I keep my blog as a personal record of what I'm up to, which might be seen as working towards "An elegant sufficiency, content, retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books, ease and alternate labour, useful life"

I'm certainly not there yet.  There is quite some way to go!










Entries in Hong Kong (19)


The fun never stops


If we imagined being able to put our feet up this afternoon, then we were wrong.  It was gone three when our luggage arrived and we began to unpack properly and before we knew it, it was half past four and an announcement reminded us of the need to attend the safety briefing – lifeboat drill – at 5pm.




Seven short blasts and one long blast is the signal to take action and make our way to our muster station, in our case Signatures restaurant.  For the first time, we were led down through a crew only area which was spick and span as as highly polished as any public rom on the ship.  I wonder how long someone spends polishing that brass nosing on the stairs?




Not easy taking a selfie wearing a lifejacket! 

Each time we take a cruise, we note that the safety briefings become more serious and more comprehensive.  It’s interesting to see how events determine a different focus, how the emphasis changes as things are learned from experience.  This time, there was much to say about not returning to the room to collect a lifejacket or anything else – a full set of them is at each muster station and specially trained crew will retrieve particular items (medication, documents etc) from suites if required in an emergency.  Mindful of a recent incident on board a ship which required an immediate evaculation (in port), we stowed our spare packets of tablets, contact lenses and so on in our bedside cabinets, since we’d learned that was where the crew will look for such things in the event of an emergency.




There was further advice about fire risks and instructions regarding the need for obedience and silence when taking instruction from the crew.  Finally, we were to practise the evacuation procedure, our muster station being divided into three groups who would be led outside onto the lifeboat deck.




We lined up and went slowly outdoors, each of us with our left hand on the shoulder of the person in front.  We received reassurance about the number of lifeboats available and the equipment on board – I’ve posted about that previously, so had no fears in that department.




We stood for a while, enjoying the view and the warm afternoon sunshine.  Eventually, all were accounted for and we returned to our suite, put our lifejackets away and prepared for the next event.




The HK immigration service wished to have a face to face exit screening.  Another five minutes of fun!  Meanwhile, I caught up on a bit of email, at least and between us, my hero and I scuttled to and from the laundry.

Finally, at 6.30pm, with three loads of washing almost complete (!) it was time to change and meet our friends for drinks.




Dinner was fun, with Sunny and Maurice our waiters in playful mood and Vikram the sommelier joining in from time to time.




After a short show in the theatre, we came back up and looked over our balcony rail.  Down there at sea level, things were happening and we were preparing to leave.




We looked out over our favourite city, breathed in the warm Hong Kong air and said goodnight.




At ten o’clock we turned around and sailed out of the harbour, bound for Keelung, Taiwan the day after tomorrow.

Goodnight Hong Kong.  We hope we’ll be back soon!


Elegant Casual




We woke to rain in Hong Kong.  Not much, but enough to carry an umbrella at least.  We had a few things to get, mostly toiletries, so a trip to Watsons was called for.




That done, we caught the MTR up to Causeway Bay, where we knew we’d find a couple of other things we were looking for and where we could amuse ourselves for a couple of hours.  Benny and Edwin weren’t coming to collect us till noon and I wanted to make the most of our time here.  It might be some time before we’re back.




Mission accomplished and we could spend half an hour mooching in the market.  I paid a visit to my favourite sticker stall and kept an eye open for one of those pretty sunshine umbrellas I’d admired at the ruined pagodas but no joy.




Never mind, time spent here is always interesting.




Looking at our watches, it was time we were making our way back to Central and hopping on a tram we were back in no time at all.




The hotel lobby was frenetic – the first match of the rugby sevens was scheduled for later and the bars were already doing great business.  Our luggage was ready to go though somewhere under all that cling film, my hero’s hat was looking pretty squished.




Off we went then, past the scene of the “umbrella revolution” outside the Legislative council.




Out along fast new roads on reclaimed land from where we could see a smart white ship through the gloom.




