31 March, 2018

Boarding the Queen Mary 2 - KAI TAK Hong Kong

Today is the day we board the Queen Mary 2!!  Such excitement!!  We slept until about 06h00.  Had coffee and breakfast, showered, packed and waited…… it was only 7 o’clock and way, way to early to get going – we were just excited!!  We couldn’t get to the ship to early as you can’t board until after lunch.  Finally by 10 o’clock we had had enough and we just wanted to get going and couldn’t wait any longer.  So we checked out of the hotel and hailed a cab to take us to KAI TAK terminal.  Once again this drive took us to the right of where we had been and into new unexplored territory.  We went though a long tunnel and out on the Mainland and what looked like a building site.  So much building taking place in HK that it is difficult to describe.  The Taxi driver knew where we were going through so there was no getting lost and no need for Google maps either.   The long ride wasn’t expensive either costing just under HK$400 which we thought was fair. 

The Queen Mary 2 and the Queen Elizabeth were both in at the same time and it’s a Saturday so there were lots of people who had come down to view both ships port side on in a line.  Looked lovely I can tell you.  The very top of the Terminal Building is an open air restaurant with gardens, so they got a good view without being too close?  AS we had expected boarding was not yet open.  Our ticket was very briefly checked and we were given a No 1 ticket which indicated our boarding group.  There were quite a lot of passengers who were transferring between ships.  I know it was about 200 passengers who came to the QM2 but not sure how many went the other way.  Edward opted to stand in a queue and I sat keeping an eye on the luggage and played games on my handy.  Edward must have been entertaining the people in line as every now and then great gusts of laughter erupted.  There was a bit of a hold up with boarding as the Hong Kong immigration authority had requested a full crew immigration inspection.  When this is done no-one can sign on or off until every last crew member has been seen.  It happens a lot in US ports but this is the first time I have heard of it in HK.  Mind you, now that I think of it this might have happened to me when I was on the Crystal Serenity and we topped in Dalian.  I remember then being struck by the conviction of the Chinese authorities that everyone wanted to live in China and if the didn’t check us all then most of us would have jumped ship!! 

By about 12h30 – and just as we were about to give up – they announced that boarding would commence within 10 minutes and that they had set up a water station for those who needed H2O.  The lady sitting opposite me left her luggage, including her handbag, and rushed off.  She came back with 6 little bottles of water that she spirited away into various pockets of her luggage.  If I get like her then please shoot me……..  

Finally boarding – Queens and Princess Grills first then group No1!!  I stayed in line while Edward fetched the luggage but they wouldn’t let him keep it.  He had to surrender it to a Bellman to take it onboard.  We were checked through and the young Chinese lady gave us the wrong room key.  Luckily this was instantly spotted by Edward.  Took her forever to find the correct stuff and when we checked it we noted that we were in cabin 10323 which didn’t ring a bell with me.   We boarded and checked to ensure I was correct and there is no such cabin so we went to the Medical Centre to find Bart.  He unfortunately was not there.  He had to go back to Wan Chai to collect a forgotten item!!  This meant that we were not able to get into his cabin.  What else does on doe do?  Go to lunch of course!  Off we went up to Deck 7 to the Kings Court for a Buffet luncheon.  Strong sense of de je Vue as we went and sat a the starboard rear side just as you have to do when you are working onboard. 

After lunch we went back to the Med Cnt and this time met up with Dr Andrew who was waiting to depart.  He was kind enough to take us up to the Senior Doctors cabin 3L194 where we would be staying.  Unfortunately our luggage did not arrive at our cabin and when I asked it appeared that it hadn’t arrived onboard.  We had a little rest and then a bit of wander and then Edward decided he was worried about the luggage, so he went back ashore to see if he could find it.  Obviously it was not there but he did have some trouble getting back onboard as somehow he got into the wrong line etc…..  

Luckily, he managed to sort it our and gain re-entry to the ship.  By about 16h00 Bart was back and he despatched the Med Cnt Steward ABU to see if he could find our luggage.  Edward started to get really anxious and upset about the luggage not being delivered – scenes in his head of the theft and / or destruction thereof.  I left him in the cabin and went to see if I could locate it myself.  

I went directly to Deck 2 reception where I found a bellman telling another guest that security had their luggage.  Immediately I knew that our cases were also with security as they were not labelled with a cabin number, just Med Cnt.  WE couldn’t immediately get hold of the security guy to release the luggage to us but by 17h45 all was sorted out and we were able to  get the bags to the cabin. 

