Hong Kong review: June 2014   (Note: Sorry about the picture layout – This particular theme does not provide any other satisfactory options)


Hong Kong spread from the harbour

Looks like a postcard – It is!  But it is real!


Once upon a time in a far off land in the Orient, long before Jo Bananas, a fairy tale evolved where goodies and badies lived side by side rubbing each other’s shoulders and things, where a multitude of police horses stood on two legs. One reason for that was to make more room, the other was to keep the disenchanted at bay. If you are over 50 and geographically astute, you might have visited a completely different Hong Kong to what it is now, or at least heard enthusiastic memoirs  and felt like you had been there so knew the score – literally

As a rough guide how to get to Hong Kong from Europe or the Middle East or in my case Bahrain: Keep heading east with an umbrella until you reach the South China Sea and look for the bright lights; you can’t miss it!  Of course it is best to go west if you are coming from say LA, but don’t laugh its – north initially if you are heading out of New York. Better still, just look for a Cathay Pacific plane wherever you are and as sure as Brazil went out of this year’s world cup by *censored* goals, that plane will be heading to Hong Kong.

Ignoring China itself, the other bright lights in that area might be Macau which is close by if you are a crow, certainly from Lantau Island which is only 25 miles away, but unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a direct link.  The ferry starts in town and goes all the way around.  That water is rough too. Eeeeeee uuuuwww!

 hong kong macau

Not a very pleasant 25 mile hike by water – but you’d need to be put to sleep for a light-year if you wanted to drive over.


Apart from making thousands of pretty ham kung fu movies, Hong Kong is now perhaps the safest destination on earth next to say Singapore maybe. Most

adore it while others go as far as to feel a love-hate relationship, having suddenly encountered such close contact with so many people taking up every inch. True, at rush hour they do and it can be very imposing for someone who has never stepped outside of Awali, Wyoming or the Sahara for example, but it is something one gets used to very quickly. Gender separation would be a nightmare if the Taliban ever took over, but close proximity radar must be a sixth sense built into the Chinese because rarely does anyone bump into you despite the absolute clutter. One cannot say the same for the streets of London or the obscene chaos with uncontrolled, ignorant young kids on bikes at the Amwaj lagoon – or saying that, motor cyclists in Calcutta.

The very mention of Hong Kong in company, results in a string of clichéd descriptions from those around as each refers to the place as ‘Iconic – vibrant – exciting – captivating – colourful’ and so on. Almost everyone it seems claims they have been there so ironically and iconic-ally the same seems to apply for those never having been near the enclave. From hearsay, these Walter Mitty unenlightened souls simply regurgitate the same adjectives. 

HK is one of life’s destinies and destinations. Certainly more people have visited HK than the nearest Wonder of the World, of which HK ranks about 11th I would say.   It is quite odd really. Indeed, Hong Kong is all things described – with noodles – and most who visit are literally dazzled by it, absorbing every second of the edification, but can’t quite put their finger on why exactly.  If you hear someone come out with the blarney;  ‘I know Hong Kong’, portraying it as an Eastern Las Vegas that never sleeps, then you know they have never been there.  Most shops are closed and shuttered by 10 pm, but the pulsating neon seems to stay on forever.

Yes, when it comes to Hong Kong, it has all been said before – yawn!  So here endeth the article.  Thanks for reading. 


Ah wait!  You may be a little in the dark still and among a few who need convincing and since HK is not exactly a world’s media attention grabber on a daily or even yearly basis, a few more sentences to wet your whistle is required.  Nope!  HK doesn’t sport serial killers on every corner, terrorism acts and nor is it a haven for pedophilia – not that I would know anything about that, so if you allow me a few pages to document HK’s portfolio, then you too can also run around at parties and spout how well you know this little Chinese outpost.

If you know the history already and wish to jump ahead to the incredible Pulitzer worthy review of Hong Kong today, then scroll on down to: AH!  I’VE BEEN THERE.  Otherwise, just carry on reading the condensed life of Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee land.

Redia & Geg showing Bruce how to do it2

Redia Castilo (journalist) and me taking on the Mainlanders with Bruce – Hong Kong Avenue of the Stars – June 2014




One might be curious as to how the hell the British managed to become ensconced in Hong Kong, which is actually part of an incredibly large, wealthy, heavily populated and no doubt ruthlessly powerful sovereign country called China. Well………

Hong Kong was Chinese territory throughout centuries, but one must ask (but not to anyone from Taiwan) what exactly constituted ‘Chinese territory over this period’. The whole country was on drugs and the British who were lurking in the area were partial to a considerable amount of smack as well – certainly enough to fight for it. Somewhere around the 1830s, give or take a few days, the Chinese Emperor of the time raided the British stash and wouldn’t give it back.  In fact, they threatened to ‘burn it all’, but that probably meant smoke it, if indeed one can smoke heroin.  (Please don’t ask me).   It seemed that both the entire Chinese and British nations were addicts and as there were no Betty Ford like clinics in those days to quell the thirst so to speak,  the British got very upset.   Just like today, in true gangland style, they sent in the boys to recover it,  thus the first drug war was spawned. (There was another drug war in the same proximity, the detail of which is beyond the scope of this riveting piece of history so we’ll leave it out for now).

