February 28 was another blessed sea day, the first of two. Oh, joy. I had a lot of work to do, and finally some time to do it. It was quiet at the desk. Ken Mikel stopped by to say “Hi”, as usual. He may become a neighbor at Fountaingrove Lodge one day. He will be most welcome.
I went to the Front Desk to change a couple of US hundred dollar bills, and found they had nothing left in the way of change except four twenties. Here I was with two cocktail parties’ worth of tipping to do. I went back to my cabin, emptied my safe and made up eleven red packets, containing amounts from $10 to $25 in US Dollars, Thai Baht, Vietnamese Dong, Singapore Dollars and Hong Kong Dollars. That took a lot longer than it should have, but the service personnel were happy and I got a free glass of wine at Rendez Vous, when I brought it all in. Red packets are also called Lai See. They are decorated red envelopes containing Chinese New Year gifts. I had brought some along for the purpose.
Adam and Judy and I went to Q-sine, a specialty restaurant. It lets you pick dishes from all over the world, Sushi, French Fries, Indian Curries, Dim Sum, Mediterranean, Fish ‘n Chips, name it. All were quaintly presented. Just something new. Pat and Mike are still enjoying being treated like swells in Luminae, for Suite guests only.
March 1st we were at sea again. Now that we were getting closer to Hong Kong, it got a lot busier at the desk. I dispensed a lot of useful information to those who came for it. I got a lot of logging and blogging done, which was sorely needed. It was a formal night but I skipped it, which I almost never do. I ate in the buffet, which I almost never do, either. I did go to the show, though, once I had enough work done. I like the production shows a lot.
March 2nd, we docked in Taipei (Keelung), Taiwan. Mike wasn’t feeling well, so Pat and Mike decided to stay aboard and rest up for Hong Kong. Adam and Judy and I took a train into Taipei, and a taxi to the National Palace Museum. It never disappoints. The collection is very deep, so, if you only go there every couple of years, it’s always new. The taxi rides around Taipei were fun, too. We took the train back and left a little of Elvon in Keelung Harbour, as he opened up a Manulife company in Taiwan.
That night we enjoyed the Keelung Night Market. We started at a soup stall, where we had a spectacular seafood soup, for next to nothing. Then we moved on to barbequed octopus, which was tasty, if tough. I bought a couple of tops, we found a box of assorted dumplings, and Adam bought some sweet potato balls, which made a yummy dessert. What’s fun is how teeming with life these places are, and I can’t wait to get to Hong Kong.
We slipped out of Keelung harbor at 2:00 am on March 3, 2018. That made it a sea day. Wilie Alvarez brought in the photos he took for me on our shore excursion, when my phone had given up the job. He and Elsa were staying in HK for a few days and he wanted my ideas of what to do. Ken Mikel came by, too, and joined in. I had so much to tell them, it got me excited. I can only hope they did some of it, and had as much fun as we did. Then I added notes to the printed farewell cards, to the effect that I would be in Rendez Vous at 5:00 pm, to say “Good Bye” and draw for the $25 ship board credit for those who had their comments cards in. I delivered those, finished packing and made it to Rendez Vous by 5:00 pm. There were four witnesses and one of them picked Adam and Judy, so it absolutely wasn’t fixed. They won the $25, fair and square.
On Sunday, March 4, we finally disembarked in Hong Kong. The Conrad had sent a van for us, so we had another seamless entry into our hotel. We were early for check-in, but they managed to give us one room, which we awarded to Pat and Mike, because he was still feeling poorly. We moved all our luggage into it, and made a plan to go up to the Peak, which is very handy to the Conrad, and it’s a good idea to grab a time when the weather is more or less fine. It’s March in the Northern hemisphere there, too, and it does rain a lot.
