Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Our flight with Cathay Pacific took off on time and was uneventful and reasonably short at 4.5 hours. It was totally full and not the most comfortable in Economy where we were. Very narrow seats. I didn’t bother with dinner and tried to sleep but it was difficult. Ended up watching the half of Spectre I’d missed at the Steakhouse when there was a power cut, and probably dozed for the rest.
The airport was fantastic though. We were through Immigration in no time at all, hardly a queue and our bags arrived at the same time as we did. We then headed to the train ticket outlet to get our Airport Express tickets. We were looking to buy our Octopus cards here too but there was a massive line so we decided to get them at HK Central station instead. A very good move as there was no queue there. The airport express train takes 24 minutes and cost us about £10 each. Superb service along a scenic route into HK Island from the airport which is on Lantau Island. Bought the Octopus cards, loaded them up and we were all set. Bob has got a Senior rate (have to be 65) which gives him a 50% discount. Excellent!
We were booked at the Cosmo hotel on the edge of Wanchai. Not our choice to be honest, but the hotel bundled with our cruise package by the travel agent. The package gave us 2 nights here so we added on 2 nights so that we wouldn’t have to move hotels. It gets reasonable reviews anyway. They have a free shuttle bus to and from the Central Station and that arrived 10 minutes after we did and took us to the hotel. Whereupon there was a confusion……
The bus backed us into an “under construction” area and the bellhops gave us baggage receipts and sent us to check in. This area of the hotel was also “under construction”. Not very enticing! Handed the staff our vouchers to be told !AH you are booked at the Cosmo Hotel, this is the Cosmopolitan Hotel!”. Our jaws dropped! We were in the wrong hotel! We were rather dumbfounded because the bus had Hotel Cosmo on it! “Is ok! Our sister hotel, we will take you” and we were lead off about 50 metres uphill to the lobby (not under construction) of the Cosmo. Our bags followed 5 minutes later. Phew! All the more confusing because of our semi sleepless/rather zombielike state. Anyway, important to know there are two hotels, related and close together.
Our room is TINY!!! Smaller than the Bloc hotel in Gatwick and not terribly well appointed. There is barely a wardrobe and no drawers. Possibly enough hanging space for a couple of shirts. Not for dresses. There is a large window but the glass is totally opaque so we have no idea what is outside. On the plus side, the bed is extremely comfortable. The wifi is good and there is a kettle for a cuppa. We’re only here for a short stay so it matters not but I wouldn’t choose it and it isn’t really the standard I would expect the cruise company to book us into. I will be writing to tell them so.
We couldn’t unpack so we had a cup of tea and a freshen up and headed out to the visa office. It was on Kowloon side ie across the bay from Hong Kong and here we hit another problem. The concierge couldn’t get us a taxi and sent us to a taxi rank up the street. No one here would take us either, all claiming to only serve the HK side. We walked back to the hotel and decided to take the Cosmopolitan’s free shuttle (another shuttle) to Causeway Bay metro station, take the metro over to Kowloon and then get a taxi. We had an address and knew it was very near the HK Science Museum. Now, remember we were very tired…. Bob told the taxi driver to take us to the Science Museum, not the address of the visa office. As he drove away we realised that the museum is mega. I mean it takes up blocks and blocks. “Near the science museum” was not nearly enough info to find it. We wandered and asked a few people and in the end we found the mall building where the visa office was situated. Forever Bright Visas, recommended on TripAdvisor. They were extremely helpful and we were in and out in 10 minutes. The visas will be ready for us tomorrow afternoon at 4pm (if we’d got there before 0930 they’d have been ready today) and they will cost us £80 each. Exactly the same as the group visa would have cost. A total result for a very quick service. We know where it is now too.
Back on the street we were really hungry and we went into a typical HK noodle place for some eats. The sort of place that has a kind of “form” all in Chinese stuck to the table serving as a menu! Yikes! The waiter brought us a menu in Chinese and English though so we didn’t have to guess. Bob had beef and noodles in broth and I had shrimp noodles in broth. Both humungous bowlfuls of tasty goodness. Just delicious and almost too much to eat for about £3 each. Washed down with a large cup of free tea. A good start. Felt better after that I can tell you.
