Tuesday, 31 March 2009

But the Fly in the Ointment?

We've got a link to the internet and better still, it's not a hit and miss wi-fi signal but a LAN, cable connection, which picked up immediately we plugged it in last night. Then it flew, but this morning it's crawling like dial up. Sodding thing.

Hopefully it will find its legs again when we get back after exploring our new place, 'cos this looks very exciting. Like a small piece of Europe in China with influences of both.

Well I Woke Up This Morning

Da... da... da... da... dum,

And I woke yesterday too,

Da... da... da... da... dum,

But that was in Hong Kong

Da... da... da... da... dum,

And now I haven't a clue...

Ah, this Blues song writing is a doddle, even though it' not factually correct, for we are in MACAU. :o)

I did feel completely disorientated on awaking though as I wasn't in a bunk bed with nose pressed to the ceiling, I had a gloriously comfortable bed with snuggly duvet and wifey right next to me. There was space to swing my legs out of the bed, we have a bathroom a couple of metres away and this is posh luxury compared to the shoe box in Hong Kong.

*yay*

Monday, 30 March 2009

Later, Folks

OK, after the quick look at the headlines, it's time for the three "Ss" (and as we've established, in this "bathroom", it's entirely possible) and then pack and off to Macau.

See you on the other side, hopefully tomorrow, internet connection permitting. :-)

Busted

An Australian man who spent 15 years as a federal court judge and 20 years practising as a barrister in Britain and Australia has been gaoled for two years after perjuring himself in court.

Back in 2006, he was caught on a traffic camera exceeding the speed limit by six miles per hour, but he swore on oath that he had not been behind the wheel. He claimed that a visiting friend had been driving the car, but it transpired she'd been dead for three years.

When this was pointed out, he still categorically denied any wrongdoing.

After spending his second week in chokey, (he has furnished his cell with a television set and once requested that his door be left open at night because it was "a bit hot in here"), he has now requested the services of a masseuse and a psychologist to help cope with the stresses of life in prison.

Bless.

Standing Room Only

Overcrowding will worsen on several of Britain's busiest rail lines because the Government has quietly cancelled plans for more than 300 additional carriages. Southern and South Eastern, two of the largest commuter franchises, are likely to bear the brunt.

The Government will save about £70 million a year from the decision, which reverses a commitment in the rail White Paper published in July 2007.

Blinding. Make a promise to the people but then, when it's due to be delivered, pull out and welsh on the deal. How typical.

More at TTimes.


The network's most overcrowded trains have more than 70 people standing for every 100 sitting, according to Department for Transport figures released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Bespoke Eng-er-land Shirt

It seems Umbro and Team Eng-er-land have decided to employ a men's outfitters to design and make made-to-measure kit for the national team for the first time in the FA's history.

It clearly worked after the kit's first outing on the weekend as the team won 4-0, but not everyone's going to be a winner. A replica shirt will set you back fifty notes.

I bet the tailor is pleased he only has to stitch on one star; that'll save a load of time...



More at TTimes.

ATM Panic

We tried to withdraw some cash via the machine last night and out of three different ATMs we tried, all came up with a refusal, asking us to contact our bank.

We had a similar problem last week and whilst we knew there was no fault/problem at our end, the cash points here just simply don't like our plastic. It seems to be worse on the weekend and I have to say, it's no fun waiting for your dosh to be pumped out and instead you get an ambiguous message.

Particularly as they have a "three strikes and you're out" policy, which means we could lose our card. We'd be utterly screwed if they retained it as it's the only way we can get hold of our hard earned.

Happily, after a couple of hour's wait, we tried again at machine #4 and we got lucky, but it's a tad nerve racking.

And Mouse Pads

Another invention of the Devil's.

Mind of their own; you try a gentle scroll and it whizzes you to the end/beginning of the page.

Argghh!

Great start to the day, eh? :o)

Poxy Search Engines

You know what really grates my cheese? You lob the name of a hotel into Google or similar and the first one hundred pages or so are all agents offering to book accommodation on your behalf.

I want to go to the home page of a particular place and not waste time with go-betweens; surely the original place must take priority in the rankings? Grr...

Sunday, 29 March 2009

As it Draws to a Close

Last night in this mesmerising city and we'll be sad to leave.

We certainly fell on our feet with electing to stay in Kowloon as not only is it markedly cheaper, but the location is fabulous. Minutes from the harbour and that breathtaking view of Hong Kong Central, plus all the museum you can wish for.

Nine days is nowhere near enough to take it all in and so we're just going to have to come back. That's not a hardship, merely a reflection on our economic situation, but we're going to have to save up for the return trip, hopefully some time next year.

In the meantime, our journey continues and we head for Macau tomorrow. It's not going to be any cheaper there, indeed, the Hong Kongers go there for the weekend and prices go through the roof, but during the week we should be OK.

At least our next hotel will be en suite. :o)

We'll be back briefly tomorrow morning before packing up and taking the ferry down to Macau, which is about a hour's cruise away. It promises to be completely different to what we've become used during our trip through Asia. With a Portuguese influence we're expecting a far more European atmosphere, complete with equally poor weather. The forecast is just about 20 C and raining.

Oh well, it beats Monday in the office...

Nearly Caught Out

Just realised that you've lost an hour in Britland and you're now on summer time. How can they get away with calling it that? What summer?

Anyway, the time difference is now only BST + 7 hours and I'll go and change all the clocks and stuff on the Blog now.

Ship Shape at the Sealand- Nearly

And it seems like we're on a roll as here's another review for tripadvisor on our current pad, Sealand House

We do long term stays and arrange private rates directly with the hotel. That is why we will not refer to price paid for a room in our reviews, but it is always well below advertised, on line or walk-in rack rates. We stayed nine nights on this occasion.

As ever, feel free to contact us directly for further questions or check out our Blog (www.ktelontour.blogspot.com) for more on the accommodation, including pictures and what we’ve done in the area or just to relieve the boredom in the office…maybe.

ARRIVAL/TRANSFER:

Landing at Hong Kong airport from Bangkok, find the local bus station and buy your tickets for a single trip on the A21 bus (direction Tsim Sha Tsui) at a price of HK$ 33 per person. It will take about 40-50 minutes depending on traffic but the bus stop is just a couple of minute's walk away from the guesthouse. The A21 will take you right the way along Nathan Road and you need you get off at Cameron Road, where the Majestic Mansion is located. The best land mark to aim for is the Mosque which is situated on Nathan Road directly opposite Cameron Road.

The building is very close to the top of the road, on the RHS next to a KFC "restaurant" and you will need to go through a small opening leading to a lobby with two lifts. The gates will be locked after midnight so make arrangements to be let in before you arrive. The security guard (more like a caretaker) is friendly and will give you a smile and a wave as you head for the 8th floor. Your lodgings are directly ahead of you as you exit the lift, past the stairs and on the RHS.

All prices are in Hong Kong Dollar (HK$) and at the time we were getting around HK$ ~11.00 to the British pound.

SURROUNDING AREA:

Thriving, with a full on assault of the senses only a major city and all its attractions can offer. Hong Kong truly rocks. Supermarkets/7-11s, banks, ATMs, Bureau de Change, hotels, guest houses, bars, diners, restaurants, pubs, shops, shops and more shops of all kinds. You won’t get bored and it's all open twenty fours a day.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS:

A little daunting and drab as you peer up at the tower block which almost reaches into the low clouds if it's a misty day. It ain't Majestic and it surely isn't a mansion, but you soon get used to it as most of the accommodation is exactly like this. The outsides hide the prettiest of jewels and books and covers spring to mind.

