Thunderbirds are go! – My imagination is vindicated!

A few months ago I had posted about a Rolls-Royce I had spotted in Hong Kong reminding me of Lady Penelope‘s car in the children’s series Thunderbirds ( read here ). Some of you probably thought I had an over active imagination or had been inhaling the fumes of something hallucinogenic.
Well I spotted this on the web today which proves that I am not completely loopy!

Rolls-Royce FAB – 1 Project

It seems the people at Rolls-Royce and I are on the same wave length!Rolls Royce FAB 1

Racism rears it’s ugly head again!

racism_is_only_for_humans_by_xxdbzcancucksfanxx-d4pe36rI like to think that people are basically good. So nothing makes me angrier than racial discrimination.

I have been fortunate enough to live in many different countries in the world and I have learnt that deep down we are all the same. No one race or culture is good or bad.

As the Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl said in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, “there are two races of men in this world, but only these two – the ‘race’ of the decent man and the ‘race’ of the indecent man. Both are found everywhere; they penetrate into all groups of society. No group consists entirely of decent or indecent people. In this sense, no group is of ‘pure race”.

Being a white guy I was pretty insulated from racism growing up. My school and college were fairly multi-cultural and kids any way just get on with life. It doesn’t matter where your class mates are from, they are just your mates.

However once I started travelling I encountered racial discrimination more and more. While living in Hong Kong for example I often saw Hong Kong people holding their noses while sitting next to Indians on the bus and even refusing to sit next to anyone from the African continent.

When I returned to New Zealand, a country I thought was open and accepting of all, was shocked to see my (Indian) wife refused service in shops and excluded from conversations because the other person assumed she couldn’t speak English.

Now living in India where my skin color puts me in the minority it is my turn to experience discrimination. I have been excluded from temples (See here), had distant relatives refuse to shake my hand at my wedding, and of course I have lost count of the numerous times I have heard that many of the problems in India are because of the West. To top it all off, yesterday I was told that as I am a Westerner I have no manners, values or culture. This too by a man I caught stealing the neighbor’s water from their storage tank!

To be honest the majority of the people I come into contact with treat me very well, and I have been welcomed and accepted into people’s homes, families and communities.

But it makes my blood boil when small minded people make a judgment about someone based on where they were born and brought up.

Come on guys! Get on with it, stop discriminating and judging. It doesn’t matter where you are from or what you believe in, at the end of the day we are all pink inside, bleed red when we are cut and all have to sit down to take a dump!


Mouthwatering Macarons in Hong Kong! – Pierre Herme

There are macarons and there are macarons. I like to think I am becoming a bit of a connoisseur although this is a little big-headed of me as my sole experience of good macarons is when I partook of the delicious items at Laduree in Singapore(which I posted about here) after which I realized that all other macarons paled in comparison. A Macaron snob is probably a more apt description.
A recent trip to Hong Kong gave me the opportunity to indulge my new passion once again as there is a branch of another famous French Patissiere called Pierre Herme.
The shop is in the IFC Mall on HK Island, located very conveniently on the route I took every day from the office back to my hotel. Never being one to resist temptation I popped in on the first day to sample Monsieur Herme’s wares. Purely of course in the interests of culinary science as I wanted to compare with the Laduree macarons I had eaten in Singapore.

It’s a small shop. Smaller than Laduree in Singapore, perhaps reflecting the higher cost of real estate in HK, however there is still plenty of room for the glass display case filled with brightly colored macarons, like Blackbeard’s chest filled with treasure.
The first order of business is to choose a gift box, all different sizes and designs, the boxes themselves being quite collectible. One then gets down to the serious task of deciding what to fill the box with.

There are 17 different flavors plus there are often special flavors which are not on the regular menu. When I was there they had 4- 5 yoghurt filled macarons to choose from.
This makes it very difficult for a glutton like me, because I have to try all 17 flavors to decide which ones I like but by the time I have tried all 17 I have forgotten my preferences and have to start all over again. Terrible but sometimes one has to make these sacrifices!


In the end I settled for a small selection and took them back to my room for a little feast.

The macarons are truly a delight to the taste buds. Crispy on the outside with just the right amount of gooiness on the inside and each flavor distinctly different.
Some of the flavor descriptions are fantastic. How about “Pure Origin Peruvian Dark Chocolate, Morropan Province, Village of Asprobo”, or “Pistachio, Ceylon Cinnamon & Morello Cherry”? “White Truffle & Roasted Piedmont Hazelnut Slivers”? Or the Boss’s favorite” Mandarin Orange Olive Oil & Cucumber Water”. One even sounds like an aftershave: “Vanilla, Old Gold Agricultural Rum & Cedar Wood”. I wasn’t sure whether to eat it or rub it all over my face!
I loved the South American dark chocolate varieties (dark chocolate being another one of my numerous vices) but my overall favorite has to be the “Infiniment Café Au Café Vert Et Au Café Bourbon Pointu De La Reunion” or Green Coffee and Refined Bourbon Coffee from Reunion for the linguistically inept like me.
The big question is whose are better? Laduree’s or Pierre Herme’s? I honestly can’t say. Both are delicious and the flavors so varied it is hard to compare. Both places, the macarons are so moreish it is really difficult to restrain oneself from gorging on them. Also to be fair I had a little too much gap between visiting Laduree and visiting Pierre Herme so it is difficult to have an accurate flavor comparison. There is only one solution. I am back in Singapore at the end of the month so it looks like I will have to pay a repeat visit to Laduree to refresh my taste memories.
Remember I am doing this all for you my readers!

