At Hong Kong, I nod approvingly as the Immigration Officer squeezes the HK stamps into an improbably small gap on one of my passport pages, then hop on the Airport Express train into town. 100HK$, about seven pounds, rather expensive unless pitted against the exorbitant Heathrow Express train. At least this train works and runs to schedule.
I dump my stuff at Hostel.HK aka Budget Hostel (on Hostelworld), a cheap (20 pounds a night) hostel which is fantastically located in Causeway Bay, then head straight out to Lam Kwai Fong, the pub street in Central. I’m meeting up with Giles, a school friend who I haven’t seen since, err, school.
My suggestion for meeting point was the British pub the Pickled Pelican, which is actually just above LKF on Wyndham Street. Giles is already there, nursing his first Guinness.
Young Barford has changed not a jot!
I order a Greene King IPA. They don’t have any. Ruddles County? Out too. Abbott? No more left. I almost walk out there and then! They have Spitfire, otherwise I would have to relegate this place to the same bucket that the George was dumped into after one visit – “So called British pub without British beer”. Not an accolade.
So Spitfire it is. It’s great to catch up with Giles, who rejigged his flights so he could meet up with Leo and myself. Plenty of beer has passed under the ridge by the time Leo joins us. The atmosphere is great, but that might be to do with the rolling footage of the Rugby World Cup semi-final Giles finally has to leave, and Leo and I are left with just a couple more beers before heading out to meet his friends, Felix and Queenie in a Japanese restaurant.
We have a head-start on Leo
Why does this always happen after 9 Spitfires?
It’s an old-friend gathering before Queenie gets married in a week, so when they move on to a bar, I split off, dump my stuff at my flat and head out to Wanchai. My plan was to go to another English pub, the White Stag, with Moby Dick, but as they were belting out loud dance music, I switched to a coffee shop and then a Chinese pub imitation called, erm, something like the Horse and Hounds. Too noisy, and I kept falling asleep. Time to go to bed.
On the way back , I curse myself for leaving the bag which I actually left in my room in the bar. I turn back, walk for 10 minutes before it suddenly dawns on me. Punished for stupidity!
Next morning, after a brief bit of essentials shopping, I meet Leo and we go for Sichuan food, my new favourite Chinese variation!
Leo orders several dishes, including diced chicken with chillis, spicy oily tofu, a spicy soup almost satay-like, and finally, to maintain the pretence of healthy living, a pile of lettuce.
No time to waste
After eating, we head over to a new shopping centre above Kowloon, supposedly one of HK’s biggest. We find a café which has an incredible offering. Not since I found Peking Lamb in Oxford have I been this impressed. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present.. the Cappuccino Bruleé!
The cappuccino bruleé
Yes, it’s a cappa, but with a sprinkling of sugar flamed. It looks bad, but it works!
Good bye dearest
I go back, grab bags, and head over to the airport. Tracy’s agreed to meet up. Last time I was horrendously late. This time I’m a couple of minutes early, and Tracy is a few minutes late. Fair enough. Before she arrives, a popstar chap walks in surrounded by about 30 teenage girls holding cameras in his face. Tracy suspiciously turns up a minute after he goes.
The lovely Tracy
Tracy takes me a to a Korean restaurant in the other terminal. We order bbq, which is very tasty, and comes with the full compliment of side dishes.
Barbeque and side dishes
It’s a real challenge getting Tracy to eat much.
Last time she gave me some Imodium tablets for India. This time an Egyptian bookmark, a more positive present!
See you in HK airport next time!
It's time for my flight to Africa! A whole new continent, and one I've never really visited (Morocco and Egypt don't really count). First stop - Johannesburg, which is the crime capital of the continent by all accounts. Wish me luck!