Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Hong Kong Night

After a very pleasant flight on Qantas First Class, which I have to say comes a close second to BA - strange as Qantas Business seemed pretty poor, I arrive in the city I left in 1996, this time to a new airport. It's foggy. My old friend Leo is here to greet me, and together we head into town.

It's been a while

The plan is to recreate a night we spent just before he emigrated for Canada in '96. I think it was the first time I ever got seriously drunk. I've never particularly liked gin since. And certainly not those dodgy Chinese herbal spirits which one can buy from corner shops. They're just plain wrong.

Anyway, I dump my bags in luggage storage in the airport and we catch the train to Kowloon. It's changed lots since I was last here - it feels cleaner, brighter, glossier. I guess the old dirty neon signs are never far away, tucked up in little alleys and side-streets, but the main roads now feel more like Singapore or Tokyo. We eat in a restaurant called Chao Inn, just below a bar we'll try later called Aqua.

Concentrate on the food Leo, not my amazing hair

Food is good, and it doesn't take long to put away. Upstairs the bar is touristy, full of Westerners and pricey. They can get away with all of this though as they have a rather special view:

Can't believe the Bank of China building is now "small"

We're sat between a fat English family and a bunch of French teenagers. This wasn't how I envisaged the evening! So after drinking our way through the hefty minimum cover charge, we head down to meet another school friend, Heidi, who is with a friend of hers, Dave. My goodness she's lost lots of weight - I don't recognise her initially! Still the same height though ;)

Who is this lady?!

Together we hop on the Star Ferry across to Hong Kong Island, to Lam Kwai Fong, the infamous pub street, where Leo and I had our night all those years ago.

No oriental can fight the two-fingered urge in photos for long

I have no recollection of where we drank last time. We try various establishments out - including an English pub without a single English beer, outrageous! It's getting late, and Heidi and Dave disappear off. Doesn't stop us though. With daylight returning, and thoroughly worn out, I head to the airport at 6-something in dire dire need of sleep! At check in there seems to be a problem. My ticket has been cancelled. Oh dear! Apparently Qantas haven't informed Cathay of the changes they made when reissuing, so Cathay have voided the lot. Luckily there's space on today's flight, but I've lost my HK - Jo'berg reservation. I am not amused but far too tired to do anything about it.

Living in a true jet-set fashion, I just miss my little brother coming out as I head in through security. He's just arrived from South Africa, needs to buy his JR Pass, then will join me in Tokyo this evening (darling!). He needs to come out here because you have to buy the JR Pass outside of Japan. I check out the First Class Lounge - it's pretty big. They are serving freshly-made dumplings for breakfast but I'm not in the mood. Not long till on to plane, via the Starbucks that Mei had tipped me off about for my Green Tea Frapp fix.

Finally I slide into the First cabin, only to my horror to discover.. Children! Making noise as well! I ask to be moved, but the cabin is full. Damn Cathay! Nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide. The stewardess does appreciate my mild irritation though, and tells the kids to be quiet whenever they get too noisy. Doesn't help much though, as the "friendly crew" translates into CONSTANT INTERRUPTIONS - even the feckin video does it, keeps randomly switching on when I've turned it off! No washbag either. Not impressed, Cathay! Give me Qantas First again!

We're served brunch on the plane, and I opt for the Japanese one, served Kaiseki style, which consists of (roughly in order, and I'm not joking here - portions are smallish but this is what was provided) sweet broad beans and eel roll skewer, salmon roll with rape blossoms, bamboo shoot with sesame paste, fish cake with seaweed, stewed squid and braised shrimp, sliced salmon belly, smoked snapper, Japanese grass shrimp, clear soup of fish ball with bamboo shoot and soaked wakame seaweed, lily bulk shaped in cherry blossom petals, kinome, braised bamboo shoot, seaweed, Japanese butterbur, sea bream roe, braised gluten and carrot, baked seafood with mayonnaise sauce, assorted shell meat with tasazu vinegar sauce, cherry leaf noodle and white buckwheat noodles, steamed rice, miso soup and assorted pickles. [Take a breath]. Seriously! Washed down with a not especially nice Grande Cru French wine, and almost peachy Anqi supreme Ti Guan Yin tea.

That out the way, I try to sleep, but have to wait for them to bring a blanket and put it on me. I don't want a blanket, but it's easiest not to fight the "helpfulness". Into Tokyo, and luckily I know the drill, and so can squeeze some sleep on the train into town. Yokoso Japan!

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