Eventually, the British offered to deal, which was obviously legal in those days and bought the stash back. In doing so, to secure a shipping port (ostensibly for the stash) they annexed Hong Kong around 1841.  ‘A good start’, said Queen Victoria as she sipped tea and white powdery stuff from real china in her gardens at Buckingham Palace; ‘Here’s to yet another Crown Colony in the taking – sorry making’!

Niggles continued however adding silver, gold and spices to the fracas, although those commodities were always red rag to a bull, so nothing new really. Then in the 1850s the Chinese topped a Saint;  a missionary Frenchman Fr, Auguste Chapdelaine which was not the done thing even if he did knock at doors offering copies of Watchtower like parchment.  So now the French spoiled for a scrap.  The Chinese also detained a ship which was registered in Hong Kong which really peeved the Brits, so both they and the French captured Peking (now Beijing). This sort of walk in and grab was nothing new because the Americans and British had regularly been taking pop shots at the two forts (Taku) on the river leading up to Peking.  Quite which Americans were involved so long ago, beats me, but they were probably called Hopalong or Butch or Clint or Rowdy, who knows?  With all this going on, the British, just like the Israelis in later years, thought now would be a good time to annex more land since they were on the winning side. Ho Lee Fuk,  Kowloon which is across the water from Hong Kong island was taken.

Now you are getting the picture. Well, in 1899; the British displaying true one-upmanship and all things cricket, decided to  extend Hong Kong’s defenses as they put it – thus negotiated a 99 year treaty with the Chinese and today’s Hong Kong was born…………….well almost.


View from Peak - HK tourist board

Hong Kong hasn’t changed much since 1899, it is still cloudy most days.




Very dark days came. In 1941 those nasty Nips took a shine to the peninsular and all the islands around and shouted; ‘Boo’! With that, the British claiming to be Italians, (a joke)  immediately surrendered and of the Chinese, those that could – ran away North to their peril.  Japanese war crimes are well documented and it is thought that they murdered up to 10 million Chinese, burying many alive as some sort of depraved ideology and using the dead for bayonet practice.  Their was no escape from these hideous animals, although they have since apologized and the world’s luvvies have forgiven.  The terrified Hong Kong people could not go south as it would be a very long wet walk to Indonesia or the Philippines. Besides, the Japanese were already there on their heinous killing sprees.  So there it was, the Japanese began brutal rule, helping themselves to the women at will, while keeping all the sushi to themselves and doing little about half the escaping Chinese population who were naturally horror struck and fleeing up to the mainland thinking it better there.  With no respite to be had anywhere, it was very dark days indeed – dear comrade – from either the Chinese killing each other or the Japanese who were trying to kill them all at leisure and for pleasure.

Just a few minutes before the end of the Second World War the Japanese still did not want to surrender wherever they were, never mind Hong Kong and their allegiance was to the death and everyone else’s in their vocational path – until a couple of colossal bangs were heard from across the water in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.   ‘WTF was that’?  Exclaimed the Japanese General, then all went quiet and the war was over. Since it was an Allied victory, Britain quickly marched back into Hong Kong unopposed because the Chinese up north where now ferociously scrapping with each other to the death as well, but this was between Communists and Nationalists.  Letting them get on with it, the British took up residence while the Chinese rather foolishly thought they could deal with that later – about 50 years later from handover to be exact.  They probably thought the same about Taiwan, but again, that is another story. 

At this point I mention the thorough ignorance and lack of education witnessed across the Middle East regarding the true horrors of the Second World War.  There is so much disgorged hate for America and what it stands for, most spew the same old heard in the street  line; ‘America was the only one to ever use the Atomic Bomb on ‘innocent Japanese’.  It is the innocent good of this cruel world who do nothing to stop the psychopaths.  Those two bombs saved millions upon millions of lives, many of them Japanese.   Get a life and an education!  Rant over!

Anyway, once ensconced again, in true British stiff upper lip style, (lip service) those that rule us determined that democracy had to be introduced into Hong Kong. With that in mind, a treaty was revisited around 1984 and all agreed that by 1997, Hong Kong would be handed back and the British would leave. But… Hong Kong had to remain independent for 50 years from that date.