Mike was feeling well enough to join us, after all. We walked out the front door of the hotel, crossed Hong Kong Park, which gets nicer all the time, passed the Marriage Registry, where a wedding party was taking pictures. This is true most of the time on a weekend in Hong Kong. Once it was Elvon and Helen. This one was more the norm, a nice young Chinese couple. There was a 20-minute wait for the tram, also par for the course. Along with the tourists, a lot of young Hong Kong families do this kind of thing on a Sunday.
They have developed the Peak, with an elevator building, containing shops and restaurants. We ate at the best Chinese restaurant they had, Lu Feng, Dim Sum, noodles and rice. It was good, if over-priced. You had to expect that. The views were different from the top and bottom of the escalators. We had escalated through the clouds, you see. It was better at the bottom.
That night we met Sue Jamieson, Don Meyer & Cindy Kwok, Lloyd Chao, and Simon & Delia Clennell at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Lan Quoi Fong. Pat and Mike took a taxi, and Adam, Judy and I took a tram and walked up. They beat both us, and our hosts there, and a good half-hour passed, when they were upstairs at the table and the rest of us were hovering around the front door, waiting for them, so we could go into the bar.
When we finally got together, we did do the bar, because it’s world famous and the drinks are cheap and good. Lloyd couldn’t stay, as he had relatives in town, but he brought me the most precious gift. His mother and sister have just published a book, based on his mother’s memories, and spanning five generations of his family’s history. I found it fascinating. Amazon will have it next month, you can get a taste at www.rememberingshanghai.com . We had dinner in the FCC’s formal dining room, complete with soufflés for dessert. It was the first time I had eaten at the FCC, after all the times it was my watering hole…
The next morning Mike decided it was time to get a chest X-Ray, so he called me at 7:00 am and I set it up, along with a claim on his insurance. Pat and Mike went to the hospital in a taxi, while Adam, Judy and I walked to Elvon’s tailor, where Adam wanted a shirt made. It’s an interesting walk out of Pacific Place, where the Conrad is, east toward Wanchai. You pass very high end car dealerships, Chinese furniture stores, galleries, and lanes full of stalls that sell food, notions, and cheap clothing, to both locals and tourists. Old and new Hong Kong. Johnny Lai’s shop, Evergreen Tailors, is still where it was when we lived in Hong Kong, and you’d never find it if you didn’t know. It’s on the 11th floor of an old building on Hennessey Road, and Johnny is as good as ever. I have since heard that Adam loves his shirt.
We got out of there in plenty of time to get to the Hong Kong Country Club by bus. We were having lunch with the Lams, all of them, Alwin, Agnes, Jackie, Irene, Chi-Wai, and his wife, Kay. What a treat. Then there was the food. It started off with Peking duck, and a very good one. The Country Club does it the traditional way, meaning it gets served in three courses, so no part of it is wasted but the bones. There must have been at least eight other dishes, plus desserts. It was a royal stuffing. Thank you, Alwin.
When it was over, we all piled into the Lams’ assorted cars and drove two minutes to Deep Water Bay, where we consigned part of Elvon to the waves of the South China Sea. He would have liked that, a lot.
We were planning to get back on the bus and take the roller-coaster ride to Stanley, but when I reached for my phone to check for messages from Pat and Mike, I didn’t have it. So, we walked back to Deep Water Bay and did a little beachcombing. Nothing. We hailed a cab and went back to the Country Club, where I had left it in the Ladies’ Room. You take it out of your pocket to sit down, you see. Now that we had the taxi, we got lazy and had it take us back to the Conrad, where the pool was waiting. It’s a good thing we did that, too, as the weather never cooperated again. It’s a lovely pool, too, with a great skyscraper view, easy to enjoy from a pool lounger.
Mike’s lungs showed enough congestion to alarm the private hospital the Conrad sent him to, but they didn’t have a bed, and it wasn’t enough to keep him in Ruttonjee, the public hospital, so they sent him home with more meds. He is getting good care at the Conrad, especially after Agnes Lam found out about him. She’s friends with the General Manager’s wife. It’s all about whom you know.
