Hong Kong and our guide extraodinaire - Paul Burke
Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Hong Kong was our next destination, it was a late addition to our itinerary, included because we needed to get a Visa for China and Hong Kong was our best shot ……also it would give us an opportunity to catch up with Paul Burke. We landed at 7:00pm caught the train in to Hong Kong and then hopped on to the free shuttle bus to our hotel, took advantage of a couple of free beers, prepared our visa paperwork and went to bed.
Next morning, we got up early and went to the Chinese consulate to make our visa applications - All went surprisingly well, we spent only half an hour there but needed to return in four days time to pick them up - Sorted.
In the evening we took one of the iconic double decker trams (also known as the Ding Ding and costs 20p a ride) across the city to "Happy Valley Racecourse", where the horse races were held on a Happy Wednesday night - It was surreal, a full-blown race meeting, in the city surrounded by a high-rise neon skyline. The crowd was huge, the betting frenetic, cheap beer, cheap food and a German Oompah band playing (apparently Octoberfest had come to Hong Kong). Before you ask, Dan lost money in every race but even so "What a great night!"
Second morning, we went out to breakfast and met Paul Burke. It turned out that his apartment is only about a hundred metres or so from our hotel. Paul showed us around the local area of HK and surprisingly ended up in one of his locals, an Irish bar called Stauntons - We had a couple of drinks, it would be rude not to. Next stop, Paul's other local the "Foreign Correspondents Club" where we had another drink and some snacks before leaving to prepare to go out. Paul had engineered an invite for us to the opening of a new bar - Free drinks and canapés, all evening …… A real treat for a pair of itinerant travellers. The night came to a close, well almost - There was an Irish bar called McSorleys still open on the way home and a nightcap seemed in order.
Another day and a date with Paul. Full English breakfast with Paul at the FCC - I had not previously been aware that a Full English included 3 double Bloody Marys - still a "hair of the dog" resets the system. On the way back, Paul diverted us into a Cheese shop, for a savoury desert…… The cheese shop also sold wine (who knew) and we shared cheese and wine between ourselves and a passing Swiss girl (who had come in for a sandwich) into the late afternoon - How can 5 bottles be so easily and pleasantly consumed?
Paul had a Black Tie do in the evening (Top table, no less) so we caught the "Star" ferry to Kowloon and watched a dramatic light show play out across HK harbour and the city's amazing skyline.
The next day, on Paul's recommendation, we were heading by bus to Stanley - The top deck of the bus apparently provided amazing views along the route. Slightly hungover and a fraction late starting we invited Paul to join us. Paul arrived within a few minutes and suggested we should go by taxi and return by bus - not going to miss the splendid views …… The best laid plans of …..
Overlooking the bay in Stanley was a bar "The Smugglers Inn" which Paul knew quite well - A good place to start. As the day progressed we met several interesting but random people, who joined us at our well placed table and were quickly replaced each time they left. It was like conducting interviews. Predictably, it eventually got dark and our bus ride home, taking in the scenic splendour of HK island never happened. The taxi home decided to stop at the FCC for dinner, followed by a few lively bars - A long day.
Sunday and slightly hungover and tired, we met Paul at a really nice Italian restaurant at 12:00 noon for lunch - 3 course lunch and "all you can drink" until 3:00pm (very nice wine). You won't believe this but we were the last ones there and the owner gave us some grappa and limoncello to see us on our way ……a downhill had begun. We left at 4:30pm and continued our downhill journey (figuratively and literally) to Stauntons (the Irish bar). We parted from Paul about 6:00pm, he was headed to the airport en-route to Thailand and we slowly back to our hotel.
Monday and our last day - our hearts were missing Paul but our livers were glad of the rest. We picked up our Chinese visas from the consulate, caught up with some admin and prepared for our flight to Shanghai the following day.