Hello!  Hong Kong was not really a democracy either way one looks at it and more to the point, like it really is now?  Shhh!  Had the British actually seriously tried to install such a system, it is debatable but China would probably have invaded immediately, never mind the pending handover on the 1st July 1997.


























Hong Kong






Back in the 60s and 70s, Hong Kong was basking in its British Colony status, with a British Governor and British policemen. To some, it was not a friendly place at all, to others it was paradise and then some. To the big brother mainline communist Chinese to the North, all Europeans were ‘white-skinned pigs’ and the Hong Kong Chinese police recruits were ’yellow running dogs’. Somewhat testy to say the least, but nobody took any notice, accept for British and European Fabian Marxists who invented Political Correctness and insisted that we not refer to Asians as yellow. It is no matter that it wasn’t us that referenced them in such a manner in the first place. Off topic, but for completeness, it was old Nostradamus who came up with that idiom and the (previously mentioned) Japanese referred it to themselves as such in propaganda messages to the Allies during the Second World War.

Under British Rule, the Chinese locals were ostensibly miserable, hard-nosed and probably bitter at the bourgeois colonials commandeering prime real estate and keeping all the good jobs for the boys, irrespective that some of these ‘good jobs’ were to repel this invading force of Chinese, which as sure as Obama is a Muslim, would have been on the cards. The other jobs were for HSBC.   (OK OK… I’m only joking). Of those that left Hong Kong during the Second World War almost all were back in their Hong Kong homes by then. Oh they didn’t like Mao on their menu.

In those colonial days, visitors, justly or unjustly, feared Triad like gangs dragging you into alleyways of old Kowloon and kung fu-ing you to death for a dollar.  Old Kowloon city was a pig’s breakfast (and I was that sailor trying to avoid it).  Sailors and ‘oars roamed the place and a good time could be had by all – if inclined -  and it had much more life than across the water in Singapore. Singapore had its own pretty boring identity along with colonial issues, but sported ‘kytais’ which Hong Kong didn’t.

There were severe riots in 1967 disguised as labour disputes but were really Chinese sympathizers playing up, or what we would call agitators these days. No matter, the British rulers were pompous and hanging to death was legal tender and relatively swift for the naughty. Hong Kong was as difficult as it was glorious, but one just had to visit all the same.

With an airport built on roof tops and cowboy pilots loving every minute of the ride in, Cathay Pacific set up shop and started packing them in.



The old Kai Tak Airport was seat of your arse flying to get in – most days it rains in Hong Kong, so the air stairs are a boat.

Been there done that!

Today though, a brand new reclaimed China Sea landing strip with all the trimmings.  The people are different, they are friendly.  Hong Kong has been transformed 180 degrees in just a few years. It wasn’t the British leaving, but Sars, the fatal respiratory virus which kick started the current characteristic.





Hong Kong has a very active tourist board, but the perception is that they are not actually promoting this eleventh wonder of the world, but enthusiastically beckoning all to set foot in or on an intangible ‘riveting experience’. With cash a religion in the region, shopping is encouraged far more than heritage, and shopping is Hong Kong’s very proud Forte with nothing fake about it, although you have that option and plenty of it on every paving slab.

Since the 90s, something has happened and they must have been putting some ‘sense of humour’ mixture in the HK water over the last decade. Really, these traders are all actors; millions of them and it is a good laugh if you are ready to participate and have a little banter. Bargaining yes, but fun banter is so traditionally not stereotypical Chinese or expected, which makes it all the more enjoyable now.

Fully aware of their own destiny, the Sars virus was a huge wake-up call in many respects for Hong Kong. By and large, the city became exceptionally clean with only the very narrow side lanes with their back kitchens heaving a bit and out of view of the ‘scrupulous police’ nowadays. Strangely, food poisoning is as rare as unicorn dung. Whatever, Hong Kong rocks and as if a mechanical happy switch was thrown at that time, it is infinitely friendlier these days compared to pre Sars and British times. Hong Kong has transformed in fact to be a very uplifting place for the moment.


Hong Kong Island 15 - June 2014

 More like the old Hong Kong – taken on Hong Kong Island – look familiar?

If you are looking for the old Hong Kong, those who have not been for say ten years or more might not recognize some parts now, but everything will still feel familiar. Mong Kok or the ‘Ladies Market’ Kowloon side,  as the Hong Kong Tourist Authority refers to it is still there, but even more commercial. Well everything is commercial in Hong Kong. Here you can get a ridiculously cheap bargain. Hell, you can get anything there and it is good sport these days. As a rough guide, halve the initial asking price and add HK10.

