Tuesday, October 15th - Wan Chai, Hong Kong

Well, this was our last day (ish) in Hong Kong. Singapore up next, albeit for only a few days.

The day started early at 9 am. Simplest option today was to have breakfast in the bar at the hotel. Not a great idea. The bar is quite dark and not exactly the nicest. The breakfast buffet was set out on a couple of tables. I had some scrambled eggs that were cold, the “bacon” was actually sausages, the congee (rice soup) was watery with not a lot of flavour, the potato pancakes (actually potato cross-cut chips), soggy buns with cold cuts…Mel tried the pancakes which came out of a machine. The OJ was not real either…for $160 each I would have expected, perhaps, a lot more. Having a 50% coupon did not make it much easier to take. A bit disappointing after the breakfasts we have had while here.

After checking out we caught a taxi to the airport express terminal - Full circle. Picking up tickets to go the airport we were then allowed through to the airline desks to check in. Our flight was at 10 tonight but we were allowed to check in this morning then make our way to the airport whenever we wanted. Our bags were sent onto the airport so we did not have to drag them around with us all day. There was a bit of a hassle as I had incorrectly booked Mel’s flight to Singapore in her maiden name but her passport is in her married name now…Will have to visit the United desk at the airport to have the boarding passes stamped to authorize the name change from the reservation.

Airport Express Terminal in Central

We paused for a few minutes. We had the day, what did we want to do? We were both agreed we did not want to be too busy since we will be up very late. The travel was always going to be difficult today with the only reasonable flight I could find arriving in Singapore just after midnight meaning we would be checking into the hotel a few hours later. A quiet day, perhaps starting with a relaxing lunch sounded like a good idea to us…

Interesting Stained Glass Art...

Many of the buildings in Central are connected to one another with pedestrian walkways over the streets. We left the airport express terminal walking through various buildings past shops and restaurants, many of which were quite nice indeed, until we found the HSBC building.

HSBC Atrium

We walked into the main atrium and took a look around - Looking through the glass floor below us we could see the ground below and the people walking beneath, looking up the space opened up 8 stories or more above us…all the while was the gentle whisper of business. Passing by the normal counter services we took the escalator through the glass floor to the ground below.

Glass Floor

Crossing the street we continued up an external escalator then walked up through a small park with a waterfall running alongside the staircase.


At the top of the park we passed St. John’s Cathedral, stopping briefly inside to take a look. Across the street was the Peak Tram station.

Outside the Peak Tram Station

The queue today was only smaller in buying our tickets for the tram, the wait inside the station was still about 20 minutes.

The Peak Tram Arrives

I guess it is always busy though I do not recall it ever being busy in the past.


At the top of the tram ride we quickly left the terminal and looked for somewhere to sit for a few minutes. Crossing the road we looked down the south side of the mountain towards the ocean. Noticing a path just down from where we were standing we followed it down a few minutes to see what was there - Perhaps somewhere to sit down under the shade of the forest trees. A few meters down we were rewarded so had a sit for a few minutes. The path closely follows the road now about 10m above our heads with a retaining wall in front of us. The trees surround us and even grow out of the wall above us with their gnarled roots covering its surface. If we wanted to continue down to the dam we would just continue along the path but that was not for us on this trip.

The Path

A few minutes relaxing we realised that we were being bitten…So up the stairs we went.

By now it was getting closer to a reasonable lunch time. The Peak Lookout restaurant (my restaurant review here) has a reputation, well deserved, of being expensive. It is quite nice though with an amazing view. It looks for all the world like a stone house or chalet from the Alps…perhaps only slightly out of place here (!).

The Peak Lookout Restaurant

We were shown to a table, at our indication, beside the railing overlooking the greenery below us, with the Pok Fu Lam Reservoir at the bottom and the buildings beyond along the shoreline. In the distance the shape of Lamma Island could be seen through the smog.

