Flying In The Week When…
Hong Kong / Friday 25 July 2014
First trip of the year. This time to Hong Kong at the invitation of the HK Healthcare Service Executives organisation to speak at their regional conference. And this time I have company – the boys and I are finally on another trip together, the previous one being to Siem Reap way back when.
The run up to this trip was quite crazy. 14, 15-hour work days, putting together the conference presentation in one hour flat last night. Desperation inspires miracles.
It was an early start today – 5.30AM cab to the airport. There was a long queue at the Cathay Pacific counter…almost as long as the ones in Addis Ababa and Arba Minch…ok, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but a long queue nevertheless, and it was a good forty minutes before we were checked in and having our caffeine fix at Starbucks.
Cathay Pacific boards early too. 7.15AM for an 8AM flight. I picked up the newspapers before boarding – the third plane crash in one week – Air Algeria in Mali. Reminded myself that I Do Not worry about things I can’t do anything about and settled down with a movie (seeing as it was a bit too early for alcohol). Decided on Jack Ryan:Shadow Recruit. [SPOILER ALERT] In the first five minutes Jack Ryan’s chopper was shot down by a missile. Aiyo. Not the best movie to watch perhaps…but it did turn out to be quite a thriller with an unexpectedly good cast – Kenneth Branagh who was a surprisingly authentic bad guy Russian, Kiera Knightley and Mikhail Baryshnikov, still playing a Russian.
A breakfast of chicken congee, a LOL episode of Modern Family and a short snooze later we landed in HK. Our cab driver from the airport to the hotel was straight out of a HK gangster movie, complete with gruff demeanour and what looked like knife scars on his hands.
We got to the hotel, checked in then went for a yummy lunch at Chee Kei in the mall adjoining the hotel. I had wantan soup and braised pork rice noodles and about half a container of divine chilli oil..absolutely yummy. And since it was a diaphragm-splinting meal we went back to the hotel and I had a nap…
In the evening we went for a walk around Mongkok…crowded narrow streets, hole-in-the-wall food places with live frogs awaiting their fate, the smells of food (a lot of that!) and horrors, a camera (mine) that wasn’t working!!! This might well turn out to be an iPhone photography trip. Or it may be the trip where I buy a second camera body…after all this is Hong Kong.
For dinner we went to Chan Kee for chicken rice that had the most delicious soya and sesame oil sauce. The nice lady serving us may have noticed us trying to get all the sauce off the plate (we just stopped short of licking the plate) as she brought us a whole bowl of the sauce.
Note to self (aka Lesson for Today) : learn from the boys…they left most of the roast chicken skin, I ate most of mine. They went to the gym today…I napped.
A Michelin Weekend
Hong Kong / Sunday 27 July 2014
It’s midnight on Sunday as I write this. Our last night in HK. It’s been a weekend well spent – the conference went swimmingly, met some people I’d met before and many new friends were made. The conference lunch was quite a spread – dessert was the highlight for me…the chocolate cake was a moist combination of mud pie and fudge – best I’ve tasted. Then there was this other dessert which the person on my right said was a HK speciality and the one on my left said was the hotel’s speciality. Either way the sweet bun with dollops of vanilla sauce was delicious. All this after I’d spoken in the morning about Singapore’s food strategy, reducing calories, etc. etc. etc.
Michelin Moment #1 – conference dinner which was a 10 (yes TEN) course dinner with food from Ming, the hotel’s 2* Michelin Cantonese restaurant – absolutely fab, and good wine too.
Michelin Moment #2 – late lunch today at Tim Ho Wan (1 Michelin *). Super delicious dim sum. Had to wait a while for a table – entirely worth it. We had 9 dishes and the damage was just over SGD10 per person! We had a silky smooth chee cheong fun (so good we ordered 2 plates), various dumplings, bak chang with pork and chicken, custard buns…I’m feeling hungry all over again.
To walk off the calories we indulged in Singapore’s other favourite past time – shopping. While I was at the conference, the boys had been doing their own exploring and so today all I had to do was follow them. Vinodh had been to Olympian City the previous day – this was also where Tim Ho Wan was. The hotel concierge said we could take a cab – fortunately Vinodh knew the walking route and we were there in 10 minutes. Sales were in full swing and post-lunch, we lightened our wallets a bit.Next on the agenda – the Peak. So after leaving the shopping in the room we fought our way through the Sunday throngs to the Mongkok MTR station – right below the hotel. Sunil had taken the MTR the previous day so this time he led the way. This has been a weekend of queues – more long queues to get the tickets from a machine…the first machine went ‘out of service’ just as we got to the head of the queue, and we didn’t read the sign on the second machine that said ‘Notes only’ so had to get some change and line up again. My first MTR trip…no different from the MRT back home.It was a short walk from Tsim Sha Tsui MTR to the Star Ferry Terminal, stopping for the requisite shot of The Peninsula Hotel on the way. We made it in perfect time for the 6PM ferry; the light was lovely and the HK skyline was all aglow.From Central Pier it was a bit of a hike getting to the Peak Tram station. Stopped for directions at the IFC (the MBFC equivalent, complete with high end shops). The FDWs were out in full force (Sunday – day off); it was picnic central with roads closed off and masses of FDWs sitting by the road, on the road, at the HSBC concourse, everywhere.Finally found the tram station…the queue WAS longer than the ones at Addis and Arba Minch, and a sign proclaimed a two hour wait! So after a brief hmm-Ing and hawing, we jumped into a cab with a driver who took the bends like it was the F1.More crowds at the Peak’s observation deck and had to do a bit of jostling…the view was pretty spectacular though.
After a Pho dinner, we thought we’d take a bus to Central then take the MTR back to Mongkok. Quickly changed our minds when we saw the queue for the bus snaking a few times round the building! Got into the slightly non-snaking taxi queue and took a cab back all the way.
Back at the hotel – I packed and did some contemplating in the Contemplation Room on the 41st floor! What a great name for a Reading Room (it just widens the possibilities) and a good Zen-like end to a bustling day in a city that is best described as deliciously bustling.
Tomorrow – Tokyo!