Disguised as a doorway, you will even find enormous, ultra modern, high-end shopping malls hidden behind the façade, such as the “Harbour City” mall in all its glory. Prices still compare well with say Bahrain, especially for electronics; but outside the malls, you have to tolerate the proverbial endless banter as you beg for discount in the multitude of sidewalk shops. It is all part of the Hong Kong experience and HK is no longer cheap, neither expensive. As the Irish say, it is often worth the few extra Dollars just for the craic (crack) with the drama and show as a package all in. They are all Jackie Chan clones. Having found the gullible shopper, they might charge you three times the price of the same goods on Amazon, but all is not lost. With immense compassionate gall, the shop keepers will warn you about cheap fake Chinese copies. Brilliant copies at that, yet unless you shop in a reputed mall for example, then there is always a risk that this is what you are actually buying. Relax and breathe easy, it is not anything like as bad as it used to be. If you get ripped off price wise on one item, the shop owner will magnanimously load you down with absolutely useless high-tech gifts like binoculars and LCD screens free in order to compensate you. The Tourist Board even suggests this is normal and worthy as it clears stock.

To get to Mong Kok, or anywhere in HK for that matter, feel no apprehension, just jump in any one of the million taxis which are as cheap as chips, well maintained and air conditioned, or get on the MTR (Mass Transit Railway), also cheap, so clean and conveniently going almost everywhere you are likely to want to visit. There is even a dedicated Happy Valley race course stop. Getting to the other side of Hong Kong Island to say the Ocean Park theme park requires a bus ride. Whatever, NEVER EVER think about hiring a car in Hong Kong, there is no need. Taxis are much cheaper than say Dubai for the distance and it puts Bahrain’s grossly expensive and inefficient service to utter shame, but that is not difficult is it because they have none – shame that is.

 MTR2 HK june 2014                

   MTR – London could learn a lot 

geg 8 pandas HK june 2014Panda attack Star Ferry

 chinese dog1 mong Kok - June 2014

Chinese dog Mong Kok – uneaten (so far)


Hong Kong is very well organized and that means ‘YOU’ if you visit. The social system in HK is deep and extensive and tourists are oblivious to society’s adhesion and welfare facilities. Capitalists to the Nth but perhaps an imaginary example of communism as if it really worked. One might think that China’s goal should be the Hong Kong benchmark as is, but bigotry blindness always prevails in a dictatorial system built on fear, so don’t hold your breath, plus it doesn’t involve you or your pleasure when visiting.

In a way, Hong Kong is slightly regimented. Like their driving on the left; walk up the ‘LEFT’ side of steps and escalators, don’t drop litter or wet yourself in public. Anyway, you cannot go up the right side of the HK$ 245 million – ‘longest, outdoor, covered escalator system’ in the world – or you will be trampled by those coming down. This piece of Hong Kong-esq takes you up the mountain on Hong Kong Island and to each terraced street which host shops, cafes and bars. Sir Edmund Hillary would be proud of you if you could conquer that one without aid. 135 metres almost straight up. Hong Kong Island is where a lot of the ‘social’ entertainment takes place. You might have heard of Jo Bananas which is no more! They could no longer afford the rent and besides, Hong Kong is quite reserved nowadays. Irony personified, the notorious wet T-shirt episode in Jo Bananas in the mid 90s epitomized British ‘having fun’ mentality, but since handover, pranks like that were frowned upon and restricted, but now in 2014, it would probably be ignored, but nobody fills their head thinking of doing inane dirge like that.  Besides, just walk in the streets, no need for the T-shirts to be wet.

Regardless of what might or might not go on in Hong Kong, unlike British times, you are hard pressed to see policemen now, but be assured they are around and on the ball. Your wallet is highly unlikely to disappear, but the contents of it will surely dwindle to zero as you get around the shops, plus if you don’t have kids and are not interested in museums, Chinese culture, Mickey Mouse or kissing sea lions in theme parks, then there is not so much else to do in Hong Kong town other than shop and perhaps eat.


escalator hong kong            

Left up – escalator to the moon.

 Peak rail line1 - HK - june 2014         

Near vertical Tram to the Peak

  Peak rail line2 - HK - june 2014

Those waiting to go up on a very quiet day

(In the pic: Chelsea’s left side, Shea looking back, Mahmood wondering should he or not and Miss Wing HK Tourist board Under Shea’s chin – the elbow belongs to Brat Pitt).


Sightseeing is a bit of a misnomer in Hong Kong because it is all one big awe inspiring view. Take a very steep trip to The Peak by the near vertical tram and ponder as you look out over towering Hong Kong Island front and back, on what will surely be a dreary day but no respite in activity. As mentioned, no tourists ever seem to go further than Mong Kok and the Hong Kong tourist board tends to ignore the vast ‘countryside’ up to the ‘New Territories’. It is one of the biggest misnomers about Hong Kong whereby the world thinks everyone works, plays, eats, sleeps and well everything else on Hong Kong Island or Kowloon.  This is just not so.