THE ROOM(S):

Tiny, minuscule, titchy, small, cramped- need I go on? But this Hong Kong where space is a premium and unless you're lashing out HD$ 500+/night you won't have too many options. We had a single bed and bunk beds in our "room" which made it feel even more claustrophobic but it's only used as a crash pad, so what's the problem?

It also contained a small desk at the foot of the bunks which was ideal for stashing the bags under and laying out a few bits and bobs.

Other features included a remote air conditioning unit, an extractor fan (the room was windowless) a kettle and a portable TV (14") which even had two English speaking channels. Bonus. We also received faultless wi-fi in the room and only experienced a lack of signal once, which was down to the ISP.

There was no en-suite bathroom. Instead we had exclusive and private use of a small toilet/shower at the end of the corridor which despite its size worked incredibly well. The shower was directly over the toilet and you knocked your elbow getting in and out of the cubicle, but you soon got used to it and it was always incredibly spotless. You could eat off the floor it was so clean.

UPS:

- Super internet connection.
- Use of a computer in Reception if you're travelling sans laptop.
- Twin beds with fresh linen and a comfortable duvet.
- Location is brilliant, right in the heart of things and a few minutes walk from Kowloon's harbour and the Avenue of Stars.
- The family are friendly and helpful and speak excellent English.
- Very good air con in the rooms.
- Electric kettle in room for tea/coffee.
- Didn't expect a TV, so surprised to see one and more so that we could watch the occasional film on Pearl or a-TV World.
- Use of shared fridge to store drinks in the Reception area.
- Exceptionally clean throughout.
- Secure and safe; no problems leaving personal items in your room.

DOWNS:

- Lack of space
- Narrow beds
- Noisy, as street sounds were piped into the room via the extractor fan. The room was also directly next to Reception and so late arrivals/early departures and telephones could be heard in peace shattering clarity.
- It seems "private and exclusive" means something different in Chinese as we ended up sharing "our" bathroom with the resident family. Not a problem as it was never engaged when we needed to use it, but not quite what we were led to believe.
- Having to switch the water heater and then waiting 15 + minutes before you can shower.

BREAKFAST:

Not included.

COMMENTS:

Being on a limited budget we decided to save cash for our spending by electing not to take the en-suite bathroom option. Despite saving HK$ 900 over our stay, I'm not sure we'd do that again. It was no problem using the external facilities, but if you get caught short at some awful hour in the morning, it's a pain to grab clothes and blunder along the hall.

FINAL IMPRESSIONS:

Loved the experience. The family are welcoming, friendly and helpful. The place though small is rather charming and well maintained. You're in the heart of Kowloon and minutes away from the harbour, where you can get a boat across to HK Central with Star Ferry running every seven minutes and costing just over two HK bucks one way.

The only pain are the street hawkers who are aggressive, unrelenting and miserable sods. They rarely take "no" for an answer as they try and flog you fake watches and hand bags, accommodation or food from their restaurants. The best way is to fight like for like by ignoring them and not even engaging in conversation. They are particularly rife along the lower end of Nathan Road and by the ferry port.

Top of the Morning at O’Tool’s

Right then, finally got around to finishing off our review of O'Tool's in Phuket and as always a sneak preview:

We do long term stays and arrange private rates directly with the hotel. That is why we will not refer to price paid for a room in our reviews, but it is always well below advertised, on line or walk-in rack rates. We stayed 20 nights on this occasion.
As ever, feel free to contact us directly for further questions or check out our Blog (www.ktelontour.blogspot.com) for more on the accommodation, including pictures and what we’ve done in the area or just to relieve the boredom in the office…

ARRIVAL/TRANSFER:

Landing at Phuket airport from Bangkok (the flight takes an hour and a half with Air Asia and is a doddle) you will be pounced on by all manner of keen locals to offer you a lift to your destination. You have a few options:

- a minibus shared with like-minded travellers, which will cost ~THB 150 per person and takes you to all the hotels given by your companions, thus making it a long transfer of around an hour and a half (which coincidentally is the length of the flight from the capital to the coast).
- a private limo style car which is around ~THB 650 to THB 800
- a Meter Cab, which will set you back about THB 500


If you fancy the last option, exit the airport, beat off all offers from long lost friends of alternative lifts, and turn right towards a small hut at the corner of the building. Grab a number, wait until it’s called out and then go back to the person in the hut (who originally gave you your queuing number) and tell them your destination. They’ll advise you of the price and give you a receipt/docket, which you pass onto the cab driver.

You pay the driver at the end of the trip and make sure the meter is switched on before you set off. It will take an hour or so to Karon Beach.

All prices are in Thai Baht (THB) and at the time we were getting around THB 49-50 to the British pound.

SURROUNDING AREA:

Thriving with all predictable attractions a popular tourist destination should offer. Supermarkets, banks, ATMs, Bureau de Change, hotels, guest houses, bars, diners, restaurants, pubs- the whole shooting match. You won’t get bored, but perhaps jaded with having to work out where to eat and drink every day.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS:

It looks exactly as an Irish Bar should and is located a mere five minute stroll to the beach which is divine. Warm, clear waters with boisterous waves and surf which meet the clean, almost white, scorching sands.

THE ROOM(S):

Plenty big, airy and bright. Simply laid out with fridge, cable TV (at the time of writing a couple of local channels plus two movie options and BBC World), manually operated air conditioning and free wi-fi. Large wardrobe, big work top/surface for setting up the laptop and two bedside tables and lights. They even provide a laundry basket.

Comfortably firm double bed, but the bedside lights can only be switched off from one side of the bed (pain). Good overhead lighting though.

The bathroom is unfortunately a wet room but with a better lay out than usual. The sink is housed in the centre and almost closes off the toilet and shower, so that this prevents everything from getting soaked.

Toilet flushed well, the sink was a fair size (with enough space around it to allow toiletries to be placed there) and it offered both hot and cold running water, as did the shower. Plenty of hot water every time we wanted some, although the cold water feed stutters, resulting in hot and cold flushes at times. It keeps you on your toes but should be looked into.

Another bonus is that there is a power socket for your shaver or toothbrush to recharge and the wardrobe contains an electronic safe (use three numbers and either A or B to set).

We also had a small balcony which gave us a lovely view of the Big Buddha on the Hill and the large hotel opposite. Ask for the "Centara" if your taxi driver is unsure of where O’Tool’s is.

UPS:

- Good internet connection, when working. Periods of drop out and locking for no reason and the company had to be called out on a couple of occasions to rectify the problems.
- Comfortably firm, large bed, with just a sheet to cover. It will be more than enough as we had temperatures of around 33-35 C most days.
- Location is bang on, right in the heart of things.
- Very lively pub downstairs offering traditional pub grub, Brit ales and stouts and live music a couple of times during the week.
- Most major sporting events are shown on a large projection screen and they are big into English football.
- Clean, comfortable and light rooms.
- Very reasonable prices. The air con didn’t function on our first day of arrival and they couldn’t get it working until the next day. They gave us an electric fan and waived the first night’s fee.
- Staff are very efficient, friendly and helpful.
- Very good air con in the rooms.
- Electric kettle in room for tea/coffee.
- DVD player in all rooms
- Free, daily bottled water (and chocolates most days too).

DOWNS:

- Internet signal failed frequently.
- TV transmission hit and miss.
- Noisy when live acts are playing in the bar and they usually go on until gone 01:00.
- Eager Housekeeping that ignore "Do Not Disturb" signs.
- No lift and only steep stairs- they have five floors.

BREAKFAST:

Not included.