Great View

Great View

The restaurant was fairly busy with about half of the tables on the patio occupied. We browsed the menu for a few minutes before deciding on a starter of “spicy calamari” ($138) and their “signature” “club sandwich” ($148) for our main. I had a lovely “tropical” fruit drink ($65) that was very refreshing so much so that I had it refilled several times…The calamari was quite tasty if a bit dry. The club was absolutely enormous with a mound of fries in the middle of the plate surrounded by the four quarters of the sandwich. Good but not great. You come here for the view, possibly the service (which was very polite and pleasant) then the food, in that order. We did enjoy the leisurely pace here and spent time chatting and watching our fellow diners.

Large Lunch

Continuing the relaxing theme of the day we finished our lunch then crossed over to the Peak Galleria shopping centre where we found our way to the roof. Wish we had visited this the last time we were here - Open, airy, not very busy with great views of the surrounding landscape (it was reasonably clear today) and of the city below only partially obscured by the massive structure that is the Peak Tram station (interestingly being cleaned by some glass cleaners with very little safety equipment while we were there). There is also the attempt at gardens with grass, plants and wooden walkways throughout. Much more pleasant than the cold steel and concrete of the Sky Terrace though the later offers, admittedly much better views of the city on that side of the peak.

The Peak Galleria Rooftop Terrace

We rested for a few minutes in the shade on a bench before returning back into the shopping complex.

Another Great View

We spotted a fortune-telling machine that was in the form of a god with a large mouth into which you put your hand for it to be read…I scrounged through our change for Mel to give it a try. I guess there is a reason why the instructions were only in Chinese as it gave us a slip completely written in Chinese. I suppose her fortune will have to remain a mystery, for now at least.

Before catching the tram back down into the city we spotted on the ground “9641 km to London”. We are really a long way from home and we are going somewhere else also a long way from home…

A Long Way Home to London

Next Stop...Singapore!

After returning to Central we retraced our steps back to the train station for the trip to the airport. It is nice to not be in a hurry. We had plenty of time before the flight. Stopping briefly by the United desk to have Mel’s name change validated we looked around to enjoy the lightness of the space - The wide open spaces, views of the mountains around us…The Peak Lookout has a restaurant here that we passed as we made our way to security. I do have a thing about being where we ought to be and waiting so there is no risk of missing it. In this case that is being at the gate waiting before the flight. We were a bit peckish so set our minds on picking up some ice cream from McDonald’s - Our memories fondly looking back on the “black sesame crunch” McFlury we had in Kowloon Park. The menu here was far from clear as to whether this delight was on offer so we stuck it out and queued up. It was a long queue. 20 minutes later we found they did not have the same McFlury so I ended up with a crude approximation in the form of a black sesame sundae with tapioca balls in it - The tapioca was quickly dispatched to work our way to the black sesame which was very nice indeed.

The airport is massive with many of the gates in buildings separate from the main terminal. We descended to the trains in the basement on our way to our gate. Emerging from the train we had a look at Duty Free for Mel who knew she wanted to bring something back for her office. A few samples were on offer to which I availed myself while she decided on a box with an assortment of Hong Kong biscuits…Though I suggested she might want to wait until we return to Hong Kong after Singapore - After all we will be in Hong Kong for pretty much a whole day after Singapore before we return to London.

We arrived at the gate about an hour before our flight so I took the opportunity to charge my phone at a seating area offering power outlets that was crowded by a bunch of kids. My smart phone only lasts for about 12 hours without a charge and I knew we would need it when we landed at midnight.

Our Departure Gate

As with our flight from London they boarded here in categories so we got into the queue behind our number for our 8:15 departure. This is much better than row number and it seemed to avoid the crowding of the gate that I remember being at it’s worse in US airports - For some reason people feel it necessary to be within 10 feet of the desk regardless of where their seat is on the plane so that you have to fight your way through when your row number is called. It is bad in Europe as well but nothing like I have seen in the states.