A short while later, having said goodbye to Benny and Edwin, we signed the health forms to confirm that we didn’t have ebola and made our way down a series of walkways to the ship.




We met Jane and Allan on the pool deck for lunch as arranged and then found our way to our suite where a warm welcome awaited.

It’s good to be “home”!


Back to Hong Kong


This was going to be the easy day.  Two short flights back to Hong Kong on large, comfortable planes where we could stretch out, use the laptop and where I could catch up on my blog ready to begin the next part.





We were ready to leave the hotel in good time. Sanda arrived promptly as my hero was paying our bill, but for some reason, Mastercard wasn’t working right now.  Credit cards are only just becoming acceptable in Myanmar and we were warned to take cash just in case this scenario unfolded. However, here at this international hotel it was surprising they had difficulties.  Thankfully, Visa was operatng as normal, so after a short delay, we were off. 

Whilst waiting, I sat at the coffee table in reception where a thanaka set was laid out – Mary, here’s the bark and the little pot of water, ready to be ground on the base and applied to the cheeks and nose with fingers.

(I didn’t)




Yangon airport international departures was chaos.  Whole families were there to wave goodbye and it was a squeeze through the throng to reach departures.  Actually, there was a checkpoint to get into the check in hall itself – this was the hall before the first check.




Because actually, the check in area was even more crowded and the queue for our flight to Bangkok was extraordinarily long.  What’s going on, we wondered?




The answer was soon sellotaped to the monitor above the desk.  The system was down and there was a whole A330 load of passengers to check in.  Oh dear.

Somehow, with the help of additional staff, the queues began to move and half an hour late, our flight left for Bangkok.  No time to sit and relax and catch up on the blog yet then.




It was only a short, one hour hop to Bangkok, but we’d taken off late and had only an hour in which to transfer to our Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong.  Though we’d been able to check our luggage through, we hadn’t been able to get boarding passes for ourselves and needed to negotiate the long corridors of Suvarnabhumi Airport to find the right transfer counter.

One of these days, we will be able to get our bearings at this airport, to relax, take a break and maybe browse the shops. As it is, however, every time we are here we seem to be running.  Today was no exception and that easy, relaxing day was fast becoming a total nightmare.




But find our way we did, just as the flight was announced.




We walked straight onto the fresh, new Cathay Pacific A330 and breathed a sigh of relief.  Did I feel like starting to catch up on my blog for the next couple of hours?  Not really, especially when I saw that Finding Vivien Maier was one of the video options.

Feeling somewhat more relaxed as we arrived half an hour early into Hong Kong and knowing we had a quick turnaround to shower and change before meeting Allan and Jane for supper at the China Club, we collected our luggage and waited for Benny, our guide in Hong Kong.  No sign of him anywhere but a quick call brought Edwin his driver running up.  Another unexpected delay, another hour stuck in traffic (Benny arrived eventually, having been caught up in a delay himself), it was with a huge sigh of relief that we finally arrived back at the Mandarin Oriental, where the cool, unflustered staff took over and peace was restored.

“Welcome back Mrs Thomas”, I heard as I walked past the reception desk.  “How was Myanmar?”

How do they do it?  Surely thousands of people have walked past that desk in almost a fortnight since we were last here.  Yet, Vivien, who had checked us in when we arrived last time had not only remembered my name but had also remembered our travel plans.

We are fans.  (or perhaps that’s been said before?)




Dinner at the China Club was fun.  It was great to be with Jane and Allan again and to relax.  We are here.  We might have imagined that allowing ourselves a whole day for two short flights would be a breeze but hey, we made it.

Let the next chapter begin!


One day in Hong Kong (2)




We were here, in Aberdeen and having seen what there is to see, we thought we’d see where the buses were going, assess our options and make a decision. We weren’t in a particular hurry and watching ordinary life go on in this small town street was quite interesting anyway.




The contact lens advert outside the Opticians promoting the “Biggest eyes ever” was interesting, too.  Fancy wearing contact lenses which extend the diameter of the iris in such a way?