COMMENTS:

If you’re a Brit looking for a pad to crash that reminds you of home, you’ll be very happy and comfortable here. Ex-pat types will engage you in conversation, the sight and smells of the home-cooked food will have you thinking of your mum, and the traditional beers and drinks will keep you in good cheer as you support your favourite football team. The only hint of Thailand will be the bar staff who are plentiful and always happy to help.

And therein lies the problem for me. It’s just far too British to consider yourself to be on an exotic foreign holiday. Not only that, but that goes for Karon as a whole. It is way too touristy and familiar, which is a great pity as the sun, temperatures beach and water are all superb.

However, if that’s what you like, and it must be to take a holiday here, you’ll love it.

One word about the prices in the bar/dining area. Expensive. One always expects to pay more for imported beers and at THB 210 for a pint of Guinness, that’s almost as much as back in the UK. But even the local brews are top end of the price scale and so we usually drank elsewhere where our Baht stretched further. Ditto the price of the food. If you like typical western fare you’ll get high quality but again, at a premium price. This may have a bearing on where you dine and vegetarians barely get a look in. Even the traditional curry night ignored this option, which is a big oversight in my vegetarian wife's opinion.

FINAL IMPRESSIONS:

Again, I’m not a huge fan of the beach preferring cities and towns. However, our holiday has been a relaxing time and we’ve enjoyed everything the place has offered us over our three week stay. The accommodation is of a high standard and O’Tool’s has thought of pretty much anything a holiday maker could need for a pampered stay.
We are due back in May to meet old friends and hopefully, with many of the tourists absent as it’s off season, we may see the other side of Karon.


No doubt Brendan will point out all of my errors now. :o)

Cheer Up, It May Never Happen

Surly locals are being taught how to be friendlier to holidaymakers in a desperate attempt to help Spain's tourism under a new initiative introduced in the Canary Islands this week.

A combination of the recession and the falling value of the pound against the euro has seen fewer Britons travelling to the Spanish sunshine, but tourism executives hope the friendly campaign will help stem the tide.

Taxi drivers, hotel receptionists and shopkeepers will be asked to attend "friendliness" seminars and learn a smattering of comforting English phrases in a bid to shed their "grumpy" image among holidaymakers.

They could well do with this in Greece too- miserable gets.

Well Entitled

The 2009-2014 World Outlook for 60-milligram Containers of Fromage Frais by Professor Philip M Parker scooped The Diagram Prize for oddest book title of the year.

Baboon Metaphysics by Dorothy L Cheney and Robert M Seyfarth came in second place, and Curbside Consultation of the Colon by Brooks D Cash in third.

Previous winners of the annual prize, run by the Bookseller magazine, include How to Shit In The Woods: An Environmentally Sound Approach to a Lost Art, Bombproof Your Horse, and People Who Don't Know They're Dead: How They Attach Themselves To Unsuspecting Bystanders And What To Do About It.




The other titles in this year's shortlist were Strip And Knit With Style by Mark Hordyszynski, which came fourth, The Large Sieve And Its Applications by Emmanuel Kowalski in fifth and Techniques For Corrosion Monitoring by Lietai Yang in sixth.

Earth Hour

Was yesterday (28th March at 20:30 local time) when countries, cities and towns switch off lights for an hour in a bid to raise awareness of environmental issues. It is aimed at showing global leaders the strong support for action to tackle climate change. Yeah, right.

I'm sorry, much as it is a noble cause, but what a load of cock. People are already aware of "environmental issues"and no one gives a toss. Futile, pointless and toothless exercise. Why do they persist?

I did do my bit though- after a few local lagers, my lights definitely dimmed for an hour or so...




Activists also warned companies in the financial sector they will shut down electricity supplies themselves unless the lights go out. Nothing like a peaceful, voluntary protest is there?

Impressed

I'm usually the first to have a dig at Ponce William but credit where it's due as he has instructed his flunkies to arrange any commercial flights he takes to be in economy. Round of applause, please.

And in a near connection, it's just been announced that MPs are going to have come clean about travel subsidies when the full cost of taxpayer-funded travel for their spouses and children is going to be revealed for the first time.

That could cause a few red faces...





MPs' spouses and children under 18 are entitled to 30 single trips (or 15 return journeys) every year between their constituencies and London and there is no restriction on the class of travel so they can make first-class journeys by train or fly business class.

10k a Day

Stop smoking. Drink less. Learn new skills. Stop defrauding the benefit office. Claim tax credits. Wear a condom. Join the Army. Grass on your neighbours...

Britons are being bombarded by more than 10 000 Government advertisements every day, with messages from the state were relayed to the population via television, radio, cinema, newspapers, magazines and billboards on more than 3.7 million occasions during 2008.

The government is now the biggest spender on advertising in the country- its spending has increased by 20% this year to more than £400 million at a time.

Who says they're not a Nanny State?

Google + Sony = Good Read

Google has joined forces with Sony to take on the staid world of book publishing. The internet giant aims to make up to 7m books that it has scanned from the world’s libraries available for customers to download onto an electronic reading device, known as an e-reader.

The move has not only shaken traditional book publishers, but is a body- blow to Amazon, the online book retailer, which had hoped to corner the market for electronic books with its state-of-the-art e-reader, the Kindle 2.

Under the terms of a deal signed earlier this month, Google will offer an initial 500,000 digitised books as free downloads through Sony’s online book store. By contrast, Amazon — previously the market leader in digital book distribution — currently offers 250,000 titles. The books can then be read on Sony’s PRS-700, a hand-held device that can store about 350 titles, and allows readers to turn the digital page in a way that looks similar to a conventional book. Prior to the deal with Google, Sony was offering less than half the number of books as Amazon.

More at TTimes.

Forget Doom & Gloom

Up until two months ago the 400 villagers of Rampura in Uttar Pradesh, India, had no electricity. Now with the help of 60 solar panels and 24 batteries, enabling children to study after school and new businesses to be set up.

It is the first village in the country to be electrified by solar power, and Rampura has become a showpiece for the potential to harness renewable energy and fight climate change. The system that links its 69 houses to the solar plant has changed lives.

The £950 000 project by Development Alternatives, an Indian non-profit organisation, was funded by Scatec Solar, a Norwegian company. The programme director, said half the 600 000 villages in India which are without electricity could be powered by solar energy and according to Greenpeace India, the country could generate about 10% of its electricity from solar power by 2030.

Now that is a wonderful story.

Oh, Dear

Not the wisest owl in the aviary...

A would-be-thief attempted to rob a retired police chief at a police officers’ convention, attended by 300 drug squad officers. The guy held up the ex-Rozzer at gun point to pilf his wallet and mobile but got as far as hailing his get away taxi.

D'oh.

I'm Not the Messiah

After 30 years the banned film, Monty Python’s "Life of Brian", finally got its cinematic debut in Aberystwyth over the weekend.

It may have helped that the town's mayor is one Sue Jones-Davies, who happened to play the part of Judith Iscariot/Brian's mother...

Michael Palin and Terry Jones even showed up to the screening.

Not Surprising

It seems that Tesco is about to launch into the banking business and will be opening up branches in some of its stores, following trials in Glasgow. The first outlets will open next month in Bristol, Blackpool and Coventry, with a total of thirty "Tesco Banks" planned for the end of the year.

Not entirely unexpected as they already dabble in personal finances, loans, saving accounts, credit cards and insurance policies, so coupled with the disgust/contempt/distrust from the public for traditional banks, I suggest it will be a winner for them. It's good to have competition; let's see how the new boys on the block are welcomed by the "established" institutions, eh?