Mattress Hopping in Hong Kong! – The adventures of a Gigolo?

Deuce Bigalo - Male Gigolo

No I’m not a Gigolo, but that is not to say that I won’t consider any reasonable offers! (Just don’t tell The Boss!)
On my last trip to HK I indulged in a bit of what people in the travel hacking business call mattress running/hopping. Not as exciting as you would first think but it certainly has it’s rewards.
I am a member of the loyalty program for IHG Hotels Group which includes hotels from the Holiday Inn Express up to the Intercontinental. The Boss and I recently had two free nights in the Intercontinental Bangkok paid for by loyalty points (mentioned here) so I was keen to replenish my account.
Knowing I had at least 4 nights in HK I logged on to the IHG website and looked through their promotional offers.
Normally a stay earns points at the rate of 10 points per USD$1 spent so it takes a bit of spending to get enough points for a free stay in a decent hotel. Traveling for work, I was only given a budget for a cheaper hotel so staying at the Holiday Inn Express for the equivalent of USD$173 per night would only get me around 7000 points. A free night at an Intercontinental starts from 35,000 points so 7000 points is not going to go very far. Another tricky condition that can catch you out is that whether you stay one night or 3 at the same hotel it is considered as 1 stay.
When looking through all the promotional offers I found that there were bonuses available for 3 stays. There are two Holiday Inn Express’ on HK Island so the devious side of my brain kicked in and I booked the first night in one, the second and third nights in another, returning to the first hotel for the final night. Luckily having lived in HK I know the two locations well and HK public transport being excellent knew that transferring between the two locations would be simple.
I also found that there were a number of other bonus point offers I could qualify for so I registered for them all, gleefully anticipating the points haul I would accumulate, but in fact getting a bigger kick out of manipulating the system.
So the second day in HK I checked out of the hotel, jumped in a taxi and was at the 2nd hotel within 15 minutes. Left my bags with the concierge, spent the day in the office and returned in the evening to check in, repeating the process again on the 4th day, returning to the first hotel. the staff welcoming me back with a smile and thanking me for staying with them again.
Two weeks later the points arrived in my account.

The final total?
40,724 points!!
Enough for 1 free night in the Intercontinental Bangkok with some left over. IHG also have the Points Breaks promotion every couple of months where Hotels around the world are offered for only 5000 points per night. Sometimes there are gems like the Intercontinental Fiji or the Intercontinental Hanoi Westlake.
So for a minor inconvenience of changing rooms every couple of days I now have enough points for 8 free nights in fancy hotel. And the best thing is it didn’t cost me a cent personally!

Million Dollar view for 1/1000th of the cost!

View across the Hong Kong Harbour with the Ritz Carlton in the background

View across the Hong Kong Harbour with the Ritz Carlton in the background

If you want a Million Dollar view but dont want to pay the price, then stay in Room 2716 at the Holiday Inn Express SoHo on Hong Kong Island.

This was the view from my room looking between the Shun Tak Towers, over the Macau Heli-Ferry pad, and across to Kowloon where the towering Ritz Carlton stands.

At only HK$1200 per night where else can you get a view like this?


Thunderbirds are go! …….. or not.

Stanley Ho's Rolls Royce in front of the Lippo Centre, HK

Stanley Ho’s Rolls Royce in front of the Lippo Centre, HK

Here my memory has played tricks on me. I spotted this Rolls Royce while in Hong Kong. Rumored to belong to Billionaire Tycoon Stanley Ho, it immediately made me think back to the Thunderbirds series I used to love as a kid, in particular Lady Penelope‘s Rolls Royce “FAB-1“.

However when I googled her car for this post I realised that my memory is not so reliable (something the Boss points out quite often). Apart from the fact it is pink, FAB-1 bears no resemblance to the car above!

Lady Penelope's Rolls Royce

Lady Penelope’s Rolls Royce

Hong Kong Hustle!

