Friday 9th October
We got up for breakfast at the Rio hotel, which was an extensive buffet of the usual hotel breakfast fare. All perfectly fine, but we could have done without the panpipe instrumental cover versions of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Bryan Adams being piped into the restaurant - although perhaps, for those who had lost large amounts in the casino the night before, it was the perfect soundtrack for them to weep into their morning coffees.
We got the ferry back from Macau into Hong Kong, and then returned to the hostel and spent the entire afternoon catching up on sleep. At about 6pm we went out and met up for the final time with Will’s friends Syliva and Winnie, and we grabbed a quick snack of some more takoyaki octopus balls, before getting some sushi. We had sea urchin (smooth and buttery); various sashimis - salmon, red snapper (a quite strong but pleasant fishy taste), geoduck (a species of saltwater clam, which didn’t taste of much); and sushi covered in brightly coloured crab roe.
Then we went to a different place for dessert, which was a massive tower of ice crystals like a solid slush puppy, with various flavourings - strawberry, sesame and green tea. The green tea flavour didn’t really taste of anything. There was also a pot of syrup you could pour over the ice, which just made it melt away leaving you with a sweet slush.
We picked up some sweets for our various offices. I would have loved to have picked up the sweetened duck kidneys, but Will reminded me that you probably can’t bring back meat products into the UK (and he was right - there was an announcement when we arrived back at Heathrow about the huge fines and imprisonment you risk by attempting to do so).
We got a bus back down to the harbour to go to the Sheraton again for cocktails with a view, as Syliva and Winnie hadn’t been before - the usual story of not doing the touristy things in your own city unless you’re with visitors. The “Key of Soul” cocktail was nice and fruity, and the non-alcoholic ones were really nice too, but the highlight had to be one called “Elements” which was made from Bailey’s and strawberries. It was like a strawberry milkshake with a kick - delicious.
Perhaps unwisely it was a pretty late night. We didn’t get to bed until about 2am, and we were going to have to check in for our flight at about 6.30…
Saturday 10th October
After about two hours’ sleep, Will’s aunt’s driver Jackie picked us up to take us to the airport. Hong Kong airport is at number ten on the list of biggest buildings in the world by floor space, so that was two ticked off on one holiday (along with The Venetian). It’s nice and modern, but apart from that it’s just another airport. One of the duty-free shops had a bottle of blended cognac on display worth HK$38,000 (about £3000), at what seemed an easily-smashable height. The cognacs in the ingredients all dated from between 1800 and 1930. I don’t know who would ever buy such a thing at an airport - I can only conclude that it was on such prominent display in the hope that someone would break it and have to pay for it. Another shop was called “Caviar & Prunier”. It’s strange how duty-free areas at airports still have this aspirational quality, even though air travel is such a cheap and normal thing to do these days. You wouldn’t get this kind of thing in a bus station.
The plane was half an hour late for boarding, but that was pretty insignificant for a 13-hour flight. It was another pleasant flight with Air New Zealand - I’d happily use them again. Three meals this time - sausage and omelette for breakfast, a ham and cheese sandwich half-way through the flight, and a lunch of chicken curry. On the in-flight entertainment system I watched Frost/Nixon, which I’ve been wanting to watch for a while - an excellent film, and for my non-film-buff, tired self it was nice and easy to follow.
We landed just after 3pm and were home by 5. I felt tired but my body clock seemed correct - it didn’t “feel” like the midnight that it was in Hong Kong. I’d had a bit of a nap on the plane but not for very long.
London smells clean. That’s not something I would ever have expected to say, but there was a notable freshness in the air compared to Hong Kong. The skies are clearer and it’s far less hazy. And the buildings are a lot smaller. It was strange sitting on the train back to Forest Hill and looking out over what seemed like a small town compared to the towering city we’d grown used to.
I think I’ll give myself a break from Chinese food for a while - at home we treated ourselves to a dinner of burger and chips. Not that we couldn’t easily have had that in Hong Kong - there are plenty of branches of McDonald’s, but a large part of this holiday was about trying out the local food. The Chinese takeaway menu waiting on the doormat was actually rather unfamiliar - there’s so much more variety to Chinese food than crispy duck pancakes, sweet and sour and chow mein - in fact these were all things that we hardly saw out there. It just shows how we get a very Westernised version of foreign food, but then maybe that’s because we don’t have much of an appetite for the boney gristle and pigeon’s heads.
Not that we would have tried of half of these things if it weren’t for Will - although there is quite a lot of English around, a lot of people don’t speak it and plenty of menus don’t have any English on them either, so having a Cantonese speaker in the group made it a lot easier, more interesting and fun. In fact we wouldn’t even have gone in the first place without him, so cheers Will!
I’m pretty tired now and wish I had a few more days off before going back to work.