Saturday, October 19th - Singapore, but only temporarily...then Hong Kong

It has been an incredibly long day but also a very rewarding day. We managed to make good use of our time in Hong Kong though there were a few hiccups along the way.

Staggering out of bed at 1 we were down in the foyer only 30 minutes later. Since we had requested a taxi for 2 we checked to see if they could bring the taxi around earlier. While we waited we sat in the “internet café” in the middle of the lobby. A few minutes later we were called to our car, good-bye to the Carlton!

The ride to the airport was extremely fast with the driver not talking at all to us all the way. We were quite sure he broke the speed limit all the way along the East Coast Parkway. $34 I think is quite reasonable…Of course when we arrived at the airport there was no one there and when we got to the United desk we saw that check-in opened at 3:30. Since it was 2 am we had a wait ahead of us. A bit interesting since our flight was at 6:00 am and I have always been told to be 3 hours early for international flights but the check-in desk did not even open until 2 ½ hours beforehand!

We were down to our last few Singapore dollars but we managed to buy a few drinks from the only café open and sat to relax for a while. After a bit of a talk and relax we headed to the entrance to the check in area - The first in the queue, of course. I left Mel for a few minutes to visit the tax (GST) people to have my receipt validated though they told me I had to go to a final booth after check in to get our cash…For something like $7 it is quite a lot of hassle…But I guess it is the principle of the thing. Returning to Mel I saw that the queue was growing behind her so I knew it was not long now before we would be able to check in and go to the gate. Once the check in did open we had a quick chat to them about the maiden name on Mel’s ticket (which they quickly validated). Two pieces of luggage gone we headed our way through “security” which turned out to be a guy in the middle of a big room talking on a phone as he put the bags through the x-ray machine! This was not terribly reassuring…

They had not yet announced our gate so I went to pick up my GST rebate then had a seat where I could charge my phone and the laptop. They have free wireless in the airport which was quite nice as well. While I did this Mel went to take advantage of the free automatic massage chairs that I had noticed a lady enjoying earlier - Mel spent only a few minutes in the chairs before she returned in pain - It was simply too aggressive for her…I wonder what she would have thought of my Reflexologist the other day?

Eventually we headed out to our gate passing along much of the length of the airport passing by some very nice looking restaurants, a museum and a cinema. After the “security” we had passed earlier it was good to see they several x-ray scanners and people checking bags at the gate itself.

We had not been given window seats on the plane but this was probably OK as we both slept most of the way on the four hour flight!

View of some of the Islands

The breakfast was quite nice as I opted for a “Chinese” breakfast of “carrot pancake” (which was eggs, carrots, potatoes, eggs, prawns to which I added hot sauce).

Arrival at Hong Kong on Lantau Island

Arriving in Hong Kong we quickly traveled the long distance to the main terminal building via the train. Security did not take very long and did not seem to be very concerned seeing the landing card did not indicate a Hong Kong address since we were going to be leaving this evening! Heading upstairs to departures we were hoping to be able to check our bags in so we would not have to take them into the city but were told we could only check in early at the train station on Hong Kong island! So we would have to take our luggage to the island then it would be returned to we had just come from…

Interestingly we were told we could just catch the train to the island without paying then paid for a (day) return ticket when we got to the Hong Kong terminal. Crossing to the airline check-in desks we saw there was no one at the United desk so eventually someone working on another airline desk came over and helped us out. Thank goodness, free of the heavy luggage. Now we were free to do a bit of visiting without any heaving bags around with us.

Leaving the train station behind we headed out into the suspended walkway that leads to the ferry terminals where we noticed a small crowd leaning out looking on to the street below so we went to see what was going on. A supercar was just being driven to join a number of other very nice looking american 4x4s and cars including one looking an awful lot like the shape of a Camaro.

Supercars...Is that Bumblebee under a cover?

There were a series of utility trucks parked all along the road that had obviously been closed for them. I recalled that Michael Bay had experienced a bit of problems a few days earlier when he was attacked by a local for some strange reason. We had been told that he was in town filming scenes for the new Transformer movie so, putting two and two together, we realised that these cars were Transformers with the one under the cover most likely Bumblebee (covered, no doubt, because it would be so easily recognisable).

