Hong Kong blog to follow - a hectic but wonderful week culminating in our son Will's wedding banquet. Full story and pictures to come, internet access in deepest Nepal permitting.
Finally, after being incommunicado in the best possible way at Begnas lake near Pokhara, we are back in Kathmandu - so here is the full Hong Kong story.
Hong Kong was always going to be a lynchpin of our tour, because of our son Will (and Denise)’s wedding banquet on the 10th April. It was a big family reunion for both bride and groom since we hadn’t seen any of our family or friends since early January, and Denise’s wider family were keen to celebrate their marriage. So sightseeing wasn’t top of the agenda – although we managed a fair bit of that as well.
First, the wedding banquet (legally Will and Dee were married three years ago in London, but this was the opportunity for a traditional Chinese celebration). The venue was the splendid Peninsula Hotel – surely the grandest hotel in Hong Kong, nestling in its stately way among the high rises of Kowloon. The guests in all their finery were more than a match for the setting, with Denise sparkling in their midst. The centrepiece was a 12 course banquet, interspersed with speeches, a slideshow, and various toasts. Before that we participated in the customary tea ceremony, at which the new couple are introduced to all the family members. As usual when you don’t know exactly what to do, we just followed what others were doing. As is customary, the grooms parents don’t get to make speeches (phew!), but just to put on record that Dee’s parents, David and Eileen Ong, and the whole family, made us feel very welcome, and were the perfect hosts, not just on the wedding day, but for the whole week.
To step back to the beginning of the week, we arrived on Sunday from Tokyo. It was my birthday, but we were unable to blag an upgrade on the flight (how do people do this? It never works for me). Still, they did ply me with drinks to compensate. Family and friends arrived in dribs and drabs over the next few days, so the time was spent meeting and greeting them, and catching up with news. Miss Sophie Pratt arrived Monday, accompanied by her mum and dad, and of course became the centre of attention. Chris and Vicky arrived Tuesday, Mollie and Oggie on Wednesday. In between times we had some lovely meals with David and Eileen and their extended family from the US and Australia. Sophie attended one of these and once again acquitted herself with aplomb – entrancing everyone at the table as well as the hotel staff.
Once (nearly) everyone had arrived, David and Will organised a trip to the huge Buddha on Lantau Island. This must be one of the biggest Buddha’s in the world, and although it looks ancient, was erected within the past 20 years. It is approached by a long flight of steps (think Rocky), and inside the statue is housed a gallery with scenes from the Buddha’s life. Amazing! We ate a really delicious vegetarian meal in a restaurant run by monks attached to the temple.
On Thursday we went to the Avenue of stars in Kowloon (like in Hollywood – handprints etc of famous film stars), and competed to make ridiculous Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee impersonations in the pouring rain. We also went over to Hong Kong Island for the first time, where several of our party went shopping. Hong Kong is a bit of a shoppers’ paradise, with up-market malls full of designer ware, down to street markets – also full of “designer” ware. I don’t like shopping at the best of times, and was also feeling the effects of over-indulgence, so made my excuses and returned to Kowloon where I had a final fitting for a new suit courtesy of Sam’s Tailors, and then retired to recharge the batteries. Just as well, as that evening we went to Mon Coq (I think that’s how it’s spelt) to run the gauntlet of the street markets.
On Friday boys and girls separated to do their own stuff. The blokes took the ferry to Macau to look around the old Portuguese colony and incidentally stumbled on a casino, where we played at roulette and blackjack and were clinically and efficiently separated from our money. The high spot was an all-you-can-eat buffet in the casino for about $10, where I was privileged to see Will and his mates put away quite Herculean amounts of food. I guess they can afford to subsidise the restaurant. We returned to Hong Kong lighter in the wallet, and proceeded to a restaurant specialising in hot pot – bit like a Chinese fondue. What the girls did that day is a mystery, but rumour had it that some kind of exotic dancing was involved. Miss Sophie had her own special day, attended by Vicky, Mandy and Mollie – who had somehow wriggled their way out of the exotic dancing – so to speak- and went for some retail therapy, massage and pedicures instead.
So to the big day…. See above, except to say that Marlene had arrived Friday and joined us for the wedding. She also suggested a rendezvous on Sunday at a tea house in Hong Kong Botanical Gardens – absolutely fascinating, with a huge variety of teas and tutorial on how to make them.
Sunday and Monday everyone split, getting home thankfully before the impact of the Icelandic volcano on flights. We stayed till Tuesday, taking in the Museum of Modern Art and the work of Wu Guanzhong with Oggie, before catching our flight for the marathon journey to Nepal.