Sunday, May 27, 2012

Hong Kong in a Day

Flying on points can really deliver some incredibly nasty flight schedules. At first, Boo and I needed to book whatever flight was available and that was going to route us from Sydney to Beijing to Hong Kong to LA to Vancouver. How messed up is that?! Since we knew that Perth was our last planned stop, we looked at other options and found out that, if we just left out Sydney this trip (been there, done that), we could fly to Hong Kong and head home directly to Vancouver. Worked for me.

Since we had originally allowed for a couple days in Sydney, we just revised the itinerary and spent that time in Hong Kong. Neither Boo, nor I had ever been there before; so, a brief stopover sounded rather exciting. It was certainly going to be a world apart from the more bucolic surroundings of Margaret River, McLaren Vale and the Barossa.

Our flight arrived early enough in the evening that we were able to venture over to the famous Temple StreetNight Market that was, conveniently, found only a couple of blocks from our hotel. A quick wander amongst the myriad of Angry Birds anything and everything, Mao memorabilia (we had to pick up the Obama in iconic Mao jacket and cap t-shirt) and iPhone covers of all sorts and we were ready to call it a night. I didn't know that Hong Kong is in the same time zone as Perth. That made the travelling a little more palatable but we were pooped all the same.

Knowing little about Hong Kong, we figured we'd need to fend for ourselves and suss out some city highlights. Axel and Tyrant came to the rescue, however, as they lived in the Pearl of the Orient for years and still had friends in town. Hoping we might arrange to meet up with Whaler and Polo for lunch and and gather a few tips, we'd hardly expected to inherit a personal tour guide of the first degree. After a leisurely and entertaining lunch, we sent Polo on his way as he needed to get ready to catch a flight himself. Then Whaler took us on a tour that we could never have managed to put together on our own.

After a bit of a walkabout through Mid-Town, we made our way up the old funicular to the Peak for the panoramic views of the city. It wasn't the clearest of days but the ride and skyline were something to behold.

We arrived late enough in the afternoon that Whaler suggested we dally a bit to take in dusk and catch part of the city lights from on high. Being Hong Kong - one of the world's most noteworthy shopping cities - there was, naturally, a little shopping mall at the top of the tramway. This would have been a marvellous location for a surreptitious bottle of wine; however, not having expected this to be part of the afternoon's planned events, we weren't prepared for such an eventuality. We and to settle for some Starbucks (yes, they're everywhere here as well).

The city did take on a whole different persona as the sky dimmed and the lights started to come on. Being from Vancouver, we're not exactly hard done by when it comes to evening skylines, but even though t
he afternoon's clouds and low lying mists were still with us, there was no doubt that Hong Kong's skyscrapers and Victoria Harbour are dramatic in every sense of the word.

Our adventure continued with the famous ferry ride across Victoria Harbour to Kowloon where we watched the combination of music, coloured lights outlining the building towers and laser beams piercing the night skies. We'd never heard of the daily event - despite perusing guide books and the internet - and, surely, would have missed it if left to our own devices.

By now, Whaler had been with us for nine hours and he still didn't take his leave. We were sure that he must have been tired of us; but when we asked for a restaurant suggestion, he insisted that he join us since he was hungry and was going to have to find some dinner in any event.

1137. 2011 Westend Estate - Richland Chardonnay (Riverina -Australia)

After all the higher end wines we'd been drinking Down Under, it was a bit of a surprise to be ordering more of an entry label wine from one of the largest wine regions in Australia. Riverina is a key workhorse of Australia's bulk wine production and, together with the neighbouring Murray Darling region, it produces almost three-quarters of New South Wales' entire annual wine output. It's the kind of label that rocketed the Aussies to the top of the affordable, everyday wine world all those years ago. It's also the sort of label that perhaps caused the malaise that's accompanied the opposition to the whole "critter-wine" category - even though there's no critter to be found on this bottle.

Another new winery for me (even after our Aussie tour), the Chardy wouldn't normally be a first choice for me. But it was unwooded and, with the wine list being rather limited, it looked the best option for our array of Chinese food. Back in Vancouver, you're pretty sure you've stumbled across authentic Chinese food if you're the only Caucasians in the restaurant. I'm not sure that holds true here, but it was definitely a bonus having Whaler with us. He not only knew what the menu items were, he could make sure that everything was coming as it should.

As for Westend Estate, it served its purpose. It had a bit of fruit on it and the acidity wasn't overbearing. In fact, it rather helped cut through the oils, sauces and heaviness of the food. I'm not going to hunt all over North American to hunt it down, but it wasn't a hardship on our part to finish it off.

With dinner done, so were we. Whaler escorted us back to the nearest subway station but still managed to take us by some of the more notable sights on Kowloon side - including the Peninsula Hotel and the 1881 Heritage site. It was certainly an eventful day - and a far more enjoyable one than we would have fashioned on our own.

And the best news was that we didn't even drive him batty. He offered to do it all over again if we wanted. Offers like that are hard to come by but we thought we'd just take some tips on some small days trips that we might look at and said that we'd get in touch for dinner and drinks come Friday.

Talk about your buzz-filled start to a city stay.

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