Good Meal Yesterday

I nearly forgot to mention that we had not just a very pleasant meal yesterday but it was also the best deal we've found so far, in one of the food halls located in the hundreds of malls about town.

2 x salads, 2 x Cokes, 2 x curries (1 x fish, 1 x beef) with heaps of rice, all for eight quid the lot. OK, it's not Thailand or Malaysia prices, but you can find a bargain or two if you hunt around.

We promptly spoiled our "good" day by going back to the Whale Pub, where we were greeted as long lost friends, shown to our regular table and served our usual drinks. Well, we had to say good bye after all...

More Birthdays

To two old pals, Tony (today) and Dave the Fluff tomorrow (30th). Hope you both have a good time and we wish you all the best on your special days.

Turncoats

Last year, with much trumpeting and chest beating, the Government actually did something good for the country's senior citizens by allowing them free travel anywhere in the land using their OAP bus pass.

Immediately local councils bleated about a shortfall in funding and they've not let up in the perpetual whinging, moaning and foot stamping. Guess what? It's worked as the shower of shite in "charge" have recapitulated and as of 1st April 2009, our golden oldies will have this privilege taken away from them.

Disgusting. :-(

More at TTimes.



Under the existing rules, any bus or coach service with stops less than 15 miles apart is considered a local service and the operator must accept bus passes. But the Government has rewritten the rules and, from 1st April, passes will not be eligible on any service on which more than half the seats can be booked.

Playing the Same Record

Within the first year after purchase, a CD will be listened to approximately 165.4 times.

I doubt that holds true any longer with the MP3 format.

MOP

The Pataca (MOP$) is divided into 100 avos and it is Macau’s official currency. There are banknotes and coins in the following denominations:

Coins: 10, 20 and 50 avos; 1, 2, 5 and 10 Patacas. Banknotes: 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 Patacas.

By the decision of the Government the Pataca is linked to the Hong Kong dollar (HK$) which is also accepted as currency in Macau. The exchange rate is ~MOP$103.20 = HK$100.00 and there is an acceptable variation up to 10%.

Macau Then

Where? Cop some blurb:

Fishermen from Fujian and farmers from Guangdong were the first known settlers in Macau, when it was known as Ou Mun, or "trading gate", because of its location at the mouth of the Pearl River downstream from Guangzhou (Canton). During ancient times port city was part of the Silk Road with ships loading here with silk for Rome.

Even after China ceased to be a world trade centre, Guangzhou prospered from seaborne business with the countries of Southeast Asia, so the local entrepreneurs welcomed the arrival of Portuguese merchant-explorers. They followed in the wake of Jorge Alvares, who landed in southern China in 1513, and set about finding suitable trading posts.

In the early 1550s the Portuguese reached Ou Mun, which the locals also called A Ma Gao, "place of A Ma", in honour of the Goddess of Seafarers, whose temple stood at the entrance to the sheltered Inner Harbour. The Portuguese adopted the name, which gradually changes into the name Macau, and with the permission of Guangdong's mandarins, established a city that within a short time had become a major entrepot for trade between China, Japan, India and Europe.

It also became the perfect crossroad for the meeting of East and West cultures. The Roman Catholic church sent some of its greatest missionaries to continue the work of St Francis Xavier, (who died nearby after making many converts in Japan). A Christian college was built, beside what is now today's Ruins of St Paul's, where students such as Matteo Ricci prepared for their work as Christian scholars at the Imperial Court in Beijing. Other churches were built, as well as fortresses, which gave the city an historical European appearance that distinguishes it to this day.

Portugal's golden age in Asia faded as rivals like the Dutch and British took over their trade. However the Chinese chose to continue to do business through the Portuguese in Macau, so for over a century the British East India Company and others set up shop here in rented houses like the elegant Casa Garden. As Europe's trade with China grew, the European merchants spent part of the year in Guangzhou, buying tea and Chinese luxuries at the bi-annual fairs, using Macau as a recreational retreat.

Following the Opium War in 1841, Hong Kong was established by Britain and most of the foreign merchants left Macau, which became a quaint, quiet backwater. Nevertheless it has continued to enjoy a leisurely multicultural existence and make daily, practical use of its historical buildings, in the process becoming a favourite stopover for international travellers, writers and artists.
In modern times Macau has developed industries such as textiles, electronics and toys, as well as building up an a world class tourist industry with a wide choice of hotels, resorts, sports facilities, restaurants and casinos. As in the past, Macau's economy is closely linked to that of Hong Kong and Guangdong Province, in particular the Pearl River Delta region, which qualifies as one of Asia's "little tigers". Macau provides financial and banking services, staff training, transport and communications support.

Macau is a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China since 20 December 1999, and, like Hong Kong, benefits from the principle of "one country, two systems". The tiny SAR is growing in size - with more buildings on reclaimed land - and in the number and diversity of its attractions. The greatest of these continues to be Macau's unique society, with communities from the East and West complementing each other, and the many people who come to visit.

More at http://www.macautourism.gov.mo/en/

Post Script

Congrats to Southend who beat Hartlepool 3-2 leaving them in 8th (24) and a slim chance of a play off position (6th and six points away). Fingers crossed, eh?

Results Are In

A good result for the Germans in yesterday's FIFA World Cup European Qualifying as they beat Liechtenstein 4-0 {Ballack (4) Jansen (8) Schweinsteiger (48) Podolski (50)} at home. This keeps them in top spot ahead of the Russians who have a game in hand but are four points behind.

We play again on Wednesday against Wales @ 19:45.

England didn't play a competitive game but they remain in top spot with four wins from four. Instead they made light work of Slovakia in yesterday's friendly by also beating them 4-0 {Heskey (7) Rooney (70) Lampard (82) Rooney (90)} at Wembley and they must be looking forward to Wednesday's qualifying match against Ukraine.





QUALIFICATION DETAILS

The nine European group winners qualify automatically for the finals. The eight best runners-up go into four play-off matches with the winner of each two-legged tie also reaching South Africa.

Chinese Laundry

A week's worth cleaned and dried in six hours for three quid. Lovely-jubbly.

Great Advertising

All week long we've had trailers for Saturday's "mega" movie showing stumpy blurk with the conk doing his high wire act and pulling off masks in Mission Impossible II.

We settle down to watch the movie after a hard day loafing about the streets of Kowloon to find it's not number two (although it would be fair to describe it as such) but the first one- all the promo ads were from the wrong film. :o)

How the Globetrotting is Going


This is how it's looking after three years on the road.

Current total stands at 83 countries visited but this is slightly lower as a few of the smaller Greek and Croatian islands weren't recognised. Can you believe that Porto Heli, where we lived for over three months wasn't listed?

The nine listed countries are our favourites to date (and HK goes straight into the top five) and I wonder which will become the tenth?

Saturday, 28 March 2009

They're Back

Spongebob Squarepants was banned from Russian television after a picture of Vladmir Putin appeared in the background of one scene.

Go on, admit it- you've really missed our little factuals haven't you?

Scary

We were expecting the weather to be cooler than in recent months as we're further north (and east) and it's proved the case. We're also travelling with just hand luggage and so space is vital, which meant that we had to pack very strictly and I could only bring along one pair of shorts and my old pair of jeans.

Clearly, having taken the old kit off to be washed, I had to jump into the denim strides and although having tried them on prior to packing, I was a tad nervous if I could still fit into them comfortably and walk.

I haven't worn long trews since Greece, now a year ago, and it felt very odd to have something rubbing against my lower legs. It felt even odder to realise that middle aged spread has well and truly caught up with me and that I could only manage to wear my jeans with the top button undone.

