February 20th Hong Kong
And so I have made it be an official O.A.P., an Old Age Pensioner, 65 today and still ticking. The first assigned cruise has been completed and today is disembarkation day for many guests, with about 120 staying on for the next leg to Tokyo.
It’s been an interesting time, with strangely, the highlight of the trip so far being the day we had in Bangkok prior to boarding the ship when we visited the Museum and cemetery and eventually the bridge that crosses the River Kwai. It was a fascinating look at the Thai countryside and then the emotion of what we were seeing to remember the 130,000 people murdered by the Japanese as they constructed their ‘railway of death’. We have seen more of course, from the poverty of Cambodia to the seemingly veneered opulence of the Sultanate of Brunei (can it really be that good there?), the playground island of Boracay in The Philippines with its beaches snorkelling and ‘fun’, to the ancient walls of Intramuros in the teeming city of Manila.
Taiwan is looking a bit shabby in many areas as it vies with its giant neighbour across the waters, teetering on notions of unification or war with China, and Hong Kong, the once prized possession within the British Empire, now waiting to see what might happen when the People’s Republic of China finally has full control on 2047…
For us we have gone about our duties with diligence and commitment as usual, the lectures, music performances and Julie’s card sessions together with the routine guest interaction have kept us busy and interested.
I have received a promotion, if that is what it can be called. With Regent Seven Seas operating in partnership with the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, speakers are accredited as ‘Smithsonian’, and advertised as such for the cruises, with all the bells and whistles of logos, fancy slides for the presentations etc. Well some are it seems. I have my new badge, but you will struggle to find any reference to me on the Regent website for this or any forthcoming cruise. I see reference to others, together with their ‘bios’, but I seemed to have slipped under the radar. But, I am here, I am doing the job, and maybe a badge is enough…ask any wild west Sheriff!
We celebrated the ‘state pension’ status achievement last night in Hong Kong, by taking a walk in the rain through the ant-hill of humanity that constitutes 5pm in this city, towards the ‘night market’ and stopped in at a ‘traditional’ Chinese restaurant where in a large 3rd floor room littered with tables there were 2 people eating. The staff seemed to outnumber the tables, but it was clean, highly decorated and the menu was understandable – it had pictures! The mirror tiles on the central pillars gave a feeling of grandeur and the fish in the large tanks resembled extras from Jurassic World. Hot tea was brought immediately, with some peanuts and a sticky red substance that we both avoided. The tea was translucent but a little tasty and we then proceeded to over order. We ignored the advice of the Maitre’d, who kept saying the plates were large, by assuming that he was so small he couldn’t possibly advise two big ‘Brits’ on how much we could eat. He was right, we were wrong. With the spring rolls, sweet and sour pork and beef and noodles, not to mention the huge bowl of special fried rice, we were beaten before we started. We did our best, having negotiated for forks rather than chop-sticks (it’s taken me 65 years to master the knife and fork routine and I’m not one to voluntarily adopt local habits just because ‘we are there’ – we were in The Gambia the other day and we didn’t adopt the local custom of eating with our fingers out of a plastic bowl on the ground!)
And so we ate what we could and washed it down with a very good local beer, being watched by staff who were obviously nodding to each other with a knowing sneer and a ‘see they wouldn’t listen’.
We wended our way to the night market, famous for its variety and value…but not for its rain! We made it back to the ship for the nightly laser light show over on HK island….and so ended a day to remember.