They stayed in, while Adam, Judy and I boarded another tram, to Causeway Bay, to meet Elizabeth Law, Paul Lam and Alvin Chung, McGill Society friends. So there we were, five McGillians in a Japanese Restaurant in Hong Kong, named Tonkichi. We had a fabulous time. The food was stunning, especially the red garoupa sashimi, served inside the fish itself, truly picture-worthy. And who said Japanese food was light? Whoever it was just didn’t have enough of it. We sure did. It was accompanied by a sake tasting, too. Thank you so much, Elizabeth. Wow, two amazing meals in one day.
Tuesday, the Symanskys and I were still on our own, with Pat nursing Mike in the lap of luxury, back at the Conrad. We got on a tram and went West to the Mid-Levels escalator, the way a lot of people get to work. The corridor leading from the Hang Seng Bank building to the escalator itself, is a mini-museum of factoids about Hong Kong. It made very interesting reading. We rode it to Hollywood Road and walked along there, poking our noses into some of the galleries and noting, that we rather liked modern Chinese art.
Instead of a tram, we made the mistake of taking a taxi to the Craigengower Cricket Club in Causeway Bay. It got stuck in traffic and made us a half-hour late. Not that it was helped by the fact that I had got the street name just slightly wrong. Luckily, I know the territory and when the cab veered off course, I caught it. Danny Chan, my twin, was waiting for us, as were Pat and Mike and Kingston Wong, another of Elvon’s Branch Managers, from our days in HK. This club caters to both businessmen and families. It was full and most of the tables were of six or more. Danny ordered just about every kind of Dim Sum on the menu, with the exception of the chicken’s feet. Wise move. Then he added a few more dishes for good measure. Urp. I have no idea what we are gaining, but, at least we are walking a lot.
By the time we got back to the Conrad, there were only a couple of hours to our next appointment, so we dispersed to rest and catch up with the world. Mike was done in, but Pat came to dinner at the RHKYC with us. I chose the scenic route, and that will be the last time, because it isn’t scenic any more. We took a tram to Causeway Bay again, and made our way to the parking lot of the World Trade Center, next to the Excelsior Hotel. That had changed, and I had to ask for directions to the tunnel to the Club, when I had done it every week for five years. They keep building in Hong Kong, you see, and that involves tearing down walls, and whole buildings, and putting new ones up. The tunnel didn’t move but everything above it changed.
It got worse. The feature, in the tunnel I loved, was two pipes, about four feet in diameter, with signs on them every twenty feet or so. The signs read “Sea Water Intake” and “Sea Water Return”. You can just imagine what’s in them and how much fun it would be if one burst. I am sure they are still there, but now there’s a wall between us and the pipes. I told the story, anyway. The tunnel goes under a 14 lane highway, which used to be Gloucester Rd., and still is, I guess. My office was on it.
The tunnel comes out near the famous Noonday Gun, from the days of the Hongs. Then the road used to curl around the Bay, which was full of sampans, many of which used to serve meals, not that I was ever brave enough to have one. Well, now, it’s pretty much all yachts, ho hum. I guess they pay more in mooring fees.
The Police Officers’ Club, which used to be on the left, is gone and there’s a big hole in its place, with construction panel walls, around it, and machinery within. Another skyscraper coming, no doubt. I wonder where the police officers are drinking now? There probably aren’t very many British ones left, so maybe there’s no need.
We finally found the Yacht Club, but there was no doubt we’d be taking a taxi out. Mabel Lam and Sue Jamieson were waiting for us in the Sailors’ Bar, and Ray Wong was wandering around the place, trying to find it. Even the locals can get confused with all this building going on. The Yacht Club’s own building project is enhancing the facilities for the growing membership.