Just after 18h00 we went up to the crew deck to join Bart and the Med Team for sail away.  It was wonderful.  Just at sunset we waved goodbye to the Queen Elizabeth and Hong Kong and sailed slowly down the
channel, past massive towers of apartments and out into the open water and new adventures.  Spent a lovely long evening in the Officers Ward room ‘conversating’ with Bart and testing the red wine!  

30 March, 2018

HONG KONG DAY 3 Friday 30 March

Friday morning dawned bright and sunny and hot and humid.  Edward manged to sleep until 04h00 and I managed to stay in bed until 06h00!  Then we got up and started the day.  Its Good Friday so we said some prayers before coffee.  Once up ad dressed we walked down the hill to St Johns Anglican Cathedral – the oldest in Hong Kong.   

We sat inside quietly contemplating the significance of the day and our culture.  We didn’t wait for service as it was only due to start at 11h00 and we were well before that.  We walked further down the hill.  As the city is so multicultural Good Friday is not a ‘bank’ holiday.  Rather it is respected as an important religious holiday and if I is your religion then you can have the time off.  Nice way of doing it I think.  On the way down the hill we passed a previously unseen pavement entrepreneur selling rosaries and crosses and religious icons – all ready for a big day.  Hong Kong always seems to have a spot for someone willing to make a few dollars.  :-)

Edward and I thought that we might like to find the MIDLEVEL ESCALATOR which is apparently the longest escalator in the world.  So off we went.  

A few false starts even with Goggle Maps but eventually we found the Queens Road and the MIDLEVEL ESCALATOR along with a big sign telling us that sections of the elevator are closed for upgrade.  Undeterred we ventured up.  The first section is not at all steep and is a travellator rather than an escalator.  Likewise, section 2 is a travellator but is more interesting as you start seeing in the 2nd and 3rd floor windows.  After that the sections get steeper and the upper floor windows become even more interesting.   Some of the little coffee shops you pass are no larger than my box room but are all doing a good business.  


Edward didn’t want to take a break at one of these little coffee shops as he thought they were all prostitute joints!!  I couldn’t see any evidence of that and even if they were all the people were dressed in banking business attire.   We finally came to the second from last section which is where the upgrading seems to be happening.  Over this section we traversed some steps and alleyways and eventually came out at the final section of the escalator which took us up to the MIDLEVEL of the Peak and into suburbia.  Very interesting to see I must say. 

We chose then to follow the signs to the Botanical Gardens as this is right next to our hotel.  

Off we went along well marked paths, under overhead roads, 

  next to deep flood defence furrows and over small bridges – and loads of stairs – until we finally entered the Botanical & Zoological Gardens just behind the lonely Burmese Orangutan.  I just couldn’t bring myself to look at the poor creature in that small cage.  From there it’s was a quick walk of the bridge and into out hotel   By this time is was sweltering and about 14h00 so we went back to our room, drew the curtains and had a rest.   

We got up about 15h30 and took a cab to Wan Chai to meet up with Bart sometime between 5 and 7pm.  It was so exciting to be gong in a different direction.  Basically, turned right instead of left when we exited the hotel.  We got dropped off at TIMES SQUARE which is apparently the largest “vertical” mall in the world – really??? Methinks they need to measure some of the Malls in Dubai and Doha which can definitely give this building and mal a real run for its money.  However, it was not the Mall which captured our attention. 
Rather it was the melee of people and the street market which drew us.  The was a real “street” market.  The kind of the I had been hoping to experience at the Ladies Market.  Edward was also taken with it and he got us both a new handy screen protector and charging cords.  The crowd was so big and busy and multicultural but there was no aggression or angst. 

I did the hold my bag close though, but I think it was more from habit than necessity.  After a while I of course needed a pit stop but finding a western toile that is of a standard you can use becomes quit an art.  

Eventually we found a Pret-a-Manger franchise so we had a coffee as well.  After a short respite it was out into the frey again – very exciting and invigorating.  Finally, we met up with Bart under the Clock Tower at Times Square. I will have to change his nom-de-plume from Dr Gorgeous to Dr Indiana though.  What an adventure he has been on!  We wandered around the vertical mall 3 stories of restaurants until the boys finally decided that they wanted to eat Vietnamese food and we found a place to stop.  

After disembarking the QM2 in Melbourne Bart hired a car and drove to Alice Springs and then to Uluru – Ayres Rock.  Then he went to Papua New Guinea where had several adventures.  First with a crocodile that jumped almost 2 meters into the air and broke the screen on this GoPro.  Second was when he came across a big pile of bombs whilst he was wondering about the tropical forest.  He at first thought that as there were so many old ‘bombs’ and ammo in one place they must all be safe.  After handling a few of the missiles her learned that like Africa PNG is not for sissies and all the ammo was live!!!   How lucky does one guy get – not being blown up whilst throwing live ammo about!!    Thirdly – and perhaps most deadly = he got attacked by a tiger shark which almost took his right leg off!!!  