But it doesn't matter to me as they are still a very tight 30" and at 44, I suppose I've had a good innings, but I can't wait to get my shorts back, later today. :o)

Computer City

It goes without saying that they are all high tech mad around here and they have the latest gizmos and gadgets pouring out of each store. They even have people standing by the door inviting you to come in and browse. Roll up, roll up...

But while you will have the greatest choices, you'll also have to pay over the odds to have the latest shiny box with flashing lights. Comparing prices to what we've seen in both Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong is well over the odds.

The latest IT item we bought recently was our mini HP netbook and it is at least another £80 more expensive here.

But we have contributed to the sales figures- we managed to locate a 3.5 mm jack splitter which will allow us to use both loud speakers and an external microphone. For some reason HP decided to incorporate both the mike and ear phone socket into one and one excludes the other when in use. Not just plain daft but tiresome.

However, after exchanging the princely sum of HK$ 15 for the unit, it's all systems go. :o)

Not too Shabby

We've also been on the search for a laundrette, but this being the home of the Chinese laundry it didn't take us long to locate a suitable enterprise.

Fearing the worst due to other higher costs in the city we weren't too hopeful but ended up pleasantly surprised. Again, going by weight they charged us a very fair HK$ 30 for a week's worth and even more impressive is that it will be ready for collection at 16:00.

Which happens to be the start of Happy Hour...

Up to Date

Another slow start to the day as we've been out and about making the most of the better weather. Apparently it's due to rain later today and continue into the weekend, but that won't make the slightest difference to us.

I've also been fannying around with the "flag slide show" and uploading more piccies of Kowloon onto our Flickr account.

Gan have a look see and tell me honestly you're not just a tinsy bit envious. ;-)

It's Not Always Dull at the Bottom

We've just spruced up the foot of the Blog a little more by moving the currency converter there, along with a new mini slide show displaying all the flags of the countries we've been to this tour so far. It adds a bit of colour and also serves as a good aide memoir to help recognise some of the lesser known pennants.

And I know we haven't been to Macau or China yet, but that will be happening real soon to we're just saving a bit of time, OK? :o)

Friday, 27 March 2009

Hong Kong Sevens

Kicked off today. This will explain a load of big people around, wearing brightly coloured jerseys in allegiance to their countries. I'm not an avid follower of rugby, my sporting tastes revolved around bat and ball activities, but I can see the attraction- particularly the apres sport...

Anyway, it's here, right now and the home team got slightly stuffed by Argentina, 0-28, I believe. England began well with a 54-0 win over China.

Here's some guff from here about the tournament:

The world's premier Rugby Sevens Tournament was born over pre-luncheon drinks at the venerable old Hong Kong Club on a misty spring day in 1975. The Chairman of the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union, an amiable South African entrepreneur, A.D.C. "Tokkie" Smith, was talking with tobacco company executive Ian Gow. It was Gow's idea, as Promotions Manager for his firm, to sponsor a Rugby Tournament with top teams from throughout the world competing.
On March 28, 1976, less than a year after Tokkie Smith and Ian Gow shared a glass, clubs from Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, Japan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Fiji participated in the first Hong Kong Sevens Tournament. It was an astonishing accomplishment; in less than 12 months, a team of talented, dedicated volunteers had created a sporting event that was to tackle the imagination of the rugby world.


As the Tournament grew throughout the 70's and 80's in both supporter popularity and the number of participating teams, which had now progressed from club sides to representative teams, the Tournament moved from its original home in the Hong Kong Football Club to the Hong Kong Government Stadium. By the beginning of the 90's, with demand for tickets having outstretched the capacity of the Stadium for over five years, it was time for a larger facility. The Stadium that had been the Tournament's home for 12 years was re-built in 1994 and a 40,000-seat Hong Kong Stadium is now its current venue.

In 1993 the first Rugby World Cup Sevens Tournament was held in Scotland, where the game of Sevens had originated. Hong Kong was awarded the prestige of hosting the 2nd Rugby World Cup Sevens in 1997, which was a huge success in a memorable year for Hong Kong as it was handed back to China and became a Special Administrative Region.

During the years after the Rugby World Cup Sevens it was apparent how important the game of Sevens rugby had become in the development of good rugby players. Players such as Jonah Lomu, Christian Cullen, George Gregan to name a few first demonstrated their speed and agility in the Hong Kong Sevens. The iRB, recognising the value of the game of Sevens, launched its inaugural World Sevens Series in 2000 - the 25th year of Sevens Rugby in Hong Kong - to enable more players to benefit from Sevens competitions. A core of 10 to 12 of the world's top teams now participate in tournaments in Dubai, South Africa, South America, Australia, New Zealand, Europe and Asia.

The Hong Kong Sevens Tournament itself has a wonderful history. It is now considered the iRB's "Jewel in the Crown" in the Series and still continues to grow in popularity with players and spectators. Rugby World Cup Sevens 2005 was the second time Hong Kong has hosted RWC Sevens and this year marks 32 years of sevens rugby in Hong Kong - a remarkable achievement.

Chinese Visa

Wifey has been doing a load of research and obtaining background info on Macau and our onward journey into China. During her browsing, she found that it is in fact not just easier to get a visa for China in Macau, but it is considerably cheaper too.

Half price, apparently.

Arse.

The Peak Tram






Click to Enlarge

From here:
The Peak Tram, a double reversible funicular system, has undergone a complete modernisation programme to upgrade its operating system and turn over the new engineering even though it still follow use the original railway track mode that was used to carry its first passenger in 1888. It has a classical style.
Today, the Peak Tram uses a microprocessor- controlled electric to drive the system that automatically manages the tramcar speed, include its accelerates, decelerates and in, out the station procedure, with the result that full-automatic based on present standard.
With a maximum speed of six metres per second, the tramcar operating system also come with three separate brake systems : Normal Stop Mode, Service Stop Mode and Emergency Stop Mode. Normal Stop is achieved by normal deceleration through the microprocessor control; Service Stop is used when a request to prevent a potential risk and it would be too late to use Normal Stop. The braking is regulated for a constant deceleration rate; Emergency Stop is used to stop the system in shorter time by braking the haulage drum at full force in situation of safety is endangered. The Emergency brake will also be applied when the service brake is failed, or when the tramcar is speeding up to 15 per cent of normal speed, again or slacken haulage rope.
There are two haulage ropes, which are of a normal diameter 44 millimeters that can hold up to 139 tonnes. The steepest part of the route, which is at the crossover tracks on May Road, is 27 degrees to the horizontal. The track measures 1,365 metres in length and enables the computerised tramcar to cover the distance in approximately 7 minutes. The Tramcar carries up to 120 passengers, include 95 seated and 25 standing. Two tramcars run at opposite direction over 90 trips each day. The unique waveform floor is special design feature, but for standees safety and comfort. The system must simultaneously start to operate after an automatic safety device check is carried out before each journey.

The latest upgrade was initiated in mid-1986, when the companies were invited to bid for the project based on requirements that passenger carrying capacity rise from 560 to 1,400 per hour one way. The Peak Tram also expected modern state-of-the-art equipment that was safety and easy to maintain. On May 18, 1988, the project was awarded to Von Roll Transport System of Switzerland.

Good Observation

Nothing changes your opinion of a friend so surely as success- yours or his.

- Franklin P. Jones

Belated Birthday Greetings to Dovey

Sorry Steve, what with our travels, power cuts and no access to the net, we didn't get a chance to wish you a happy birthday for the 23rd. Really sorry, but we didn't forget, just didn't get the opportunity to send our best wishes.

I'm sure you had a great day and I'm sure we raised a glass(es) to absent friends too. :oD

Scoff in HK

LOADS of food joints, from fast food to top end scran and all bases covered in between.