As we walked by this little temple, we spotted a bus going to Stanley, one of our old haunts.  Why not? – let’s go!




But instead of taking the usual double decker, we hopped onto one of the “public light vehicles” instead.  Seating just 16 passengers, they run a more informal, community service and it made a change to travel in a different way this time.




We were amused by the “depot office” as well; under an awning on the pavement, the manager sat with his phone and his filing cabinets keeping everything in order.  When there were 16 bottoms on the 16 seats on our minibus, he waved to our driver (“captain”) and we were off.




The large yellow sign informs (?reassures?) us that the vehicle is limited to 80kph and there is a large speed indicator up there above the windscreen.  Whether that is so that the passengers can monitor the driver when he goes too fast, or whether it’s so that he maintains his pace with the fast lifestyle here, who knows?  All I can say is that we seldom went faster than 50 and even at that speed, we were bouncing about fairly freely!




After a really enjoyable ride along the coastline, past secluded bays and affluent areas with spectacular views, we arrived in Stanley.  Out we got and made our way down to the seafront.




via the market, of course.  Same old same old here, nothing we wished to buy but fun to look anyway.




Feeling a little thirsty, we continued on beyond the market stalls and out onto the main street, where we knew there were some bars and cafes.  Here, a bride and groom were working with a photographer, posing by a Maserati.  It wasn’t clear whether they were a real couple or if they were models, working on an advertisement of some kind, but they appeared to be having fun.




As we sat with a drink, however, we watched as they chose some bizarre backdrops for their photographs!  All the time we were there, the ice cream van music played on, over and over again.  Eventually, it all got a bit much and we moved right along.




Spotting a sign for the #63 with a bus right there, ready to go, we decided to hop on there.  We knew vaguely where it was going, knew that we could easily get back from there and that phrase “Ferry PIer” suggested there could be an interesting alternative, too.




Back then, enjoying the lovely views of Repulse Bay as we went, getting stuck in occasional traffic jams and generally having fun simply watching the world go by.




We spotted a fun advertisement on the back of one of the green minivans, for Peterhouse PreSchool Kindergarten, noting with amusement the coat of arms in a similar palette to the “real” Peterhouse, Cambridge.




Finally, we reached North Ferry Pier and looked around to discover we were the only ones left on the bus!  We wandered through the fish market in the hope of discovering that the ferry was heading for somewhere we knew, somewhere from where we could make our way back to Central.  Sadly, it wasn’t.  It was going over to “Kowloon City”, so we turned around and headed back to Hennessy Road where there was one, failsafe way of getting back.




The tram was soon there and we climbed the steep steps and went through the turnstile at the back  door with everyone else.




Travelling by tram here is fun.  They are old, a bit creaky and there is not much room.  Everyone gets on at the back, then during the journey, you make your way forward so that by the time your each your destination, you are by the front door and ready to swipe your Octopus card as you get off.




Each time I use the tram, I worry that I won’t be able to make my way through, and yet, every time, I do!  this time, both my hero and I even got to sit down – a bonus!




So here we are, back at the Mandarin Oriental again.  It’s now 6.30pm and shortly, our car will arrive to take us to the airport from where we will catch a flight to Yangon at 9.50pm this evening.  It’s going to be a late night for us, that’s for sure, except that there is a time difference, we thought.  Neither of us was sure if it was one hour or two, so we looked it up.

It’s an hour and a half!  Weird or what?


One day in Hong Kong




A day in Hong Kong might begin rather leisurely, especially if someone – me – found herself drawing pictures of cabin crew in her journal at 3am because she couldn’t sleep.  Thankfully, I  did go back to bed and catch a few more hours before it was time to get up for real and to enjoy the spectacular feast of a Mandarin Oriental breakfast.




It was quite late in the morning then, before we had packed up our bags and got our act together.  Whilst my hero dealt with the business of checking out, I took photographs of the funny balloon sculptures in the lobby and arranged for our luggage to be held here for a while.  Half will stay here whilst we enjoy our Burmese adventure, the other half will stay for the day so that we can go out and find some fun.  Strangely, the gentleman on the front desk knew our travel arrangements better than I did – and it’s remarkable how they manage to address us by name, even though we’d been in the building less than 24 hours.