Whilst touring alone Bart found some like minded people, mostly Australians, who were up for a boat trip to do some deep-water diving.  After the dive they were waking a slow cruise back to land when the boat got surrounded by small dolphins.  Bart thought it would be a good idea to hop back into the water and swim with them.  So, the boats driver tied a hover board and line to the stern and in he hoped.  As Bart was having such fun playing in the wake he hardly noticed that the dolphins had disappeared.  Then he felt as though he “knocked” his right foot on a tock.  It felt cold, but the medical brain took over and he could waggle his toes.  As he was wake surfing he couldn’t raise an arm to attract attention or he would have lost his grp on the board and been lost at sea.  

Luckily for him there was an attentive deck hand who noted that he had stopped ‘plying’ in the wake and started to haul him in.  Once back on board his injury was evident and significant.  Australian ER nurse to the Rescue!!  Leg was elevated, cold compress applied to bleeding wound and a below knee tourniquet as the ankle was bleeding a lot.  Finding good clean medical help once ashore turned out tot be a bigger problem than anticipated.  Finally found an open ‘hospital’ with 2 doctors who said they would help.  Luckily for Bart he opted to watch the doctors at work and guided the surgeon who was suturing his leg.  It is still in a bandage and he is limping but what a story!!  I think I need to get some of his photographs though.   

It was a lovely long chatty supper but finally we had to go home and we took a METRO to Admiralty and then a 12 to Garden View.  What a wonderful time we had in Hong Kong.  Definitely have to come back!


29 March 2018

Difficult sleeping overnight due to the time zone changes.  Edward was up and reading at 02h00 and eventually I turned the light on at 2h30 she was being impossible.  I made a cup of tea and chatted with him, eventually turning the TV on for a while.  At last we both settled down again round about 04h00 and I was able to turn off the lights and we both dozed for a while.  Finally, it was morning and we got up and showered and I made breakfast of coffee, oats and yoghurt.  The we left the hotel and walked down the hill to the KENNEDY TRAM STATION which is of course in Kennedy town.   

Sir Arthur Edward Kennedy (1809 – 1883) was born in County Down in Ireland and must have been from a wealthy family as he attended Trinity College in Dublin before joining the British Army where he was commissioned.  Later in life he entered the Civil Service and was appointed Governor first of Sierra Leone, then Western Australia, the Vancouver Island, then Western Africa, Hong Kong and finally Queensland.  He was on his way back to Ireland aboard the ORIENT for his retirement.  The ship was just off Aden near the Red Sea when he died onboard and was buried at sea.   Quite an exciting life he had, and I think I should read a little more about him sometime. 

Anyway, back to the tram station that is named after him in Hong Kong.  We were the first people there and bought tickets for a return journey to the top of VICTORIA PEAK as it is known.  We board the first tram and there was only 1 other couple on board and they sat behind us, so we had an unobstructed view up the very steep track.  There are 3 stops on the way up to the top and we didn’t stop at any.  Of course, this meant that when we made it to the top of the VICTORIA PEAK we almost the only people there, so it felt like we were alone and the whole experience was magical. 

