Thursday 17th March 2016 – Hong Kong

Happy St Patrick’s Day. And Happy Birthday to my aunt, as well.

Weather: grey, overcast, no higher than 20, cloud so low the tops of the buildings were missing, a bit of mizzle now and then, a bit chilly in the breeze. Not marvellous weather by any means. Coats and jackets and long trousers and socks and all sorts of stuff I haven’t set eyes on in weeks. This village is called Much Rummaging in the Cases, and the specific street is named Coat But No Gloves Way. Yes, way, dude. Cold fingers. Can’t remember the last time I had cold fingers. We are definitely back in the Northern Hemisphere now.

This is definitely one of the best parking spaces in the world. Granted, the one between the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House is probably number 1, but Kowloon comes pretty close. We park right next to the Star Ferry terminal at the purpose-built cruise terminal, and completely ignore all the designer shops between us and the street, as we walk into the city.

We like Hong Kong. Specifically, we like shopping in Stanley Market. We took the Star Ferry across to Hong Kong island, and intended to catch a bus. But they have moved the bus station from being right next to the ferry terminal to a good mile walk away, across a massive footbridge. So, instead, we took a cab to Aberdeen and Stanley. Reader, we shopped. When 100% cashmere jumpers are twenty quid a pop, it would be rude not to. And the public toilets are quite usable, too, fyi.

After a brief lunch at Pizza Express (not very authentic, but you can’t have everything, particularly when you’re a coeliac), we wandered some more, down by the sea. We found a brand spanking new, absolutely enormous, completely ugly, vastly over-priced, inaccessible by car, and generally totally inappropriate five-storey shopping mall had been built right next to the market. We used their loos and changed some money. That’s it. I saw a Moomin lamp I liked, about a foot high. £175. Er, don’t think so. See what I mean by inappropriate?! Next to a market renowned the world over for high quality, low price products. Ridiculous. The people who go to the one are hardly likely to go to the other. Needless to say, the big ugly mall, with the boring chain restaurants and ludicrous shops, was pretty much deserted.

I did find a homewares store called Homeless (I think they were going for Home FOR Less, but something got lost in translation), which raised a smirk, but that was about it. That’s the only nice thing I can think of to say about the place.

Which is sad, because they have clearly put a lot of time and money into it. Especially publicity-wise. They have held a World Record Attempt event there every year since it opened, and they have the certificates to prove it. All revolving around dogs, bizarrely, although we saw nothing bigger than a sparrow all day (although LOTS of sparrows). They have the world record for most dogs groomed in a single event, most dogs in a behaviour class, and so on. They have four different records. And they still have no customers. Hmmmmm.

Once we had shopped ourselves to a virtual standstill – in the MARKET, of course – we tried to go back into town to go to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel for afternoon tea. The taxi driver took us a different route to the one we normally take, which was really pretty, and took less time as well, which was a nice touch. Unfortunately, when we arrived, climbed the stairs (no disabled access) and walked in, we discovered they were JACKHAMMERING the floor on the Mezzanine level. They will stop by 6pm, said the Receptionist. Well, I THINK that’s what she said – there was some lip-reading involved. If you think we are paying you good money, for what was supposed to be a quiet, relaxing afternoon tea, whilst you scramble our ears and brains and vibrate our fillings, for an hour, you are out of your mind. So we got in another taxi and went back to the terminal.

We thought we remembered that the Peninsular Hotel was a block away – it isn’t, it’s about four blocks. And they have built a hotel and designer shopping complex in between the two, and a subway under the road, and fenced off the pavements, so you cannot walk across. And the one place you can cross, they’ve put a twenty foot wide sign that says “Please do not cross here”. Some of you will not be surprised if I tell you that the phrase “Beware of the leopard” sprang to mind. It was a ridiculous trek to get to the hotel. Utterly exhausting.

When we arrived, we found a huge queue for tea in the main lounge with the over-amplified string quartet (who the hell feels the need to amplify a string quartet?!). So dad went upstairs to the Verandah restaurant and confirmed we could eat there, instead (and listen to the quartet through the floor!). They made me some gluten-free cucumber sandwiches to order, which was kind. Sadly, they used gluten-free bread that belonged to the ‘disintegrate on contact with anything’ school of bakery. Sawdust glued together with WD40 would have had more solidity. So the final product was quite tasty, but not very dainty to eat. Very very messy.

Then back on board in time for dinner. New tablemates: Brenda and Graham, from Leicester, and Keith and Maggie, from Peebles in Scotland (although with English accents). They seem very nice. We had a lovely chat. This might go quite well.

Time for bed. it’s nearly half nine and I ache in places I really should not. I feel like I’ve walked several marathons. Through treacle. And rocks. Thank goodness for consecutive sea days.

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