After a 12-hour flight from Heathrow to Hong Kong, we’d landed somewhat heavily shortly after midday. We began our route march towards HK immigration where the single line looked depressingly long with 6 snaking coils, though maybe in this neck of the woods, dragoning coils might be more appropriate. Each coil must’ve been 50 folks long and the painful memories of how long time American immigration would take to process 300 people made me shudder. Surprisingly, the line kept moving pretty much continuously, though. Lessons from Disney line management, perhaps? Here, passport check was fast and efficient with no hint of any dumb questions, unlike American immigration which really doesn’t seem to want to let you in. Handing over the landing card, passports were swiftly scanned and through we went.
It was time for Francine to deal with her mum’s ashes again. No problem; no raised eyebrows. Excellent.
After a slightly worrying delay with Francine’s, both bags turned up. Our next job was to collect our pre-ordered Octopus cards at somewhere referred to as A13. The new-ish HK airport on Lantau Island is massive (Kai Tak was the old one in my boyhood memories). On our long walk dragging our freshly retrieved bag. we saw shops but nothing resembling a booth or kiosk, which we expected. Duh! Public transport in HK requires exact change. Octopus cards are preloaded cards used on all public transport which avoid the need for small change. They were ordered in the UK and come preloaded with HK$50 [about £5]. Eventually we saw large letter-A’s implying that we were now close to our goal. A small collection of booths to the right – one with A13 above it. At last. Francine collected our cards; the pre-ordering had worked.
Then we went in search of a taxi. The new HK airport is on Lantau Island. Our hotel is on Hong Kong Island so a helpful taxi guide – there were three different types of taxi – told us we needed an Urban Taxi, the red ones. Our driver seemed to understand our hotel name and off we went. The ride took us passed many very high-rise buildings that seemed to be clustered within touching distance of each other. Human termite mounds, was the thought that sprang to my mind. Traffic flowed smoothly and after a toll tunnel and a toll bridge we were on Hong Kong Island, where traffic snarled up and progress became stop-start. A turn or two more, though and we’d arrived. The ride cost HK$400 [~ £40], cash only. In HK you pay for bags in the boot as well as passengers.
Chirpy reception staff were expecting us and checked us in. Prepaid stuff is a bit of a novelty for us but so far, so good – things seemed to be working. We were shepherded up to the 26th floor There are 27) and, though the room was bijou, it was perfectly adequate and we had a room on the good side overlooking our part of the city. That’ll give Francine something to play with. 😉
‘T was now about 15:00 and having had no sleep on a 12-hour flight, some air and exercise was in order; a leg stretch in Hong Kong Park seemed like a good idea. Besides, it appeared to have some water features which might give a weary Franco something to play with. Our friendly reception staff pointed us to a bus stop immediately outside reception. After a few minutes, we boarded a bus and proved that our octopus cards worked a dream. The ride was about a mile and, guessing the correct stop at which to alight, we wandered through a plush shopping mall complete with attractive decorative lights, up several escalators, as directed, to get to the entrance to HK Park.
Being a bit spacey and lazy, I had decided just to take my lighter-weight travel lens which goes to a nominal 300mm, though at close distances it really is only as effective as a 150mm lens. My mistake soon became obvious when we found seven species of odonata flitting about in the sunshine at the ornamental lakes. Some looked like species I was familiar with from Singapore but a few were clearly new to me. Furthermore, they were keeping their distance so I really could have done with the longer lens. Bother! Will I never learn? Nonetheless I managed a few shots that I think will be OK. [I think this is Tramea virginia but don’t quote me yet.]
A refreshing Tsingtao beer at a thoughtfully provided bar set us up for a walk back to the hotel. It took about 30 minutes and helped keep us awake.
After a reviving douche it was time to make a dinner decision. Having wasted considerable time on several occasions searching for ourselves in Spain, we asked for guidance at reception. They suggested their sister hotel a few doors down the street “if we liked Chinese food”, or a slightly longer walk down to Times Square. Yes, HK has a Times Square. The restaurant in the sister hotel would be OK but we thought we’d use that as a banker and wandered off to Times Square. Here was the Hong Kong bustle. ‘T was Friday night and ‘t was heaving. As with our Spanish experiences, restaurants were not immediately obvious. In the mall, a map showed a couple of eateries downstairs. They were distinctly Chinese, full of locals so no doubt fine but they looked noisy and felt cafeteria-like – OK for lunch but now they just didn’t appeal. Somewhat despondent, we headed back towards the banker hotel.
On the way back, in the centre of a complex series of pedestrian crossings, we passed a golden dragon statue that served as a useful orientation landmark, being quite close to home base. Shortly after snagging this, Francine spotted a bar called The Derby which looked quiet enough to be closed but a glance through the window showed it to be open. There was a board suggesting food on the street outside. We followed another couple in and were shown to two stools at the bar itself. The lady owner was friendly, the barman was friendly and we studied the menu over drink #1, a large Tsingtao for me (the barman didn’t ask, just poured) and a Chardonnay for Francine. The menu contained various items of interest. It looked and felt something like a London pub but it felt comfortable and calm, just what we needed. We shared a plate of fish ‘n’ chips and a plate of BBQ’d pork as we continued drinking and making friends with the barman.
Bloody marvellous, 12-hours from London to Hong Kong and we’re eating fish and chips. Still, most chippies in the UK are Chinese-run, aren’t they? It was bloody great. I could see us eating here again tomorrow. 🙂