Although the sun was up it was very hazy, and the buildings were not in stark relief which doesn’t make for good photographs, but it was lovely anyway.  We met a really nice Australian lady who was walking by and took our photograph.  She had lived in HK for more than 30 yrs.  Her husband was in the banking industry and when her kids where at school they lived in Australia and her husband stayed in HK….  What a sacrifice hey?  Anyway, she told us of a really nice walk/hiking trail that goes around the whole of Victoria Peak.  So, we went in search of Lugard Road which is the start of The Peak Loop Hiking Trail.  Turns out that it is a 2.8km walk and it took us 2 fabulous hours!  Cool, shady, green and quiet.  A veritable mountain oasis.  
By 9h30 we had finished a coffee and decided that the haze was not going to burn off.  Loads of people were on the way up so we decided to leave and the took the tram back down the hill.  From there we walked all the way to Admiralty.  It was hot but pleasant.  Very difficult to cross roads in this city though.  Everything is a walk way and you can get quite disorientated trying to work out which direction you are going in.  We had to keep peeking out from the cover to check we were still going in the right direction for the LIPPO building which was out landmark.  Finally, we made it into the air-conditioning and we were very pleased of it too!!
Edward chose a Vietnamese restaurant for lunch.  He had a large bowl of PHO – rice vermicelli in a broth and I had UDN needles which I have come to like out of necessity.  We took a bus – 12A – back to the hotel for an afternoon nap as the jetlag was truly lagging us. 
We were both up again by 16h00 and strolled down the hill all the way to the Ferry Station and hopped on a ferry for the crossing to KOWLOON.  The ferry station on the mainland is also a big bus terminus and it is adjacent to the OCEAN TERMINUS MALL.  This is where we would dock when I stopped in HK whilst working on Crystal Cruises.  Strong sense of De Je Vu for both of us as Edward remembers this large Mall as well.  WE had a wander about, then took a bus up Nathan St to the Dundas St stop.  We alighted there as I wanted to go to the Ladies Market.  As ever we decided to first have a coffee and catch up on some social media.  I clearly remember visits to the Ladies Market and was quite excited to go there again.  
Image result for ladies market hong kong
Although the market is still busy and bustling and full of stalls, the atmosphere has changed, I think this might be due to all the stalls now being permanent, so the shop keepers are really jaded and tired.  Edward was taken with a small drone that a camera, so he could take aerial videos.  In the end he decided against it though.  I was on the look out for a new handbag but just couldn’t see one that I couldn’t live without!!  Disappointed, but these things happen.  I did find some very pretty hair clips instead so retail therapy was sort of satisfied.  After lots of looking and just a little haggling we hopped on the bus back down to the Victoria Harbour waterfront.  The Avenue of the Stars was closed for refurbishment, but we found a nice spot to sit and wait for the 20h00 lightshow.  
Whilst waiting we stuck up and interesting conversation with an English guy who lives in Amsterdam and works for Bookings.com – wonder what will happen to his job after Brexit?? – Had a lovely chat with him and then finally it was the light show!  Couldn’t find the radio station to tune into to hear the music though so not quite as wonderful as it should have been.  Of course, by this time Edward was starving so we left after 20 min so we could go and find somewhere to eat.  Thing close early in HK.  Our best bet and one in our price range was the sit-down section of the CITY SUPER SUPERMARKET in the Harbour View Mall.  Edward had rice vermicelli again and I went for a couple of chicken wings.  I also got some great Pear and Mange juice and large bottle of sparkly water – just love the bubbles. 

Once finished we wondered about getting lost in the mall then headed back to the ferry station and the ferry back to HK island.  Both of us had sore legs so we took the bus back to the Garden View and a hot shower. 
What a lovely day J

In the evening I contact Bart who was already in HK and had lots to tell of his action vacation adventured.  We made an arrangement to meet up the following evening and catch up before we all joined the ship on Saturday. 

29 March, 2018


29 March 2018

Arrived in Hong Kong at 07h30.  Made it through immigration and customs without a hitch.  On our way out of the terminal we exchanged US$200 for HK$ so we each had just over 700 to play with.  Then a quick stop at the tourist information desk.  A really well-spoken Chinese tourist agent gave us a nice map and metro map and advised us that it would be best to take a cab to our hotel.  

 We had to take a RED CAB as these are the only ones allowed to drive in the city!!  There are also BLUE and GREEN cabs which go to different places and we never actually found out where they go.  (Just looked it up and RED cabs are Urban, GREEN are for New Territories and BLUE are for LANTAU)   We briefly thought that we might take the Metro but decided against it.  We hadn’t slept well and although early in the morning it was HOT.  As it turned out taking a cab was a very good idea.  The drive from the new airport that is built on reclaimed land took us about 45 minutes.  It is quite interesting as most of the motorways are built above ground or just briefly touch ground and then go into tunnels.  Well, it seemed like that anyway!  Drove past all the signs for Disney Hong Kong which brought back ship memories.  The hotel that Edward booked is on Hong Kong island.  You forget when you are talking about HK that it is a very steep island.  The GRAND VIEW HOTEL is at No 1 McDonnell Street and shares an address with the YWCA.  It is a nice little boutique hotel.  We couldn’t sign in until after 12h00 but they were kind enough to take out luggage whilst we went out.  The hotel is literally across the street from the Botanical and Zoological gardens.  We went for a nice walk around through green trees and shrubs and red birds and fountains – very calming after being cooped up in a plane or airport for so long.  


We went back at the hotel and found out about the busses.  Turns out that we couldn’t have planned it better.  The bus stop is literally 20m from the front door and if you take 12A to Admiralty you find a really nice shopping Centre with lots of eateries and coffee shops.  Edward was by this time very tired and testy and it took a lot of my self-control not to get very angry with him.  In the end we found somewhere to have something to eat – Ramen noodles and broth which was fabulous.  Then a little walk about the mall just to see what was there and they we paid the HK$4.30 for both of us to take the bus back up the hill to the hotel.  By the tie we got back the room was ready!!  A quick shower and we drew the curtains on the sunshine for a 4 hour nap.  Time changes take their toll!! 