Contrary to say Bahrain or the Middle East in general, Hong Kong is not social, but it is perfectly quaint in its own way. It is not like you are going to walk out the airport and everyone will greet you asking you to a barbeque or stay a few days at their Lego apartment , because none will, unless you are meeting expatriate friends that is. Even then, local ‘where-with-all’ soon prevails and social etiquette dwindles to zero. Take a tip; your friends don’t really want you to stay with them either, so just get the hotel sorted before you go in the first place and feel your freedom. There is no shortage of accommodation in Hong Kong and plenty of 5 star pure luxury if you want that much, but it is going to cost you, even if none of them have bidets.  But then again, none of the hotels in the USA do either. Rates are not much different to what is asked for in any up market hotel in Bahrain or New York (forget London, that is just rip-off), but look for deals, because they come thick and fast with nothing seedy, so go with grace.

A late check out? Ah! Don’t be ridiculous. This is highly unlikely as the next batch, nay crowds are at the reception desks screaming to get in and this is pretty much 365 days of the year. Oh and…. those tourists are Chinese from another mother and you thought they were poor?          Oh and…. You don’t see many people in the hotel bars. Of the few, they probably own vine yards and 5 yachts because those prices burn you.           Oh and…. Duty Free at the airport is pointless too.

Not surprisingly but one might say; ‘shockingly’, Hong Kong is a very green place overall and nobody ever needs to water the plants, but Hong Kong is also massively industrial but you never really see it. This place is adaptation in motion and an engineering marvel of mega proportions as anyone coming from the airport to town will sit in awe of; if interested that is. Yet rarely does Hong Kong itself boast about these exceptional feats, merely leaving it to the likes of Rupert Murdoch’s National Geographic, a man with strong connections to the area. Despite the perceived crowding there are great open spaces still, which wholly disguises the country’s total mechanization.

The ultra modern chameleon Chek Lap Kok airport (named after the island on which it is situated), is absolutely humungous yet efficient and up there as one of the busiest airports in the world. You can call it ‘Hong Kong International Airport’ because I am not even sure the locals know it by its proper name. This fabulous mega structure has its peculiarities as well; for coffee, look skywards if you want a Starbucks like treat because they are well hidden. This giant airport is like a ghost town in the night, but suddenly around 8 am it becomes a shoulder to shoulder mega city within itself as if one of those Internet flash-crowd spoofs is being staged. Get this; FREE WI-FI and the fastest you will ever encounter. You can do all your emails, catch up and ‘Whatsapp’ your arrival selfies while having that coffee before you head into town. Incidentally, Hong Kong is hi-tech – Internet everywhere and pretty much free somewhere and so very fast.

Hong Kong sadly lacks the café culture as we know it and there aren’t so many famous chains scattered about the place. They are there in the little or big malls, but not every other shop on the streets.  Rents are too high for a start and an awful lot of cappuccinos would have to be sold each day to cover it. Some of the hotel rooms have ‘Nespresso’ machines though. Fill your boots, but the little heater thing you need to froth the milk is missing. Er.. hang on, what milk?

On arrival or when you shop, one of the first things you will do is fumble about trying to figure out the exchange rate, worried you are going to be ripped off – Don’t! One U.S.$ = H.K.$ 7.7 and for those reading in Bahrain, one Dinar is about twenty Hong Kong Dollars. Never mind the hotel buses, multitude of limos, other buses and taxis, the train is the quickest way to the centre which is a windy (in both spelling and grammatical senses) 40 odd kilometers away and it only costs a few Bucks. Your hotel will probably be within walking distance, if not -  taxi or MTR the remaining few metres. Don’t worry about signage; everything is subtitled in English and almost all Hong Kong people speak ‘Chinglish’ – which resembles some sort of English, or so they think.

As a rule, don’t ask for directions. It is not that the locals don’t know their way around; half the time they just don’t understand what you are asking or they think you want directions to a ‘competitor’. Get a map, they are everywhere.

Peddlers are plentiful on the streets, selling handmade suits and Changi Rolex, but unlike New York, Hong Kong has no army of tour operator accosters, working on commission selling open top bus rides up as far as the New Territories where there is much to see and do. If they or the buses exist, they are very near invisible. Shame, because north out of tinsel town, you’ll find the ‘The Heritage and Railway Museums’ and the other Golf Club. There are nature reserves, parks and temples as with the ‘Lam Tsuen’ wishing trees. These are Banyan trees (as found in Bahrain). Nope, for most tourists, the down town square mile is as far as they ever get, unless they go out to Disneyland or over to Ocean Park.