We usually prefer to jump down the small back streets and mingle with the locals, but this is proving difficult. They only have menus in Chinese characters, which offers us no idea of what anything is. Saying that, we have found a few places that dumb down their food lists to help out the plebs by offering translations in English for their dishes. Thankfully.

Expect to pay from HK$ 60 upwards for main dishes and you can be sure of noodles or rice with most meals. Or go to McD's.

Cheers, Bren


Click to Enlarge

Childish Of Course

But some of the names and places are really difficult to say without cracking up. With such words as kok, mong and fook, it really is a challenge to be serious.

Yes, I am a child. :o)

Whizzy Tube Map

One thing that I found absolutely impressive is the destination map they have on the trains.

Instead of the bog-standard pictorial representation of the tube line and the stations along the route, this has LED lights that illuminate the next due stop and also a little arrow showing the direction of travel. How simple is that to let you know when your stop is coming up?

They even tell you which side to get off. :o)

Going Underground

Today was the first time we used the MRT, Hong Kong's underground system.

It's a comprehensive network covering not just all of the city areas but also further afield, up to the New Territories and across the river to HK Island (Central) and it seems to be good value for money.

A single trip will set you back HK$ 5 (< 50p) and as in most countries, you get your ticket directly from a machine that at first looks well complicated but isn't if you take a second to simply read the instructions. Every where is spotless as you'd expect, the trains arrive bang on time at frequent intervals and there's no danger of falling onto the tracks as you're behind glass barriers. It is a rather sophisticated way of travelling and we didn't experience any kind of overcrowding.

Unlike some places we've visited.

A New Entry Into The Top Five

Of my list of bloody irritating people. Umbrella users. With no consideration to anyone but themselves and their dainty little hair dos, that just have to be kept dry at all times, do us all a favour and just get a sodding hat, Mrs.

You're just selfish tossers- you are carrying the poxy parasols, so it's your duty to ensure you avoid poking normal pavement users in the eye, ear, nose or similar. Why do you expect me to trot around like a demented break dancer, just so that can sail through the street without a worry or a care? Bastids.

And it goes without saying that they all just have to stop in the middle of the sidewalk to answer their poxy mobiles, don't they...

Bleedin' How Much?

An "Irish" bar not far from us is charging HK$ 67 for a pint of the black stuff. Go on, use the new currency converter at the bottom of the widgets list to see how much a pint of Guinness is in yer English pounds.

And speaking of black gold, our local supermarket stocks Marmite. However, at HK$ 63 for a bog standard medium sized jar, they can go and poke.




For the lazy bods, that's £6.04 & £5.68 respectively.

New Stuff

For some reason, our hit counter decided to deaf out on us and so we've got a new one. I can't recall exactly what it was on, but the random number I've lobbed in is there and there abouts. As you may recall, we didn't have a counter for the first year, so we are down on a true count anyway.

I've also added a more user friendly exchange converter at the bottom, which I can preset to the currency we have where we are and directly back to pounds (and it can also be changed to suit your personal whereabouts) and I've added a simpler countdown timer.

A change is as good as a rest, blah, guff, blah...

En-Suite or Not En-Suite

It's been surprisingly easy to live without a bog/shower/bath in our room. It would be false for me to say it's been ideal, for it hasn't, but we've coped rather well. It's also saved us around a hundred quid so perhaps worth the sacrifice?

I think not, and in future we're going to have to give up on the extra spending money and stick with the creature comforts in life. We ain't getting younger and some things are worth more than just cash in the back bin.

More Pictures

A few shots of HK on Flickr, and we'll be adding some more (including Kowloon) when we're able to set up the computer properly, after we get a desk of some sort. Currently, we're tapping away literally on the lap, sitting on the bed.

Macau should be better.

Hong Kong Phooey

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According to Wiki, Hong Kong Phooey was a 16-episode (31 shorts) Hanna-Barbera animated series that first aired on ABC Saturday morning from September 7, 1974 to September 4, 1976.

The star, Hong Kong Phooey, is the secret alter ego of Penrod Pooch, or Penry (sometimes mispronounced "Henry"), a "mild-mannered" police station janitor. Although Penry/Phooey appears to be the only anthropomorphic dog in the entire city where the series is set, no one ever connects his two identities.



How could we start a post on Hong Kong Island and not refer back to this genius, Kung Fu kicking dog and his cat called Spot? :o)



We decided to be typical tourists and head straight for The Peak and with the bus stop just by pier 7, where we had landed from Kowloon, it was simple to locate. The bus (HK$ 4.10 one way) took us directly to the tram line which climbs this sheer mountain and we joined the queue to buy tickets (HK$ 33 return/person). At just over three quid, the fare was fair [sic] because had this been England, you could easily add another tenner onto the price.

What an unbelievable journey.

It was so steep it was all one could do to hold on or slide out of your seat. The incline must have been more acute than 45 degrees in places and how the tram managed traction is still mystifying me. The brakes are pretty impressive too. It takes around 10 minutes to get to the top and if the weather had been fair, I'm sure the view would have been spectacular. It wasn't, but I suspect it rarely is, as the low cloud level is ever present. It does not detract from what you can see and the skyscrapers pushing into the mists will always be a great memory from HK. How can one build on such steep grounds? Hats off to the architects and the constructors on this one.

There is not much else to do at the top as it is just another excuse to build yet more shopping malls and the usual names, labels and logos are present in abundance. However, make no excuse for not making this trip, it's a must do thing and should not be missed.


















For those that really have no idea what we are talking about, here's a bit more:

This cartoon stars Hong Kong Phooey, the “number one super guy” who travels about the city in his “Phooeymobile”, fighting crime with the aid of his manual “The Hong Kong Book Of Kung Fu”.

The stories begin at the police headquarters, where Hong Kong Phooey's alter ego, Penry, works as a mild-mannered janitor under the glare of Sergeant Flint ("Sarge"). Also at the police station is Rosemary, the telephone operator, who has a crush on Hong Kong Phooey. After Rosemary gets a call and explains the crime, Penry runs into a filing cabinet and (always getting stuck) transforms himself into Hong Kong Phooey.

A less than competent super-hero, Phooey’s crime solving is done either by fortunate blunder or, most likely, with the help of his faithful companion, Spot the striped police cat. Hong Kong Phooey is a respected superhero who always gets full credit for Spot’s success.

A running gag is that Hong Kong Phooey is such a respected hero that when his incompetence caused him to crash into, harm, or otherwise inconvenience a civilian, the passerby declares what an honor it was to have so interacted with "the great Hong Kong Phooey." For example, he drives the Phooeymobile through some wet cement, splattering the workers, who say that it was an honor to have a whole day's work ruined by "the great Hong Kong Phooey."

Ferry, Cross the Mersey...




Click any to Enlarge

Finally, yesterday, we took the ferry across the turbulent waters and arrived at Hong Kong Island. Star Ferry provide the transport and after sussing out the initially confusing token vending machine, you're good to go.
The boats leave around every seven minutes, take about the same time to cross the body of water separating HK from the mainland and before you've even had time to take a few photos, you're there.
One thing we found amusing is that there are two types of fare, depending on which deck you prefer to use. Upper, posh deck (I assume because the view is better?) costs HK$ 2.30 (going up by 20 cents on the weekend) one way, and the lower, pov's deck is a bargain at HK$ 1.80. It may not seem much, but if you had to commute it would soon add up.


Incredible

We had walked perhaps two-three minutes and covered maybe two blocks, and I was accosted by a dozen "salesmen"in that time, trying to flog me all sorts of shite. This is beginning to wear thin...