The flight was relatively uneventful with a bit of something to eat. Mel had the window seat and we saw the lights in Malaysia as we landed in Singapore. Call me naive but I did not realize that Singapore was on the tip of the main island in Malaysia, the same island with Kuala Lumpur. It is only a short distance from the equator as well so this is going to be one hot visit! We landed just after midnight (a few minutes ahead of time) at the airport which is in the north east corner of Singapore, very close to the Malaysian border. As we came in we could make out the sight of many boats lit up in the ocean surrounding us - I suspected these might be boats fishing for prawns as I believe the lights are used to attract the prawns into the nets.

The Singapore airport, Changi, is very nice indeed. It has been voted the best (presumably in the world) and it really shows here. As we walked from the gate the terminal was pleasantly decorated with nice neutral colours that meant it felt quite calm.

Changi Airport

We passed by free massage tables, a sign to the cinema (!), some nice looking placed to eat…As we approached security the ceiling opened above us with an interesting abstract three-dimensional tiling surface.

Airport Artwork

To the right is a plant wall with waterfall, to the left there are some metal art figurines…trees (palm for the most part) and greenery are everywhere.

Baggage Reclaim

Very nice indeed.

Security was polite (there was a machine afterwards asking us to rate our experiences…”excellent”) and we were quickly through to pick up our luggage. It was easy to spot the queue for the taxis so we joined it. At this time of day there is no public transport operating from the airport. Clear instructions indicated that the taxi rates were regulated and they indicated how much we would be paying. As we approached the end of the queue we could see that there were individual stalls for each taxi to drive into and through as they picked up passengers. An attendant directed us to our taxi. Very well organized and so pleasant.

On the way back from the airport we had a conversation with the driver who seemed only too pleased to talk with us. All taxi drivers here must be native Singaporeans. He was 50 years old and loved the job. The weather, he said, has been good with rains only happening about once a day with recent rains being only at night - So we were lucky. This is the rainy season and the rains can be quite substantial so you really don’t want to be out in it when it comes. He took us on the “East Coast Parkway” south west from the airport into the city on the left side of the road (interesting that Hong Kong is the same, presumably because of the colonial aspect of both cities). We passed quickly by many more of the boats we had seen from the plane. As we approached the centre of the city the lights sprang up around us with a clear view of the Singapore Flyer - The world’s biggest ferris wheel - and the Marina Bay Sands hotel with it’s distinctive “surfboard-like” roof spanning two twin towers. The harbour is clearly the most photogenic of the sites here as we traveled over a short bridge and exited to a side road. A few weeks ago I had been watching the Singapore Formula 1 car race on television so was excited to actually recognize the city streets that are used in the race - Our driver joked that he drives the grand prix every day! We snapped pictures and kept talking as he took us to the hotel traveling through the clean streets with the buildings all around. Of course, this time of the morning it was quite quiet with little traffic.

We are staying at the Carlton Hotel on Bras Basah Road across from the world-famous Raffle’s Hotel. The driver dropped us at the front door. This is world’s ahead of our hotel in Hong Kong. The ground floor is surrounded by glass walls. The middle of the foyer ceiling descends a long glass sculpture below which there is a circular seating area that even this time of night was busy (we found out that this was because this was the one place where free wi-fi is offered). Beyond, on the far side of the foyer is a restaurant and to the left is a bakery. The check-in desks were to the right so, tired, we made our way over. No issues we checked in and were directed to the elevators just beyond.

Arrival at the Carlton

Room 1133. The room is absolutely gorgeous - A palace particularly with compared to Cosmo. As you enter the room there is a large bathroom to the right with a bathtub and large walk-in shower stall with a full length glass door. The black marble around the sink is in keeping with the modern look throughout. The king size bed with two side tables is in the middle of a large room with a window looking across at the hotels opposite (we can see a pool on a roof a few stories below us enclosed in glass) and the busy street below. Nicely there is bottled water and some fruit they have left for us which even has plates, napkins and cutlery laid out.

1:30 and we are tired. It has been a long day. A ten minute tour of the room and we are ready for bed. No extra fuss today with dressing, brushing teeth being about all we can manage…

⇒ Continue to Wednesday, October 16th - Singapore