Arrived around dinnertime on Thursday after a 14:05 hour flight– even with flatbeds, a gruelling trip. Stayed this night at the Langham Place Hotel, which is a towering skyscraper connected to a massive new shopping mall, both of which stand out like elephants in the midst of the Mongkok neighborhood of shops and markets. Mongkok is an area of Kowloon (mainland, as opposed to the island of Hong Kong) a few miles away from the main tourist areaof Tsim Sha Tsui. It’s literally a beehive of activity with fruit and vegetable stands and butcher stands and cheap clothing ships three deep on each side of the narrow streets– one in the brick and mortar structure, one on the sidewalk and one at the curb– and the constant noise of trucks and people and Chinese chatter. Sort of a classic Third World scene. Had dinner at one of the shopping mall food court restaurants, very stylish and trendy places totally unlike the malls we’re used to. My room at the Langham Place was on the 40th floor, affording a dramatic view of the lights on nightime HK. A nice place. Got a deal on this one from Jetsetter. In bed early in the battle to defeat jet-lag.
After a morning wandering around the sights and sounds of Mongkok, on Friday morning it was off to Tsim Sha Tsui and The Peninsula, also in Kowloon, which is the more “happening” part of this monster of a metropolis. They were nice enough to let me into my room at 12:15. and WOW!, what an experience…a big, bright, spacious, beautifully furnished and decorated room on the 25th floor of the Peninsula Tower that was, in a word, breathtaking. Gorgeous furniture, terrific artwork on the walls, all kinds of deluxe pushbutton features (curtains, lights, temp, TV, music, etc.) and wonderful touches (e.g. not one, but two phones in the bathroom. I loved it. My Amex reservation includied extra goodies such a afternoon tea, breakfast, early check-in and late checkout and I took advantage of all of it. After getting settled, I initiated my customeary case-the-neighborhood activities, an over to the nearby Star Ferry terminal and took the ride over to Hong Kong island. IN HK you use something called the Octopus card, which is a prepaid credit card good on all forms of ransportation and ever smalled restaurants and shops like7 Eleven and the like. Needless to say, I was determined to wear mine out, so I proceeded to grab every available ferry, bus and subway I could find. Returned to The Pen for the afternoon tea. As a “resident” I was entitled to go to the head of the line of perhaps 80 people waiting for tables and the opportunity to spend $50 or $60 per person in the jam-packed lobby lounge. It may have been my first afternoon tea, and it may be my last. I don’t understand the concept of eating in the lte afternoon and spoiling your appetite for dinner. Oh well. Then it was nap time, followed by drinks in an area known as Knutford Terrace, a gallery of bars and restaurants in a slightly obscure location, followed by dinner at Dave-recommended Tutto Bene, really good. Thoroughout this trip jet-lag has been killing me, so I’ve consistentlly dragged myself back home around 10:00 each night. And so it was that night.
Dave had insisted that I have breakfast on the Peninsula Verandah. Sorry to say, Dave, that they’ve built a couple of museums that almost totally block the Veranda’s view of the harbor. And besides, my Amex free breakfast deal was only for the lobby lounge, so that’s where I ended up. Breakfast: disappointingly average, specially for a breakfast whose menu price was around $50. It was a perfectly beautiful blue-sky, moderate-temperature Saturday in HK, and I wasn’t going to be required to check out until 4:00, so I pulled out my trust Octopus card and hopped on the Star Freey one again, saled across the harbor and jumped in the #6 bus to Stanley, a suburban town/village on the far tip of HK island and a settlement famous for its flea-type market. The ride to Stanley takes one through the “suburbs” and lush lightly populated areas of Hong Kong island. included the picture perfect Hong Kong Country Club, Bellview and Repulse Bay. A wonderful way to spend a couple of hours. Returned to the Peninsula for an hour or so poolside, then the clock struck midnight (actually 4:00) and it was time to move on. Hiked a couple of blocks over to Dave’s regular habitat, the Marco Polo Hongkong Hotel, whose lobby has the bustle of a train station. But no waiting in line for me, because Dave had aanged for me to stay on the club floor, where I was whisked and checked in on the 17th Floor and assigned a room on the 18th. Went to the elevator…no 18th floor. Asked the Club attendant: how to I get to my room? “Up the stairs, sir” (Never would have happened at the Peninsula, but hey, I’m saving a ton of money with this hotel, and The Continental Club comes with a line-up of extras the Peninsula would have charged about $300 for– snacks, hors d’oeuvres, drinks, internet, pant-pressing, breatfast, etc. My room, albeit a bit smaller than the Pen (i.e., about half the size, not, I imagined, like the super-sized upgrade Mr. Bohmer probably gets), I would describe as efficient and comfortable. Anyway, it was cocktails in the club lounge, then out to dinner at another Dave suggestion, the Swiss Chalet, where I introduced myself to owner Max, who instead of giving me a table, plunked me at the bar so I could have dinner with his best buddy and fellow Swiss Leo. It became clear that Dave was a super regular, because when I asked Max for a suggestion as to ewhat to have, he re[plied that Dave Bohmer always orders the special broiled cheese appetizer and the Dover Sole. Leo, on the other hand, thought I should try the veal with mushrooms, since that was what he was having. I went along with Leo’s suggestion and was rewarded with a delicious dinner and half of Leo’s bottle of Swiss merlot. The thiree of us and Max’s bartender wife had a terrific tiem. Great tip, Dave. I’m going back again next Tuesday. As usual, back to the hotel and in bed again by 10:00. I can’t believe it’s me doing this.
Today (Sunday) I’m heading out to Sha Tin for the races. Am equipped with the official program and The Racing Post and my Octopus card and am ready to go. More later..