Next Phase is a Go Go

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Sixty quid for this little sticker in my passport- they sure know how to coin it in. But it will all be worth it, once we're on our way to China, next month.

White bits are where I've taken out personal details to prevent identity theft- you can never be too sure, right? ;-)

Kowloon Park

Just at the top of our road (Nathan Road) sits a large mosque and behind that you'll find the park. As unexpected a surprise as Central Park is in New York (who'd have thought you'd expect greenery and fields in the middle of a hectic, crazy city?), Kowloon's offering is not as large but just as welcome if you want a bit of tranquility away from the maddening crowds.

They have a tree plantation with differing types of wooden bushy things, an aviary for assorted species of birds and a pond which serves as home to tortoises, Koi carp and ducks/swans. There is also a large swimming pool (indoor and outdoor) which looked most inviting in the then sweltering heat.

If you're passing, pop in and have a pleasant stroll through the carefully prepared sections and give yourself a treat.

Cats & Dogs Then?

Nah, not really. Some showers in the pm but not too heavy and certainly not like the monsoons we've become used to in Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia etcetera.

It has however cooled somewhat with temperatures heading below the 20s for the first time in months. At first it's quite a shock as it feels bloody freezing but after a while you get used to it and it does make a pleasant change.

I've even had the recently purchased track suit top on and that sure makes a difference- it's worth its weight in nylon and blinged up, fake adidas logos...

Supposedly getting better for the weekend again though, so even more to look forward to.

Recapping

I think it was Wednesday afternoon we were last on here and we were just off to do a bit of culture. With bells on. We spent the rainy and cool afternoon at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, The Space Museum and the Art Exhibition. All for free. :oD

By far the best of the lot was the art museum, which even I would gladly have paid to get into and we could easily have spent twice as long there. It's not just paintings on display but modern art, sculptures, china (from China; chortle) and much more. Deffo worth a trip.

The space gaff was OK for a freebie but most of the hands on stuff was knacked and not working (and I'm not that interested in space exploration anyway) and it felt a little dated and uncared for. Perhaps some new features would spruce it up?

As for the "culture" centre, it must have been closed as all we could find was an exhibition of forthcoming business awards nominees, which was not cultural in the slightest. They were just mass produced posters.

Still, it was a grand afternoon and despite the rain, which has been with us for two days now, we had a cheap and cheerful time out.

First the Excuses

Yes, yes, I know I said we'd be back yesterday, but you know, we're in Hong Kong and there's just so much to see and do. Plus we went back to "our" bar and had a jolly fine happy hour(s). We'll now try and make it up to you.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Hang On

Just noticed this on the Blog:

Scheduled outage at 4:00PM PDT on Thursday (3/25). Learn more

No idea when PDT is, but I bet it will be just as I am about to start today's posts...

We'll keep trying, eh? :o)

Thisrty Thirds Run Riot

Mens 3 vs Braintree 2 Won 13-0 Scorers: see belowGoals: Clarky 4, Copeland 3, Deayton 2, K Leaver 1, Pieman 2, R Catchpole 1, Cooper 0, Cooper 0, Cooper 0

It should have been more; at least one more anyway because I missed a flick. I wouldn’t have mentioned it but with plenty of spectators I couldn’t really deny it and anyway their international standard goalkeeper deserved praise for preventing my thunderbolt of a flick. To put into context they only had 10 players but the ten were so awful we’d have beaten them if we had nine. We started without a sweeper and ended with a 1-3-6 formation with our Ginger leader marking at least five of their players.

Clarky had a field day and Bill got his hat-trick of brace-tricks for the season, deftly avoiding a jug by shooting onto someones foot to win “my flick”. Josh Copeland got a fine poachers hat-trick and see above for the other scorers. Kiera Guyly in goal touched the ball twice and we had to wait a full two minutes for their celebrations to subside when they won a short corner; they didn’t get a shot off. That’s all I have to say about the hockey, which for me is quite a lot anyway.

In anticipation of our confirmed promotion we decided to have cheese and wine for the after match refreshments which most of the opposition enjoyed. I did point out to my colleagues that we have a few younger players and that we should cater for them as well, and suggested cheese strings, dairy lee triangles and baby belles. We didn’t actually get any of those processed cheese products so I apologise for that and did feel a little guilty when I saw a young member of the opposition eating bread with a generous topping of Branston pickle. Yum.

Still we enjoyed it and surprisingly the nine bottles of were all drunk. We did receive the standard payment for teas from the club which covered the crackers and several glasses of the wine, but it was worth it to see Braintree look happy to drive 40 miles and lose 13-0. Congratulations to the first XI who, inspired by our performance, won by a few less than us to win promotion. So one more match for us against Southend which if we win, will see us either first or second depending on Waltham Forest results in their two remaining games. So for at least another week, “We are top of the league, singing we are top of the league!!!”

Dovey

No Signal

Following our power cut yesterday (which wasn't unexpected apparently as there were signs in the lift forewarning us about the two hour outage whilst they ran some necessary safety checks) we lost our connection. All seems well again now...just as we have to leave for our trip to Hong Kong island.

We should be back on line later tonight or tomorrow. In the meantime, I have just enough time to paste up Dovey's latest hockey report before we have to dash.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Wednesdays in Hong Kong

Is a good day if you're into culture and museums, arts and stuff. Unlike most other major cities we've stayed in, where Mondays are usually free admission, they prefer mid-week, freebie entry to their establishments, so we're off to see what's on offer.

Good Old British IR

Where the IR = Inland Revenue.

Up until this year we have been happily sorting out our tax affairs in the UK on line. Despite it being a bloody awful system (unreliable, unstable, un-user friendly; need I go on?) it is by easier than corresponding by post and not knowing if vital paperwork has arrived our not. Particularly when couple with the post office's piss awful service.

However, due to a change in personal circumstances, we have declared ourselves non-resident for this financial year and this means that we can no longer complete our returns via the internet. I have no idea why they feel this is necessary, but the upshot is that we now have to employ an accountant to this on our behalf.

Which is ironic as wifey was a Chartered accountant back in Britland...

Luckily her old firm have agreed to help us out, but it's still going to cost us and for what? Just because the IR refuse to allow non resident folk the same tools as anyone else. Wrong.

Shaving Foam Sucks

I use a shaving gel that doesn't obscure the view as I still sport a French beard/goatee. Been using "King of the Shaves" (K Shaves as it's probably now called) and it's rather good, allowing me cut in, around some of the facial hair I wish to retain, whilst permitting the razor to glide through the rest of the growth without concern.

However, it's now nearly finished and as I'm travelling lightly, I've brought along a Gillette mini foam can, donated by my brother-in-law, Dave, after his holiday to see us in Koh Chan.

It is utterly shite. Can't see where to shave, the foam barely softens my manly bristles and it take ages to get a close finish. I can't wait to go back to my gel.

Wotcha Cock

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A young lad decided to brighten up his parent's home by climbing onto the roof and painting a 60' knob on it. It's been keeping Google Earth viewers entertained for months, but the owners of the house have been in the dark for a year.

Apparently they only found out after a helicopter flew over it and reported to one of the red top rags, but it seems the parents have taken it in good form. They are awaiting their son's return from his gap year in Brazil with a scrubbing brush and white spirits in hand. :0)

Doner Pot

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I’ve just been extolling the virtues of Asian Pot Noodle (yesterday) and have heard that there is a new flavour in the UK. Kebab flavour.

The £1.01 plastic pot contains dried noodles, dried meat pieces and stock powder and by adding boiling water, you can replicate the taste and smell of a late-night trip to the kebab shop.