So mention Hong Kong and Disneyland might not come to mind, but there is one and a very good one at that. The standard of art and talent on display within Disneyland is quite stunning actually and one will not be disappointed. This talent is mostly sort of Asian – if not all from Hong Kong itself, but where there are no locals to; ‘fill the bill’, they happily bring in ‘someone that will’. In other words, Hong Kong does not appear to promote xenophobic incompetence for the sake of some deluded national pride. Quite the contrary, there are no issues whatsoever since the British left.

Disneyland is situated on Lantau Island which you really needed to know – not. This is out near the airport and way out of town. Judging by the uptake come rain or shine and often hot stifling humidity in summer, this resort is well patronized. Put it this way, you need an umbrella for both rain and shine, as rarely are there clear blue skies over Hong Kong, but like ducks, nobody cares.

Those curious will witness the creative arts by the bucket load throughout the territory. In fact the government has a scheme which centres around the old compound which used to be the Police Married Quarters (PMQ) on Hong Kong Island. It is sort of similar to Bahrain’s Incubator facility for small business, the difference being, this extremely low rent incubator is open to all nationalities and the focus is on art and design only. That is in complete contrast to the Middle East, where everything has to be physical, since intangible products such as the creative arts have little value when all is said and done.


group pic 4 disneyland2 - june 2014

Group at Disneyland Hong Kong June 2014

In the group Left to right:  Mahmood  Abdulla – Andrews Victor – Abdul Hannan – Sohail Ali (Cathay Pacific)  – Chelsea Coperhaver – Redia Castillo – Geg Hopkins – Hassan Qannati (Cathay Pacific) with Shea Harrison missing in action, but you cannot miss Shea in other pictures

 Peak rail line5 shea, hassan  sohail & chelsea- HK-june 2012

Shea–Sohail-Hassan-Chelsea at tram


 Disney HK river ride 6 Chelsea - june 2014 

Indigenous Native American @ Disney 




sohail 5 disney hk JUne 2014

Sohail just before being shot for getting in the way at Disneyland kids only set


  hassan shea chelsea & redia in starbucks HK -June 2014                     

A rare Starbucks find with the gang                       


 PMQ4 - HK - June 2014 

PMQ:  Old Police Married Quarters           



With the theme parks, Hong Kong is now truly a family destination but it still attracts a lot of singles and backpackers.  Spain or Phuket, sandy beaches and romance it is not!  Hey, one never knows though! The British are still there of sorts, but insignificant as individuals and swamped by a cosmopolitan Star Wars bar of variables which you can sometimes pick out among the swathes of locals who dash about looking quite happy but all have the great China on their minds. What seems like a billion pretty girls wearing dinky little numbers abound, to tattoo laden kung fu look alikes plying their busy trade. It is worth a note that few of these ladies will be found in the rather pleasant busy bars and restaurants which exist on Hong Kong Island, but you will find expatriates from the four corners, some with Chinese looking girls, but one might suspect that that is as close as it gets.

Arabs travel to the Far East for a couple of reasons and those that like Bangkok will still like Hong Kong but will not find anything like the same, let’s say… utilities in Hong Kong. The city, nay country is nothing like Bangkok whatsoever other than the people are relatively small as are the seats on the Disney rides and I hasten to add, economy class on the multitude of feeder liners.  Footnote:  The lads remind us that every city has its limits and those limits can be found anywhere.  Really?

Hong Kong is Chinese and very, where superstition overrules anything else and gambling is endemic with boat loads of them literally trundling off shore on luxury liners for just a few hours fluttering away their hard earned gains. All perfectly legal it seems and definitely an addiction embedded in the culture.

It should be noted that the Hong Kong crowd are seemingly more sophisticated and a completely different breed to their northern neighbours who reside just a few kilometers up Kowloon’s Nathan Road, across the New Territories and over a paper border. It is all part of the mainland but the world generally perceives Hong Kong as a single Island when not all of it is and there are so many of them.






There has never been a ‘one child policy’ in Hong Kong but ample uncensored press (for the moment) and an abundance of TV keeps the population figures at bay. As mentioned above, if you know your general knowledge and a bit of history, then you are aware that Hong Kong is now a sort of independent state within China and nothing to do with the UK. It is clear to see that any vote to keep it that way would be absolutely unanimous and unlike their counterparts, the Hong Kongeez are quite vocal about their brethren and pull no punches…. as yet! (Just after writing this article, pro democracy demonstrations took place in HK – July 2014), Even so, the inevitable total rule by China, one doubts it would make much difference to the way Hong Kong thrives, if somewhat similar Shanghai is anything to go by. Saying that, Shanghai is a throbbing place but really does lack that je ne sais quoi of refinement, unlike considerable pockets of it existing in HK.  The contrast being that in a few generations the edge and character the Hong Kong Chinese now display will be buried in their sad faces. The expected influx of mainlanders would mean strong shoulders as the only way to get around would be doubling up with piggy backs or shoulder rides. By then, half the South China Sea will have had to have been reclaimed anyway.