We hailed a cab intending to go back to the metro but the old chap driving advised us to go for the Star Ferry and we realised he was right, it would be quicker, cheaper and way more scenic. A lovely surprise when we got to the Star Ferry terminal was that P&O Aurora, the ship on which we travelled the world last year, was moored up right next door! Lovely to see her again. The Star Ferries have been plying the bay between Kowloon and Hong Kong for hundreds of years and are still very traditional in style ie rather Victorian. It takes about 7 minutes to cross and you can use your Octopus card (good for buses, metro, trams, ferry, some shops). A lovely trip with all the incredible scenery of Hong Kong around you. Huge skyscrapers now, with the peaks still visible above, but for how long????
Our next call was to go to the Conrad hotel to pick up Bob’s Misfit Shine left with the concierge by Danny. We’d originally hoped to see Danny (my American “nephew) and his girlfriend Heather but the timing was too tight in the end. They were flying out this morning having had a week here enjoying the eateries of HK. Some great recommendations from Danny to work on though. We had taken the ferry to Wan Chai (nearest to our hotel) and we could see the Conrad as we sailed in. It didn’t look too far. We decided to walk. After about 10 minutes, I was totally knackered, the lack of sleep really kicking in and we didn’t seem to be getting any closer to the Conrad. After a “discussion” with Bob, we hailed another cab. Luckily cabs are very very cheap here. Typically around £2.50 for a short trip. He took us up to the Conrad (much further than it looked and uphill) and Bob went in and claimed his parcel. The Conrad looked great and I must say I wished I was staying there. Then the cab took us back to the Cosmo and we gratefully fell into our room for a rest.
Another cup of tea and we crashed out for the rest of the afternoon, waking up at about 4pm feeling a lot better.
It is great to be back in Hong Kong. We were here for a short stay (3 days) in 2011 but at that time we were literally on the verge of exchanging contracts on the sale of High Farm House in Yorkshire and our less than lovely purchasers chose those 3 days to negotiate a £20,000 reduction in the agreed price. My blood pressure was at an all time high and I seemed to spend loads of time on the phone to estate agents, lawyers, surveyors etc back in the UK. It was not a relaxing stay. Hoping very much to improve on that experience this time around. Now that the visas are underway, I have every hope of doing so. It’s a lovely city still. Bob remembers it 30 years ago when he feels it was far more charming, but it is still an exciting and visually stunning place. Just very modern albeit with some colonial era buildings remaining, dwarfed these days by their neighbours. Tomorrow we will begin exploring properly, after a good night’s sleep.
But before that….dinner! We ventured out for a Hong Kong speciality: Roast Goose. A nearby restaurant has been voted one of the top 6 restaurants in Hong Kong for goose and has held it’s Michelin star for 2 years now based mainly on this delicacy. We had to try http://www.krg.com.hk/!en/index.html Kam’s Roast Goose. One of the nice things about the Cosmo is that they give you a smart phone which gives you free guidance around the city, free internet calls internationally and locally and a host of other services. We used it tonight to help guide us around. Wish we’d been sufficiently compos mentis to take it with us this afternoon!
Kam’s was about an 8 minute walk in Wan Chai, an area similar to Soho in London. Very lively, lots of restaurants and cheapish shops. There was a queue outside the restaurant. It’s not big and you cannot make a reservation. You have to turn up and take a number – which we did then feasted our eyes on the succulent geese hanging in the window. I suppose we waited 20 minutes which was not bad. We’d ordered our main during this time – half a roast goose. It came within minutes, sliced ready to eat, served with an orange ginger dipping sauce and we had a bowl of noodles too. You are also served a bowl of goose broth which was delicious. Well, what to say about the goose. It was simply unctuous. Succulent flesh covered in translucent fat and topped off with crispy, glazed skin. OMG!!!! Now…. you have to like skin, you have to like fat and you have to not mind taking the meat off the bone. I pass all of these tests, so I was in heaven. You get a bit spattered in the process but the happy smiles of the diners tells its story. Our Michelin starred dinner complete with two soft drinks cost us about £33. Not cheap. But on the other hand…… incredible value for money. I note that we could have paid using our Octopus card. Don’t try this at La Gavroche chaps! I would recommend this place and would definitely go back. I’d like to try their goose sausage, goose blood sausage, and crispy roast pork. And so to bed!