Each to their own, but I’ll stick to my options in HK, thanks.





It is the first time in two years that Pot Noodle has launched a new flavour, following the new editions of Lamb Hotpot, Tikka Masala and Chicken Satay in March 2007.

HK To Macau

We've now managed to sort out the next phase of our trip and we'll be taking the ferry from Hong Kong harbour to Macau. The crossing takes about an hour, it will set us back HK$ 130/person and the boat leaves every half an hour until 19:30. This means we don't have to pre-book our tickets and can pitch up any time we chose; and it won't be too early either.

Now we just need our passport back (tomorrow) and that'll be that for the organising phase. *yay* back to doss mode.

Temperature Dropping

Noticeably cooler last night. Grey, overcast and spit of rain in the air and forecast for more of the same. Still loafing around in shorts, T and flappers, and more than comfortable but no where near as hot as it's been in Thailand. It makes a change but I know which I prefer.

ktelontour's Beer-o-Meter Updated


Click to Enlarge
Hong Kong enters at an OK fifth (equal with Hungary) place in the charts but only due to happy hour prices. Double the price to a hefty£4.40 and it would take top spot.

Stack and Rack

Another nice touch.

As happy hour came to a close, the waitress asked us if we wanted anymore beers before the price went up. How many places do you know who'd do that, instead of letting the clock tick down and then hitting you with full price?

Particularly as there were no clocks on the walls and we don't wear watches; we wouldn't have had a clue. :o)

G'Day to Gerry & Doreen

This rather charming Aussie couple we met in the bar. They had just disembarked from their cruise to spend a couple of days in HK, before flying back to Sydney, they certainly seemed to be enjoying their retirement and we spent a good hour or so batting the breeze and drinking lagers.

Cheers to Gerry for also pitching in with a party set (6 x bottles in an ice bucket, again discounted) which helped the convo flow with gay abandon. Hope you have a safe and pleasant trip back and perhaps drop us a line when you get time.

Out on the Razz

Nope, Razz is not a Chinese beer, but having put some cash aside, we fancied a beer to enable us to update our beer tracker. Ouch, it's expensive.

The first thing to bear in mind is that all pubs, bars and clubs will have a happy "hour" that can last for several. It is in your best interests to make sure you use this time to make the most of the deals, as they will discount each beer by half.

We found a nice little place around the corner from us (The Whale Bar) which was knocking out 350 ml bottles for an average of HK$ 16, so imagine adding another sisteen bucks on top, per drink per person? Sod that.

Their cheapy hours ran from 16:00 to 21:00 and we made the most trying several new, local brews, including Astra (a Hamburg beer on special offer at HK$ 14) Tsing Tao, Asahi (our favourite) and Blue Girl.

Free snacks, great decor and loads of business men getting bollocksed made us feel right at home and we had a smashing time.

Weekend Footie

Only Southend play a league game, on Friday against Hartlepool. All Premiership matches give way to the friendly Team Eng-er-land are playing on Saturday, while other countries face FIFA World Cup European Qualifying matches.

Germany v Liechtenstein, 4 @ 19:45 and England v Slovakia @ 17:15

Can't see either team having too many problems.

Confused? You Will Be



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Here are just four examples of the same HK twenty dollar note. There are more out there too.

And Still in the Shop

Before we were interrupted, I was talking about the efficiency of shop keepers. Another thing they also do is enquire if you want a plastic bag or not.

It's a huge problem in Hong Kong and they are going to phase out free bags by the middle of the year. In readiness, everyone is being reminded if they really do need a bag, before the Government begins to tax them in July.

And We're Back

Just had a power cut, knocking everything out. About an hour, but all is back on again, so no harm done. However, it's made me realise just how often we we've experienced electrical outages on our travels.

Nearly all of Eastern Europe, Greece and pretty much all of Asia; it goes to show how lucky we are in Britland and mainland Europe as we rarely had any interference. Mind you, they are forecasting problems in the future as little or no investments have been made along the way and the country will not be able to cope with demand. Not good.

Are You Being Served?

It won't take you long here.

As soon as the cashier has taken your money and returned your change and receipt, they are almost reaching over your shoulder to attend to the next person in line. You barely get an opportunity to pocket your dosh or pack your bits before the eager shop assistant is ploughing their way through the purchases of the next customer.

Highly efficient but a bit unnerving.

When The Fun Stops

As with any country we visit (and we include Hong Kong as a separate country, despite it being part of China) we send out a few postcards and we picked up a batch recently. Very nice, good quality and a reasonable HK$2 per card (keep looking; most places charge three) but the shop couldn't supply stamps which meant a visit to the post office.

After much search- it's clearly marked on the map but could we find it; we located the branch which was conveniently hidden from sight in the basement of a building without any kind of sign outside whatsoever, and went in.

Fantastic. All counter services were clearly marked, the queuing was minimal and we got understood without a problem. An air mail postcard to anywhere was HK$3 and when we went to an area to affix the stamps, they thoughtfully provide not just wet sponges, but glue and sellotape as well.

A positively pleasant experience and I'd happily return again. But I don't have to. :o)

Music & Light Show

The other night we returned to the harbour to witness the above titled extravaganza where the city puts on a laser show accompanied by a stirring piece of classical music. The lights are projected onto buildings on either side of the river, with many buildings themselves being lit up in garish and spectacular neon and it really is some sight.

The harbour is packed by spectators, all enjoying the free display and is definitely a must see if you're visiting.

I'm Walking

If Fats Domino had walked as much as we have over the last few days he'd be needing a new nick name. It feels like we've covered every square centimetre of Kowloon but in reality we've probably barely covered a few blocks. I've even got blisters; how can one achieve that wearing only flappers?

It's all worth it. We're seeing stuff that will stay with us for as long as we will live and every corner one turns something else will come along to leaving us squealing "wow".

Top, top city.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

We All Choose Our Own Destiny



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I have one brother, three years younger than me. We're close, best of friends and have a laugh. He studied hard, got a first in his degree, did his PhD, got married, had a family (three delightful kids) and works damn hard with a successful career at a large American company in London.
I chose the looks and decided to bugger off around the world. :o)

The above signs, found within a street of each other and around the corner where we live, exemplifies our choices in life-although bruv is not exactly a lardy, but he sure likes his Rubies.
How's that for coincidence?

Pasta Piss Take

Pasta is Italian peasant's food and comprises of not much more than egg and flour. Noodles are a staple here (along with rice) and are made in much the same way, if, with differing ingredients, depending on what type of noodle is required.

So how can any restaurant justify charging £17 for a spag bol in a bog standard chain restaurant? Someone is having a laugh and it wasn't us. Ber-limey.

Van Der Valk

Anyone remember this detective programme? Or more significantly the theme tune "Eye Level"? That's what springs to mind as you stroll around the busy streets and the abundant shops. Because the city is so cramped, it's had to build up and if you need to find an address or store, always check the floors higher up, as this is probably more likely where you'll find what you're after.

It's even better to walk on the opposite side of the road so you can check the next level with ease and you'll be amazed at what you've missed out on, first time around. Don't forget that down is also another option. There is a McDonald's underground, with a designer boutique on the ground floor and a KFC on the first floor and then a sports goods store on the next.

Out and About in Kowloon





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It looks a lot more over cast than it actually was, but that is far better for sightseeing for us. Top down:
  • Clock Tower at the Star Ferry Harbour (to get across to Hong Kong island)
  • Hong Kong island as viewed from Kowloon
  • Typical apartments in Kowloon
  • Typical road in Kowloon
  • Mosque in Kowloon- not so typical