“See you next week, Mrs Thomas!”




Out into the 95% humidity, then, with plans to get the Octopus cards out and see where we could lose ourselves for the day.  Though we (thought we) knew how to find the central bus station, we found it particularly tricky to get there.  Nowhere is very far away in Hong Kong, but those six lane highways though the central city make getting around on foot rather difficult.




Quite frequently we can see where we want to be, but we’re one bridge away, or the building is over the elevated roadway.  Eventually, we managed it, but that was another half hour gone!




We climbed aboard the #70 bus to Aberdeen and headed upstairs hoping for the front seats, but sadly, someone beat us to it!  Five people, five cameras/phones, five sets of photographs all round.  I got out my camera and took photos of them taking photos…




Quite fun – except I would have liked to suggest she lift her viewfinder up a little so she could avoid having the yellow bar in every shot.  Or maybe it was intended?




Just when I was getting tired of not being able to see anything very well, they all got up and got off!  Yes!!  And guess where we moved to sit? Winking smile




It’s not so far to Aberdeen and deciding where to get off wasn’t so difficult.  Making a note of where the buses stopped for the return journey, we chose to alight at the “Promenade”.  As I did, I looked over at the layer upon layer of high rise apartment buildings which just go on forever in every direction.




It’s a long time since we were here and I very much doubt that we’d even recognise the place was it was then.  On a previous visit, we’d come to have lunch at the Jumbo restaurant, so perhaps we didn’t linger around here anyway.  But here, there’s a natural harbour known as the Aberdeen Typhoon Shelter, and today there were a fair few small fishing vessels and tourist sampans moored.




I like the colours of South East Asia; those bright blue plastic buckets, orange and green tarpaulins contrast well with the deep brown wood of the boats.  Everything’s a little worn, a bit shabby but there’s always plenty of life going on.




And with my new camera’s marvellous zoom lens, I can take a sneaky look!




Though it was hazy, it was really warm and the sun was trying to break through the mist.  We enjoyed strolling along the Prom and went as far as we could, thinking we’d get a picture of the Jumbo restaurant.  It wasn’t to be though, since the pathway came to an abrupt end and a fenced off building site.




This was good news for some, providing a captive audience for one bossy Chinese lady who would have liked to have persuaded everyone to climb aboard her sampan for a harbour tour.




She got all but two and conceded “see you later!”




We turned around and retraced our steps, going on beyond our starting point and wondering how effective the “Sea Cleaner 4” is at its job?




I found myself wondering what life is like on one of these boats.  How easy is it to make a living fishing? 




Shortly before the Promenade came to an end, we stopped to look at the bronze of the two fisherwomen.  Come to think of it, almost all the people driving those boats were women, too.  Perhaps the men have to supplement their income by another means?




Or maybe they are all playing cards across the way?




Just behind that small community meeting place was the most beautiful yellow tree.  I’ve no idea what it is, but the clear, bright colour shone out against the dull concrete of the backdrop.




I rather liked the style of the park seating, too.  Very much in keeping with the surroundings, isn’t it?




At this end of the Promenade were the fish stalls.  This one had racks of them, out drying in the sunshine.  Seeing the flies buzzing around, I can’t say the idea of a fish lunch was very appetising.  The warning notices about rat poison didn’t help.




Then we came across the Jumbo pier, where we’d caught the sampan over to the restaurant all those years ago.  As she crossed the bridge down to the jetty, the little old lady beckoned us on, “Jumbo restaurant!” she called.  But my eyes had fallen on the chap in front of her, wearing a colourful shirt…




We’d come to the end of the pathway, now and only the fish market lay ahead.




What’s more, much of that was under water, because the drains seemed to be blocked.  We picked our way back up to the road and back towards the bus stop.

Find out where we went next in the following post!