We had been thinking about what to do with our bonus day back here in Hong Kong. We decided to go to a restaurant we had missed when we were here a few days ago. It is a dim sum restaurant in the Hong Kong City Hall. This is only a short distance from where we were so we headed out to try to find it. Entering into the City Hall we could not see anything but I knew that it was in the “low level” building of the City Hall so we left and went around the side to see if we could find this “low level” building but with no luck. Returning back to the building we saw a courtyard so passed through it (busy with a wedding and others sitting on benches throughout) and found this other building just on the other side. It turns out there is a theatre, shops and restaurants in this back building close to the harbour. Being the City Hall there was a recreation of an old street vendor stall just inside the main entrance so Mel dutifully picked up a plastic knife attached by chain and posed for a picture from me…and also for someone else who thought it was quite funny as well!

Where is Something I can Chop?

We headed up to the restaurant found on the second floor to find the queue surrounding the entrance filling the floor and spilling down the stairs as well. I made my way to the front to grab a ticket then we sat down on the stairs to wait. The digital sign read that it was serving “8”, I looked at our tag: “58”. Oh dear. The queue, thankfully, moved very quickly as the restaurant is massive. About 30 minutes later we were at the top of the stairs and our number was called.

Maxime’s Palace (my restaurant review here) is a local institution with a reputation for first class dim sum, good prices, and great views of the harbour. We were overwhelmed at what faced us when we entered: A large number of tables covered with linen, silver tea pots serving tea in china tea cups, ladies pushing carts around piled high with steaming dim sum, impressive crystal chandeliers, opulent carpet and, on one side, what looks like the top of a proscenium arch of a theatre - It looks like this restaurant was built in that space. The waiters and waitresses were all dressed very smartly as they politely showed us to our table nearer to the middle of the room (though we could see out the windows to the harbour if we stood up…).

Maxime's Palace - Busy

I love dim sum restaurants like this where the food comes to you as not only is it a look quicker you also see what you are going to get so you can decide what you want as it comes. The problem is that I tend to pick up everything off the cart as soon as I arrive meaning later when different, perhaps more interesting, items arrive I am already full! Really need to pace myself better…This visit was not different, unfortunately.

Our Table

Of course, we ordered gai lan (steamed Chinese greens) this time with garlic but it was not the best we have had. As the carts went by we picked off…

  • Baked pork buns (lot like what we had at small Michelin place)
  • Steamed pork dumplings
  • Deep fried pork (squishy) dumplings
  • Satay squid (not great)
  • Egg tarts
  • Deep fried wonton with honey/seeds
  • “Cheung fung” (wide sloppy noodles) with prawns (a bit tasteless)

Dim Sum Cart...

The whole experience was so pleasant and the food was very good. It just seemed a bit nicer than any of the other dim sum experiences we have had on this trip. Seemed a bit more special - The decor, the service, the location…A bit more pride than others. Perhaps the food was not as good as Tim Ho Wan but it certainly seemed a lot fancier.

Heading out of the restaurant this time we followed a side road back to the walkway for the Star Ferry terminal along the way we had a closer look at the vehicles we had seen earlier from the walkway - Someone asked one of the people working there “What are you filming?” to which the reply was, helpfully, “A film”.

Filming Equipment

Mel and I are convinced it is the new Transformers movie as we know they are in town currently filming it and with all of these fancy cars…

Interested Crowd...

On Board the Star Ferry

Taking the Star Ferry across to Kowloon we walked along the waterfront to find that there were a number of groups of children playing taiko drums (large Chinese drums) so we stopped a few minutes to watch. They were really quite good and sounded amazing.


We gathered that this was a Primary School (!) drumming contest - I can’t imagine children from primary school in London playing like them! Some of the children were smaller than the drums they played…

Competition Time

The Hong Kong Museum of Art is right on the Hong Kong harbourfront immediately beside where the children were playing their drums. I love this gallery as it is not so large that you get bored and is full of interesting things to look at. My particular favourite is the calligraphy and the traditional paintings. Today they had the “Hong Kong Contemporary Art Awards 2012” including a massive piece on the outside of the building that is a staircase made of wood and rope leading into the side of the building (on the inside of the building you see where it “enters” from the outside, completing the illusion) - Certainly quite an eye catcher.

The Staircase...

We made our way past this up the escalator into the museum, paid the small entrance charge and took the escalator up into the museum proper.