Finding room somewhere among the many large rocks deemed Islands is a tremendous feat in itself. To the industrial side, everything thing is linked by magnificent suspension bridges or by tunnels. Hong Hong Kong Island claims the business end of things and they pack an awful lot a lot into a very small space . Surprisingly, a lot of residential very high-rise blocks and even the odd single villa make up the rest of Hong Kong Island. One dreads to think how much a tiny single bedroom apartment would go for monthly. You will not get any change out of a US$ 5,000 note if any that is for sure, so imagine the wages. The price of those mountain side Ponderosas must be in the billions and perhaps a future problem for the bourgeois, capitalist elite for when the real Chinese take over. Just sayin’.

If there is one place in the world you must add to your travel boasts, then it has to be Hong Kong for all its quirks. Really, some folk just cannot stay away from the place and just like Bahrain; it has its very long term expatriates who will petrify before being removed.





chelsea hk1 - june 2014 

geg cathay2 june 2014 

redia beautiful at cathay HK June 2014


Now what else rings a bell when you think Hong Kong?  HSBC of course – for all their sins and they sin.  More to the fore will be Cathay Pacific, perceived as the airline of Hong Kong, despite being a British concern. This is a fair assumption since the respect this company commands is universal and without Cathay Pacific, er.. Hong Kong would just not be Hong Kong would it? Cathay Pacific is a stalwart airline of exceptional reputation, but one cannot help observe that they quietly go about their business, just getting on with it. Yet they, along with their subsidiary Dragon Air dominate Hong Kong to the extent that they are part and parcel of the furniture. (All this is good for the folk in Bahrain too, since Cathay Pacific fly directly to this chirpy destination every day of the week. Furthermore a birdy tells us that until around December 2014, the return fare is only BD190 or near). Take the trip, suck it up, you wont regret. Seven and half hours flying time which is an hour or so more than Bahrain to London, yet half the price. It is a long way away, but quite bearable with extremely convenient departure/arrival times. Made in heaven in fact and the five hour jet lag will not really bother you much. Swine Flu, Sars and Bird Flu neither.

OK, if you can afford business class, then Cathay have outdone themselves on their Airbus A330 aircraft, because once snuggled in (well boxed actually), you dose off and you are already missing all the on board luxuries and attentive, ‘I wish’ banter with chirpy crew. (You never got that years ago either). No, there is not much to see out the window from that height, plus it gets dark pretty soon after leaving Dubai.

The only time some people watch movies is on airplanes and Cathay excel, so try not to sleep, but you will fail. The isolated business class booths are good if you snore with gaping gob, because nobody but the flight attendants can see you and they’ve seen and heard it all before. 240 volts British/Bahrain like power outlets, USB charging stations; it is all there. Again, if you are more on the buxom side, ask for a little mattress if you are going to go horizontal, for the seats are comfortable but err to hard for the heavy.


cathay biz class 1    



cathay biz class2

Most wont have a problem handling this will they?




Bahrainis have to give Cathay Pacific credit for staying power because they really have never deserted either island, whatever the on ground situation is – and Bahrain suffers economic downturn like any other, plus its own unique problems at the moment. Considerable loyalty is justified. After all, with the advent of longer range Jumbo Jets and later the more economic, but still very large Boeing 777 and Airbus A330s which Cathay operate, many other international airlines just fly over ‘liddle ole Bahrain’ , but Cathay Pacific is very unlikely to ever flee the coop.                   Five out of five!


Nothing to do with Cathay Pacific in particular, but these days the Business Class competition between airlines has gone from the sublime to the ridiculous. My God, On the Boeing 777 – 300 ERs, (Pic shows Cathay aircraft) of Qatar Airways for example (see my Buenos Aires review), you have a ridiculous unnecessary amount of room and price to go with it. It is stunningly wonderful if you can afford it, but the question is…… is it necessary at the expense of caged prisoners at the back.  Cathay Pacific on the other hand have tempered the excess business class space somewhat with a rather unique design.  Way back though and more akin to the American Airlines adequate but much more reserved Business Class, Cathy Pacific used to have that sort of very adequate seating arrangement in their Boeing 777s, but now it is an A330 on the route to the Middle East and this very classy Business set up. One fully understands why they scrapped the old 777 layout and went for the upper luxury; folk are fickle and always ready to making knocking comparisons despite the very practicality of it all.  It is just commercial image and it takes ‘big balls’ to do something different, so each competes with the other and so it goes. Those who cannot afford Business Class – Hello – that’s almost all of us – might just consider this show having gone a bit too far between the non-American airlines. Maybe that is my socialist Marxism coming out where I have distaste for the bourgeois super rich, who I suspect made their money rather greyly at best and are desperate to endlessly spend it on everything unnecessary.  

