand new, tailored white tuxedo and Kelly modelling a sophisticated black cocktail dress we boarded the ferry to Macau. For an unashamedly posh night, my main birthday treat. Trying to look as Bond as possible I naturally failed by falling asleep and started snoring on the crossing.
Once we reached the former Portuguese colony, now turned Las Vegas of the Orient, we boarded our shuttle to the Wynn Casino. A light show welcomed us into the casino, performed in the entrance. Where the ceiling adorned with the 12 Chinese zodiac animals parted to reveal space and time (on a screen). Suddenly and without warning a great tree rose from below and glittered gold, then green, depicting the tree of fortune, wishing us luck in the casino itself.
A smaller version of its American counterpart, the Wynn’s gambling options were limited to Baccarat and slot machines. Disinterested by this we found a small bar to enjoy an Old Fashion and some Champagne to celebrate 9 months of marriage.
Our attire served us well, being clearly overdressed but hopefully the best dressed couple in the joint, we were directed to the best seats in an Italian restaurant we stumbled across. A perfect view of the Bellagio-like water fountains outside. During our dinner at The Restaurante di Theatro we watched the fountains time themselves to “I need a hero”, amongst other crowd pleasers. Followed by an Amuse Bouche, being a panacotta with sundried tomato. As Rob Brydon said – My Bouche was amused. Then came the main, the best Steak I’d had in quite some time; accompanied with some fabulous Italian red wine. For that moment we were living the honeymoon dream.
Our visit to Macau short lived we returned to Hong Kong. Handing our luggage over in Hong Kong central and being assured that it would be taken to the airport, I felt this a very civilised city. One I had no doubt I would see again in the future, and one I was interested to learn how it compared to Taiwan.