Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Rich Seafood

The sad thing about this trip is that so little time is left for Hong Kong. Officially we had just two days there, though this really translated as a day and an evening. Of course, one is free to stay on by oneself, but then given the mix-up with my travel plans, that was never going to happen for me. We arrived on the Friday (13th) and I was to leave at 7.35 Sunday morning.

After we crossed the border checkpoint - a crazy set-up in the train station, very similar to an airport - we caught a commuter train to Kowloon and then took a quick taxi ride to our hotel. We were right in the heart of things, very close to the main street, Nathan Road.

I left Daniel to have his shower while I went out to get some currency. When Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997, it was made a Special Administrative Region. Hong Kong then, though steeped in Chinese culture, is still very much a Western boiled soup, and Hong Kong dollars, although of similar worth to Chinese Yuan, are distinct. At one bank I was told they stopped serving currency at 5. I looked at my watch; 5.04. The rest of business went on as usual. Eventually another bank told me I'd be better trying a street vendor as bank charges were high. I tried the first one I came to, and in my hurry got the worst deal possible. As I neared my hotel I noted the first foreign exchange I had come to originally (and so had passed by) offered the best rate of all. So much for my caution.

We went to the street markets for dinner and I went crazy seeing all the fresh seafood. Spurning the banquet others were getting, I ordered razor clams in black bean sauce (truly delicious) and 'Affluent Prawns', smothered in MSG. These prawns may have been rich, but they were big too, and very tasty. Unfortunately, as I was to find later, they might have been more properly called 'Effluent Prawns'; I was to suffer.

Nigel was to bring us to see the Hong Kong light show, down by the harbour. As we walked I talked to Andy. Before we knew it, Andy, Jane and I had lost the others. Making our way as best we could, we did find the harbour and almost immediately bumped into Pat, Jill etc. who had left us earlier to go shopping, I think (shopping was very much more than the usual passion for sisters, Jill and Barbara). Haike and Chin Chin were there too and we knew where we would meet the others later (to go up Victoria Peak), so things had brightened up. The skyline too soon brightened up. Using the lights of the skyscrapers on Hong Kong Island, a vast play of light and music soon unfolded. Shining off the dark waters, themselves aswarm with brightly lit boats, the coloured buildings were pyrotechnically dazzling. Sadly it only went on for half an hour or so. We made our way to the ferry terminal, the specified meeting point, and met the others.

Suddenly Nigel left us. Haike was bringing us up to the viewing platform on the hill, but still we hadn't expected to be saying goodbye to Nigel so soon. We left him at the ferry terminal. Climbing to the funicular, however, we decided we had to part on better terms than that, so calling from call boxes we arranged to meet him later.

The trek to the viewing platform on Victoria Peak was not as simple as we thought. Even at the end there were around 6 sets of escalators to ascend. We eventually made it though and again it was worth it. Below us stretched the huge, coloured carpet of Hong Kong. We were above the highest skyscraper here and so able to appreciate the concentration of it all (Hong Kong Island has the lion's share of tall buildings, and it isn't that big). With the lights and the glowing water, it put me a little in mind of Sydney that New Year's Eve night when we looked down from Surrey Hills. Unfortunately the effluent prawns decided to kick in right then. Ironically it was to Bubba Gump Prawn Restaurant to which I turned for lavatorial help. Much as I hate the movie, and dislike American food chains, I will always have a special place in my heart for their bathrooms.

We made our way back to meet Nigel. It was all very strange to be honest. Pat, Jill, Barbara and Deirdre were leaving us at that point for the hotel, so more goodbyes had to be said. Then Nigel stormed down Nathan Road to the pub he was bringing to. It took a lot of storming, but eventually we arrived at P.J. Murphy's Irish Bar. Having told Chin Chin of all things Irish, I had to buy her a glass of Guinness. By and large Chinese women do not drink or smoke (both male habits). I therefore tempered the Guinness with a shot of blackcurrant, blasphemy for some, I know, but it does cut the bitterness a little. Surprisingly enough she liked it, though naturally a glass was well beyond her limits.


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