Accountability must be all smoke and mirrors;  airlines obviously spend an absolute fortune on creating these wholly pointless excessive business environments then flying half empty most of the time in that class, with what can be considered dangerously packed down the back.  WHY DO IT?

Most economy seats are hideously cramped and hard and for anyone 1.7m or more, it is just not acceptable for a flight longer than say 3 hours, but these things do 24 hours or more non-stop.   The lightweight Dreamliner with is Carbon Fibre bits just gives the airlines an excuse to pack more passengers in, rather than give them more space for less fuel costs. Hate it!   Emirates shoe-horn them in on the huge Airbus A380, it is hideous., but as many who see the reality, it seems double that number wax lyrical. They do have a fan club, which I am definitely not in. 

From this part of the world, Qatar’s big boys are slightly more spaced and a tiny wincey bit wider than most and definitely a whole lot more comfortable than the hideously cramped aircraft of Emirates or British Airways, but still it is really not acceptable for such long haul to destinations greater than 7 hours.  If you fly from Doha to say New York, you know you have been cramped up for 14 hours or more.  It hurts!    Who can bare the thought of the Middle East to Buenos Aires?  Total journey time more than one day in the air.  People do it though.

Cathay have very slightly wider economy seats and for the Chinese this must be great.    Cathay have an extra inch length with their A330 economy seats as well,  but it all depends how they measure the gap.  Out of them all, I really find Emirates absolutely unacceptable considering all the glorification and hype surrounding this jumped up outfit.  BA are fooling nobody with this sectioned off variations because it costs to get a leg in and Virgin for all the love is no better. One airline Air Arabia could teach them all a lesson with seating.  They really do have a sensible spacing and it is supposedly a ‘low cost’ airline.   They do 4 plus hours flights too.

United in the States got a good scalding for exploiting the 787 virtues, but the others are not much better.  I long for the day when we have 3 aisles and 2 abreast everywhere and NEVER more.  Generally though, the American Airlines really do outshine the rest when it comes to seat pitch in economy, followed by Air India would you believe it? Don’t forget, inter US trips can be 7 hours or more too.  Business class is a spongy armchair like thing for most and not as classy in any way as say the extravagance of the International Airlines up front, but perfectly adequate for what only amounts to just a few dollars more than economy if you prefer. This must be a practical and personal preference for the regulars. Most surely want to go  safely , reasonably comfortable as such, at the lowest price possible but this is impossible these days.   Sure, the flashy up-front areas is luxury, but most of us without money, are not in the least bit interested in living like a billionaire film star for 7 hours;  you just want to get from A to B without a thrombosis

Even now, some of the air tour airlines run Boeing 757s and the like which are as thin as a greyhound’s tail and normally run 6 across, yet if the operator could, they would happily configure it to eight across with seat pitch of less than 28”, yet fly people disguised as sardines UK to Australia .  They used to stop for fuel in Bahrain and the passengers could get out and go to the Duty Free.  Most just needed to go to the toilet and would fart their insides out around the shops. It was terrible!  Quite where they would put a few bottles in the gypsy’s caravan if they bought them, is anyone’s guess,   

If I ran an airline; ho ho ho.  (I’d do a really good job with Gulf Air, but then so would you)  I have some spiffy ideas, one in particular, which wouldn’t take long to transform the airline and the country’s economy I suspect.  It is a gapping opportunity and so obvious!  I feel like shouting it out, because those  that be just don’t see it and continue to spiral down and make so much money for the other big carriers in the area, when it should be going in GF’s coffers.   I am hardly at liberty to reveal or suggest it – let ‘em get on with it – it is going nowhere.


Beam me up:

With so much of air travel just bus rides going on across continents now, this rather old thinking and pandering to the rich and unnecessary luxury for such a fleeting window in one’s life, I would nurture the American style with associated publicity.  Not knowing the economics  and financial logistics of slightly decreasing the number of economy seats and increasing the pitch, while at the same time, increase the number of business seats with not so much space and roses, while making it more attractive to the passenger economically -  surely it would work out much more cost effective all round and bums would be on seats all the way.   

Back in the 60s 70s and even 80s, air travel was something to look forward to, exciting, something we’ve always wanted to do.  Nowadays air travel is a chore and a horrible one at that in more ways that one.  Terrorism is now a sick fashion and the associated necessary security is just so tedious.  Then we are all packed in so tight, flying has become a dread.  One thing though, it has become one hell of a lot safer, but if they keep squeezing them in, in lighter carbon-fibre aircraft, trading off the weight just to stick more in, surely this will backfire eventually.

Whatever, never get on a China Southern A330, as the economy seat pitch is only 29 inches and 17.5 inches wide.  I have parts of my body longer than that!  






Leave a Reply