Once we awoke we went around the corner to a supermarket called FUSION which is spread over 3 floors, but we managed to find milk, lots of water, coffee for me and fruit for Edward.  This was a real find for us as I also bought instant oats and some Greek yoghurt, so we had breakfast sorted for all 4 days.  Later we took the bus down the hill and had a little wander around the water’s edge but the time change caught up with us and we were in bed by 10pm again. I sat up and watched a little TV but Edward was straight off to sleep!!   

WORLD CRUISE 2018 - Getting to Hong Kong 27.3.18

27 March 2018

Really, really early start today.  Up at 03h00 for a 03h30 taxi to Heathrow.  Woke Mum up as well so that I could hug her before we left.  I know that we will miss her but adventure awaits.  David is on vacation so Sean collected us bang on 03h30.  It was raining when we left and cold but Sean's car was nice and warm and cosy.  Surprising amount of traffic on the road as well for that time of the morning.  Edward nodded off in the passenger seat and I watched the traffic go by.  Once we got onto the M25 the east bound side of the road was just endless numbers of very large trucks all whizzing down the highway.  I read somewhere once that the M25 is the busiest highway in the world with something ridiculous like 10 000 cars on it at any one time.  Seeing all the trucks I can believe it.  We got to LHR at about 05h40, so a little earlier than expected.  It was still raining a lot when we got there but luckily I had my nice new raincoat with me.  I pulled up the hood and didn't get at all wet.  

Once inside Terminal 3  we went in search of the FINNAIR desk which we found tucked behind in a corner.  Self check in only with a bag drop.  Luckily Edward is good at this so he did it and I stood in the bag drop queue.  The very nice Polish ground crew attendant told us that the flight was full and she could check our little hand luggage bag in for free. This was great as it meant that Edward and I only had our backpacks with us.  I had even stuffed my handbag and my NEW NIKON D3400 camera into my backpack.  It was a bit heavy but manageable.
So there we were at the airport with just over an hour before boarding.  I wanted a coffee and Edward wanted breakfast so we went to the Pret-a-Manger.  WE got some muesli and a croissant with out coffee.  AS it happened this was a good thing.  On FINNAIR they don't serve breakfast, you have to buy it!  Apparently this is because they think of this as a domestic flight - EU is domestic.  :-) When we boarded we had to agree with the Ground Attendant - the flight was full!  Not a spare seat at all.  I bagged 14A by the window leaving Edward in the middle.  He fell asleep and I stared out the window or played on my handy.  For most of the flight we were above heavy cloud cover.  Once we got to Sweden though the cloud cleared allowing me a good view of the snow and ice covered ground and the many islands in the archipelago.  I kept an eye on the in-flight map - something I really like doing - and could identify a Finnish town called Tuuk.  The ground was covered in snow and most the the rivers were still frozen but the trees were a bright green and looked full of energy.  

We arrived in Helsinki on time at 12h00 and had a 4 hour layover there.  We decided not to go through immigration and into the city as we thought we wouldn't have enough time (or money).  Instead we had some lunch and did some walking around the airport building.  Not a large terminal but nice and modern with free phone charging areas and some loungers where you could put your feet up.  They are in the process of building a second terminal and I'm sure that it will be just and nice.  Whilst wandering about we had a chat with a Finnish Attendant and she assured us that the next part of the flight would have food service so we didn't have to stock for the 9.30 hours leg of the journey.  I was pleased about that as after a very short time any padkos starts to go soft and mushy.......  Finally it was time to board.  Ground staff was challenged with an out of service computer and had to check us all through by hand.  Then we boarded a bus for a very long drive out to the Airbus A380 that we were flying on.  Once again the flight was completely full!!  We only worked it out once we got to Hong Kong - EASTER WEEK-END TRAFFIC!! The flight attendants were all Asian - Chinese, Filipino and Japanese - and all of them live in Hong Kong.  I found the temperature of the flight very warm and at one point  I thought I might melt.  Edward accompanied my to the back where I took my shirt off and stood in my Cami under an air vent drinking cold water.  The flying time is 9 hours and 35 minutes and as it is an overnight flight they served supper and breakfast.  Due to all the computer problems we left Helsinki about an hour late.  The flight crew managed to make up lots of time and we landed just 15 minutes late.  
Absolutely no trouble getting through immigration in Hong Kong.  They don't actually stamp your passport though, just give you a computer generated slip and tell you to keep it in your passport.