I don’t have nearly as many friends in Hong Kong, as I used to, but, as I bring them together every year or two, they have been getting to know each other, so here were: Mabel Lam, part of my old girl gang. She’s Canadian, married to a New Zealander that she met at the yacht club. Sue Jamieson, who has been a friend since I met her at the RHKYC’s new members party in 1989, and Ray Wong, with whom I worked at Hutchison iNet and then Hutchison AT&T. During our catching-up process, Ray shared that he was starting a non-profit to bring Music Education to talented students that can’t afford it. Sue asked him if he had his charitable organization registered with the Hong Kong government, a process that involves quite a lot of paperwork, approvals, etc. He was just starting that, and delighted that Sue was trying to get rid of a valid charity number. All he has to do is join her board, then become president of it, change the charity’s name and move on – much easier. I love my network.
It’s Western food at RHYC, but good, and it was a lovely evening with old friends. We took a taxi home, but that didn’t stop Pat from waking up the next morning feeling worse. So, she stayed back while Mike, Adam, Judy and I took a ferry to Cheung Chau. That little island still has no cars on it and is only a local tourist magnet. It has changed, though, because now its harbor holds a lot of the fishing boats that used to be in Aberdeen, with the fisher-families living aboard. The price of mooring in Aberdeen harbor must have gone up, since they have been building new luxury high rises, there. If there’s one place you can’t stop progress, it’s Hong Kong. It just follows the money.
We came back to the Conrad in the afternoon, as we were going to the races that night. Simon had recommended Stable Bend as a good venue to eat and watch the races. Our taxi dropped us off at the general entrance, which turned out to be at the other end of the race track. That got us in literally on the ground floor, and we got to see how much fun the purchasers of General Admission were having. Stable bend had good food, easy access to betting, and a nice view of the track and surroundings, which are awesome, so we had a good time. But it wasn’t near the finish line, and I think the next time, we’ll go for General Admission, which puts you right down on the field, or in the lower stands. There’s fast food and drink for purchase, and a serious party atmosphere. Our night was Irish night, so you can image how much of a party atmosphere there was. We ended up taking the tram back, as it was a lot easier to get than a couple of taxis. It was full of partying young people and so reminded me of all the fun I had had in Hong Kong.
And so we came to March the 8th and the long flight home. Pat and Mike were happy the Conrad let them rest in the room, until 6:00 pm. Thank you, Agnes and her friend, Anne. The rest of us were happy to just go out and do stuff. Our plane was taking off close to midnight, so I figured we would eat at Maxim’s at the airport, which had been excellent when it opened 8 or 10 years ago. Note to self: We would have been much better off to have eaten at The Conrad, in the Brasserie or Nicholini’s, as Maxim’s Jade Garden at the airport provided a pretty awful meal.
The flight was uneventful; the way you want them. Eric picked us up and brought us home, and all was well. Another wonderful trip, with wonderful friends.
My 2019 Assignment – Maybe a cruise for you?
Seas of Enlightenment – Oceania Insignia, March 4 to 31, 2019, yup, 27 days
Enlightenment or not, this is a dream of a cruise. I got early access to this for long and faithful service, as a concierge host. The starting and ending ports are Sydney and Tokyo, places I’ve always wanted to explore more fully, I love Indonesia and the Philippines, and what’s not to love about Oceania?
https://tinyurl.com/InsigniaAsia190304 Australia, Indonesia, Philippines, Taiwan, Japan
Most categories are already wait listed. That no longer scares me. Three months before, plenty of cabins open up, and the wait list clears. It is important to be on it.
And the one in between:
It’s a Mediterranean Cruise this October. We go Rome to Rome on Holland America’s Koningsdam. I have clients booked in two cabins and it’s a Distinctive Voyage. I bid for and got it. Who else is coming with me? Take a look:
https://www.hollandamerica.com/details?webItineraryIdForAudit=E8M10B&fromSearchVacation=true&guestsCount=2&voyageCode=K862&selectedMeta=Interior&shipId=KO October 8 sailing.
It’s seriously inexpensive. Treat yourselves to a suite. Comes with a free cocktail party and shore excursion. I’ll have no trouble booking you from wherever I am. Brunch at the Monte Carlo Yacht Club, anyone? I can get us in. And yes, if you want me to take care of you, you buy it from moi.