Museum of Art Ticket

The first exhibit we visited was the contemporary arts which had a number of very cool pieces and a couple of very disturbing pieces. Very cool including a video installation “Sleepwalker 2011” (WONG Kwok-choi, Kacey) which was of a man seemingly asleep in a bed but peddling the bed (yes) around various sites in Hong Kong (the actual bed was in the exhibition as well) - Somewhat tongue in cheek and was actually quite funny.


Another funny one was “Paddling Home 2009” (Wong Kwok-Choi, Kacey) situation in the escalator hall was, effectively, a tiny 4 foot by 4 foot floating house complete with windows, flag, air conditioning, etc. that the artist had manned by a sailor and towed around Hong Kong harbour (the video was quite enthralling).

Paddling Home

There were some pictures looking down on tops of buildings in Hong Hong were very interesting providing a completely different perspective and view of an often hidden world all around us. One room had a number of small speakers hanging from the ceiling that you had to push your way through that had the noise of water coming from them “Landscape Reinterpreted 2011” (Lee Chin-fai, Danny)…odd, but neat. “Unfolded 2012” (CHAN Wang, Max) was three pictures of large, but quite typical, apartment buildings pictured from the front - Life was shown but also the impersonal nature of such buildings. A disturbing exhibit was “Impermanence 2009” (Stanley Wong) included a coffin that visitors were invited to lay in.

Interesting and Intriguing Works...

After the modern art we visited my favourite, the calligraphy display which includes as well some wonderful classical Chinese paintings. I may not be able to read the scrolls but I can certainly appreciate the penmanship of the writing and it’s sheer beauty. The different styles of writing become quickly apparent when seen side by side as they are here.

Amazing Calligraphy

We also visited the pottery exhibit though by this time we were getting a bit bored but Mel found some amusement playing with the kid’s exhibit rubbing images onto paper and using an embosser to make her own art. I had a quick look around the pottery to see what I could see…Of course some wonderful pieces particularly one that was of cranes on a yellow background. Amazingly beautiful.

The Harbour

From the museum we headed up Nathan Road to Kowloon Park for a final Black Sesame Crunch McFlury and enjoying watching the birds for a while. It is hard to believe our visit is coming to end as we watched the flamingos flap and squawk. This really is a magical place.

Yeah, a Black Sesame Crunch McFlury Please...

It was getting dark so, for a bit of a change, we headed directly west out of the park and ended up near the cruise terminal where the walkway ended. There was a wedding going on complete with music, background, and pews full of people set up on the top of the building we found ourselves on. We were tactfully directed away from the event so we went to the railing to look out on the harbour and the cruise terminal. A cruise-ship was unloading its passengers with their luggage and excitement at being here. I will never again have that initial excitement but I am always excited about coming here.

Sculpture Near the Ferry Terminal

We returned past the wedding party and made our way through a shopping complex and down some escalators to get to the street. As we made our way back down to the harbour to catch the ferry we passed by a number of people with brochures of hotels that they were offering to people disembarking from the cruise ship. It was a bit of a scrum but we managed to make our way through.

Mel refreshed herself with a free Coke Zero that they were offering to everyone near the ferry terminal then we got on board for our final ferry trip to Central. The lights of the city all around us as they have always been, and will continue after we have gone. I am beginning to feel quite melancholy and sad we are leaving. I love the ferry - the movement, the noises of the engine, the chatter of the people, the view of the city all around with lights shining off the waves all around…

Back at the train station we boarded to return to the airport. It seems we were only just here and, of course, we were only just this morning!

Security and customs were not a problem and we made our way to get something for dinner before making the trip to our gate. We ended up at a chain of restaurants that do not exist in the UK (but do in the US), Popeye’s - Yeah, yeah, I love their fried chicken though. This time I slightly overdid it ending up with four pieces of chicken, a biscuit, gravy, fries and a drink (burp!). Yeah, it really was too much food. Mel had only two pieces of chicken and skipped the gravy.

Leaving the main terminal we caught the train to the section of the airport where our gate was located. Mel visited the same “Duty Free” shop we had visited before our flight to Singapore and picked up two nice assortments of Chinese biscuits/cookies.

At the gate we waited for our 23:25 departure to Heathrow checking our email using the free Internet access. The flight is quite full and I am happy to see they are boarding by groups again, meaning, hopefully, we board in at least a semi-organised fashion.

Leaving Hong Kong we could barely see the lights of the city as we quickly climbed to our cruising altitude…good-bye Hong Kong, good-by Asia!

⇒ Continue to Sunday, October 20th - London