Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Back in the HKSAR

I'm back in Hong Kong (SAR is special administrative region if you didn't know) after a wonderful 5 weeks away. It's nice to be back in the heat, although I miss the fresh air of Scotland. We have had a lot of rain here since my return but it hasn't affected my gallivanting, of which more later. First, a quick recap of 4 weeks in Scotland (and an hour or two in England). The first week was a whirl of family; meeting wee Jamie, seeing all the other family members old and young. Then we had a round of friend catch ups which was wonderful. Managed two two day trips down to Eyemouth, one with Les and Martin another with The Sisterhood, great time had by all. All too soon it was time to return to Hong Kong, but only for 36 hours !
My return to Hong Kong started with a spectacular fireworks display over Victoria Harbour, right outside our window! Four huge barges of fireworks were moored in the harbour and 230,000 people gathered on the Avenue of the Stars below. The main roads were closed to traffic and there were signs everywhere on the way home from the airport warning of road closures and diversions. The display was nothing less than one would expect from the nation that invented pyrotechnics. It was to celebrate China National Day on 1 October, 62 years of Communism.

36 hours later, we headed once more to Chek Lap Kok airport to begin our Vietnam Adventure.
That really was a wonderful trip, we both enjoyed seeing and experiencing brand new scenes, foodstuffs and customs. The traffic was horrendous in Ho Chi Minh City and crossing the road was not for the faint hearted. The advice I got was to keep going at a steady pace, don't change the route, don't stop and never ever go back. The motorists, cyclos (rickshaws), motorbikes and scooters weave an intricate pattern, often at high speed, but they are concentrating and are experienced, so they are good at avoiding hapless tourists. The motorbikes and scooters are incredible, I actually thought we were in a rally as there were so many of them on the road from the airport! Vietnam is a country shaped by war; they seem to have fought just abouteveryone over a long period of history to maintain their identity and independence. Relics of the past are everywhere, in the French architecture, American music and truly international feel, especially in the restaurants, where Spanish meant real Spaniards and Italian meant real Italians, both eating and cooking there. We also ate several wonderful Vietnamese meals and are now pho connoisseurs. Pho is the typical soup with noodles and shredded chicken or beef, served with fresh herbs, limes and chillis. Delicious at any time of day or night.
As I find it awkward adding pictures with text, I'll create a little gallery next blog.

After our luxurious week in Vietnam , with private exclusive transport (including our luxury sampan on the Mekong Delta), we continued to sail in style as we joined our friends aboard the Mandarin Oriental Hotel's executive yacht for a trip round Lamma island to celebrate Hannah's birthday.The weather was perfect for cruising, hot and sunny, blue skies and sea and on the upper sun deck, a cooling breeze. Add into the mix meeting new, interesting young people, catching up with older friends, a Rainbow Restaurant lunch, fabby cakes and the result was a wonderful and unique birthday party.

This week's events have included 2 coffee mornings, a talk on a project aimed at helping poor ethnic communities sell their goods to a wider market, a visit to the cinema to see The Help, invitations for dinner on both Friday and Saturday and a cocktail reception prior to a talk and photographic exhibition on African wildlife. My usual activities also continue; my 2hr Cantonese lesson and the poetry group. We've also ordered all the new bedroom furniture for our forthcoming guests and my enforced stay at home for its delivery on Thursday will let me catch up on the ironing. Well, someone has to do it! I have now had a couple of contacts for a shirt ironing service, so I'll be calling them as soon as I run out of enthusiasm, probably around shirt number three ( you all know and hate it, that really thick, pure cotton one with the double cuffs)
My Cantonese tutor will be here in 45 minutes, just time enough for me to revise the colours and the complicated names of family members ( brother on mother's side, elder sister's husband, etc etc) Even though I don't actually have all of these relatives living or dead, I still have to tell him who they are /were. The Chinese respect the ancestors!
Back soon with photographs!

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