I have been off the blogging radar for a couple of weeks. Unfortunately the demands of earning enough to pay for my wildly extravagant lifestyle got in the way. It has had it’s advantages and disadvantages though. The advantages are that the Boss and I got to spend a couple of weeks in Hong Kong  and Singapore. The disadvantage was that because of the nature of my work (Guns, Drugs and People smuggling) I spent a lot of that time in windowless Hotel function rooms talking inanities with clients about stuff that in the big picture of life makes no difference to anything.
The highlight of the trip for me though was to return to Hong Kong, my home for 7 years previously and the place where I met, wooed, and swept the Boss off her feet. (She regrets it now!)
Hong Kong will always hold a soft spot in my heart. When the Boss and I first left and moved back to New Zealand we used to seek out noisy Cantonese Restaurants so we could feel at home. Luckily we get the chance to revisit quite often and every time it is exciting. It’s an inspiring place, filled with a buzz that grips you and carries you along. Everywhere there is some form of sensory stimulus, whether amongst the teeming crowds in Central at lunch time or on a ferry trip to one of the outlying islands, watching the myriad vessels of all shapes and sizes passing by.
It has also changed a lot since I was a resident. And I don’t mean the obvious continual development of towering buildings. Walking around the business district of Central at lunch time I was struck by the many young cool looking and smartly dressed HK people speaking in American accented English, the offspring of those who fled to Canada and the US ahead of the handover to the Chinese in 1997.Returned to the country of their birth, well-educated, polished and eager to partake in making HK their own.
Areas like Sheung Wan in the Western part of HK Island have transformed from the predominantly Chinese trading houses to wine bars, cigar lounges and “private kitchens”. The area known as SoHo (South of Hollywood Rd) in its infancy when I left, has expanded and is filled with restaurants and bars of all persuasions, successfully toppling Lan Kwai Fong from its position as the nightlife hub.
And the famous Shanghai Tang Store in Pedder Street, purveyor of Chinese clothing with a modern twist has been replaced by Abercrombie and Fitch, whose store is staffed by very buff young Chinese men stripped to the waist, flexing their abs and pecs as they assist their customers. For all my female readers (and maybe some of the men?) I apologise for not taking photos, but taking photos of half-naked men for the edification of my readers is a point where I draw the line.
An experience one evening summed up what life in HK is like. Winding down in the Captain’s Bar of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel one evening after a stressful day, with a client and friend. It was midnight on a Wednesday. At the next table an expat was fast asleep, still in his suit and tie, while his friend studiously ignored him and nibbled on a bowl of almonds. On the other side a couple of American Chinese guys in brightly coloured pants and suede loafers sipped single malts and listened as the African-American woman with a bleached blonde Afro sang mellow jazz tunes. The bar was full and showed no signs of closing for the night.

Silver Tankard
My friend emptied his silver tankard and turned to me. “Wednesday night in HK! Do you know what Wednesday night is in Melbourne?” he asked. “It’s bin night! At this time of the evening I’m struggling down a dark alley dragging a smelly wheelie bin out to the street in the pouring rain!”

Sleepless in Hong Kong, Mumbai, Bangalore – Sleep Deprivation in Asia’s Big Cities!

Sleepless in Mumbai

My upstairs neighbour’s early morning walks are ruining my health!
Because she is taking them at 1 am in the room above my bedroom!
4 steps one way, turn, 4 steps back! It’s an improvement though. For a while she used to do early morning aerobics. It was like trying to sleep while a herd of elephants performed ballet above your head!
I seem to have bad sleep karma. Wherever I have lived, the neighbours seem to want to inflict sleep deprivation upon me. As if my apartment is a CIA “black site” for them to practice “enhanced interrogation techniques” upon me.
When I lived in Hong Kong, sleep was the most precious thing I could get because I never had enough of it and any attempts at getting an early night where always thwarted by my devious neighbours.
Our habit has always been to sleep with the windows open, preferring the fan to A/C. However this has often proved to be our undoing.
The first flat that the Boss and I lived in was in the not so salubrious area in Kowloon called Whampoa Estate. Our neighbours used to like disposing of their rubbish by tossing it out the window, only for it to fall 14 floors onto the corrugated iron awning on the 1st floor with a bang sufficient to wake the dead. Hong Kong people aren’t known for sleeping early so this used to go on until the early hours of the morning.
Once we shifted to more upmarket accommodation, we were presented with a different problem.
Nearly every child in Hong Kong is made to study the piano or violin (OK a sweeping statement ……… maybe I should say that every child in every building I have lived in). The problem is that none of them have reached a standard of playing that anyone with ears would wish to be subjected to. The consequence is that they practice scales every night, ascending, descending, up and down the piano keys, over and over again. And not at 7pm or 8 pm like any good kid should, but at 11 and 12 at night! I would be lying there with the pillow over my head, cursing into the bed sheets, and eventually drifting off to sleep dreaming of being pursued by giant pianos.
The only thing worse than this was my neighbours’ love of Karaoke, a love surpassed only by their complete inability to sing tunefully.
One of the most appalling inventions of the modern age is the home Karaoke machine, an invention that should be instantly outlawed by the Geneva Convention as inhumane.
Those neighbours who didn’t have piano playing adolescents, would while away the nighttime hours by attempting to sing English love songs and ballads, in a manner that would make the most ardent lover suicidal. If you have ever witnessed dogs howling in discomfort at the sound of the Fire Siren will understand what aural torment I was subjected to.
In fact the only place where I have had a quiet night’s sleep is New Zealand but the nights are all too short due to most New Zealanders’ unreasonable eagerness to be up at the crack of dawn to go walking, running, cycling and other uncivilized behavior outside my bedroom window!

Pic Courtesy Photo Extremist