Tuesday 5th February

Our arrival at Manchester at 8:20 this morning followed 18 hours of flying from Hong Kong via Singapore. The Hong Kong section was easy by flying over the South China Sea. The section from Singapore was more complicated. We took a short cut across the Indian Ocean to Southeast India and then over the Arabian Sea near Mumbai. The city looked amazing from the air at night. We flew south of Karachi and just offshore of Afghanistan. Tehran (Iran) also looked superb from 39,000ft and especially the star shaped satellite cities which all appeared to have a central tower/minaret along the remains of the Silk Road.

For the next 3 hours things got difficult as we had to make many right and left turns to avoid Iraq and Syria and countries over which many airlines do not have over flying rights.

We entered Europe on the west coast of the Black Sea with just over 4 hours to go. Central Europe was snow covered and lakes in Poland frozen. Things improved by the Humber Estuary where a light dusting of snow gave a grey edge to the low-lying land. Looking forward one could see the brown peat covered summits of the Pennines and the wind farm at Ingbirchworth standing proud above the advection fog. We followed the A635 across Saddleworth Moor and Buckton Castle quarry before landing with caution on a runway which needed care and attention in the cold weather.

A great journey totalling 20,310 miles approximately.

On the aeroplane we read an article in ‘The Straits Times’ of Singapore. The article considered the effects of global warming upon Singapore and how human induced global warming could seriously affect the trade in the region. The warming could lead to more melting of the Arctic ice which could allow ships to sail through the Russian Arctic from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It is somewhat ironic that the human endeavours, enterprise and cooperation that led to the development of land and sea routes for trade in the region could be threatened by human influences of a negative kind and lead to an end to historical continuity in the region.

 

Monday 4th February

We used the Star Ferry from Kowloon to Central Hong Kong Island in order to visit Exchange Square.

This is the Hong Kong Stock Exchange that has a public viewing platform overlooking the harbour.

We walked along Connaught Road to another building new to us. The International Finance Centre has three floors of shopping and in the middle was a Chinese orchestra rehearsing for New Year celebrations.

We returned to Kowloon and en route passed floating concrete mixing machinery to be put in place not far from our hotel where a new underwater tunnel is being constructed.

We returned to our favourite restaurant for a final sweet and sour pork, followed by baked egg tarts, before returning to the hotel to await our transfer to the airport.

Sunday 3rd February

This morning the sunrise penetrated the bedroom curtains and the harbour came alive. One member of the party heard the dawn chorus – not of birds, but of engines of ferries starting up.

After breakfast we moved to the Star Ferry and Ocean Terminals at the western end of Salisbury Road. We were in time to see the arrival of the daily ferry from the nearby islands of the Pearl River Delta. We witnessed the arrival of a Star Ferry from Victoria Island before walking along the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade with views over the harbour and preparations in hand for the Lunar New Year.

At the eastern end of this promenade we rendezvoused with a Hop-On Hop-Off bus.

Shortly we were passing the Peninsula Hotel which is a very grand example of 1920s colonial architecture. At the time of building the location was not thought to be attractive but it was adjacent to the terminus of the Orient Express and the Trans-Mongolian via Beijing as well as the docks for the ocean liners. Royalty and members of HM Government stayed here and the hotel’s fleet of Rolls Royce cars is still in good condition. It was here, no doubt, in the best room possible, that the Brits surrendered to the Japanese in the Second World War.

 

Our journey continued along Nathan Road to King’s Cross. It is here that virtually anything can be bought and if you didn’t think you needed it there are plenty of hawkers prepared to convince you that you do! There is even a hawkers market where all these people are encouraged to assemble. We gave that a miss.

We passed the Temples and Mosque of Haiphong Road

before passing through more shopping areas with interesting, and in many cases, 1920s neon lighting.

        

Continuing our journey we arrived at the Hung Hom Railway Station and retail complex where the newly built high-speed trains from Beijing arrive. It was here in 2017 that we arrived by train from Beijing but it took us 24 hours!

Some of the photographs above are a product of two round trips on the bus but the ones that follow, such as the Ferrari we only managed to capture once.

    We arrived back at the hotel in time for tiffin!

 

Saturday 2nd February

At 7:00 a.m. this morning we were being gently pushed alongside the terminal in Hong Kong. This is on the site of the former Kai Tak Airport. It was here in 1996 that the Lisle family arrived for the first time. The approach to the runway was literally across the roof tops and one was certain that washing on the line outside the apartments certainly moved by the jet blast.

Following disembarkation and immigration we transferred to our hotel overlooking the harbour near the Hung Hom Ferry Pier. As we left the terminal one drove over parts of the former concrete runway (this area is still being developed) and in conversation our experience of 1996 reminded the driver of his grandma’s experience living in Kowloon with the aeroplanes skimming her roof top. He said, ‘she just got used to it’.

Very soon after check-in we witnessed the Chinese Ferry ship passing by and soon we were on the Tsin Sha Tsui East Promenade to the Kowloon harbour front. Beneath the Holiday Inn on Nathan Road we had our favourite sweet and sour pork served in a pineapple. We were even served by the same waitress that we met in 2017 having travelled the 24 hours by train from Beijing.

As we write it is 9:00 p.m. and we have eaten the most delicious food overlooking Victoria Harbour. In the distance is the MS Westerdam and to the east the Convention Centre on Hong Kong Island.

 

Friday 1st February

Today was a day at sea as we crossed the Gulf of Tonkin and the South China Sea on our two day journey to Hong Kong. We have travelled so far that as you will see we have left the map and are on the carpet!!

We have experienced overcast skies, rain and Force 6 winds for most of the day, but the Westerdam keeps on going smoothly.

We concluded our ship’s ‘behind the scenes’ tour today by working our way through the food preparation areas with the Executive Chef who explained how standards were maintained over the 16 days and how photographs were used to ensure all dishes reached the guest looking the same. It appeared to be a simple and seamless operation despite having to serve nearly 2000 guests.

We saw fresh bread being baked and fresh sauces prepared. Everything is on a massive scale but arrives at your table as if it had been prepared solely for you.

In the food storage area we saw boxes, bags and sacks of absolutely everything needed. The Chief of Provisions has a map to enable him to keep check on where each item is stored. We walked through the sealable watertight doors and into refrigerated and chilled areas. In the butchery department we saw meat being prepared having been defrosted for the past three days.

The Waste Management area was interesting and already had packaged waste for offloading tomorrow.

We saw how food waste was pulverised into wet pellets that were disposed of in deep waters as fish food.

The Laundry was interesting as it processed thousands of items in a short time. There was even a 4 deck spin drier which held 400lbs of towels and sheets.

We ended the tour by going backstage in the Theatre but were unable to walk centre stage as a lecture was in place. We ended with a reception as the storm continued outside.