Rainy Days

When I look back on our time in Hong Kong, I will mainly remember the rain. So much rain. Torrential rain all day. Super Typhoon Haina was rolling in, which we kept being assured was so unlucky and really unusual weather for October, as the typhoon season should have finished. This did not make it better.

But we’re English, we’re used to the rain. It wasn’t going to thwart our plans! So after breakfast with a bright yellow Hotel Jen umbrella in hand (incidentally I was a disaster with this all day and took a lot of people out, including Jimi on multiple occasions, he was ANGRY) we set out on our first full day in Hong Kong. Luke had written us a detailed itinerary which began with us heading to the Ngong Ping cable car to see the Big Buddha, but the weather meant the cable car was closed all day. Instead we caught the MTR a few stops to head up to The Peak on a funicular. The funicular takes about ten minutes and is really steep, taking you right past lots of Hong Kong’s skyscrapers on the journey. You get off at The Peak, which has a shopping centre with a huge roof terrace, offering 360 degree views across the city. Except when we got up there, all that we could see was cloud. Occasionally the wind would pick up and blow a small glimpse clear of the skyscrapers below us, but I don’t think we got the full experience!


Once we got back down we headed over to the harbour to take a look across the bay (with plans to stroll along the promenade). But again the ‘inclement weather’ had other ideas! We gave up pretty quickly after realising all that was happening was we were getting drenched, and instead followed Luke’s instructions to find a Cantonese restaurant, bizarrely called the American Restaurant: Peking Food. Jimi and I made the classic mistake of over-ordering (it all seems so cheap in another currency!) and ended up with way too much lemon chicken, sweet and sour pork and chili beef. It was delicious, though Jimi maintains the neon coloured lemon chicken sauce stained his fingers for the rest of the day which was a little worrying.


After lunch we headed to Nathan Street, the main road that has all the neon signs along it, and the markets run off this road. We visited the goldfish market first – a street almost exclusively made up of tropical fish shops, so Jimi was in his element. They also had a number of other pet shops, with tiny puppies and cats for sale in cages which I found quite sad. Next we went to the Ladies market – more of a traditional market with stalls selling fake purses, watches, bags and other touristy merchandise. I may have accidentally got talked into buying a purse I didn’t really even want… but never mind! You can never have enough purses right?

We headed back up the road to the bird market after that, but by now it was about 5.30pm and most of the stalls were packing up because of the weather. We did get to see a couple of huge parrots though, one of which kept squawking ‘Hello’ at us, as well as lots of more traditional domed cages housing tiny birds of all colours and varieties. We walked back through the flower market, then caught the MTR a couple of stops south to Temple Street Night Market. This was just getting going when we arrived, with lots of restaurants clamouring for trade along the street, and stalls with wares similar to the Ladies market we’d been to earlier. We wandered around and snapped some photos before heading back onto Nathan Road which by now was all lit up with flashing signs and neon adverts – looking all the more impressive with the mirrored reflections in the puddles on the road. Luke had advised we try Dim Tai Fung for dinner – a restaurant at the top of a luxury shopping centre, which has branches across Asia and a Michelin star! It is famous for its pork dumplings, so we ordered a few different plates. I was getting better with chopsticks, though still managed to make an impressive mess. The meal was delicious though – really good value and seriously tasty.


After we’d eaten we were ecstatic (genuinely) to discover a brief respite in the rain, and so we hot-footed it to the Star Ferry while the weather let up, to take a short hop across the harbour by boat. Tickets were 55 HKD each (about 55p!) and the ride was amazing, taking us right by the lit up waterfront with all the skyscrapers. On the other side we walked for about half an hour looking for the Woo Loo Moo Loo restaurant, which has a brilliant bar on the roof but when we eventually found the building (31 stories tall, with a petrol station underneath it…) we discovered that it was too windy for the bar to be open today. BOO! Instead we decided to call it a night and headed back to the hotel to catch up with everyone in the UK and to try and get an early(ish!) night.

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The next day was Wednesday, and we had the cruise ship to catch in the afternoon. We still had the morning though and the wind had dropped so the cable car was open. Leaving our cases at the hotel, we headed straight to Tung Chung on the MTR (passing the Disneyland resort on the way! Huge restraint that we stayed on the train!) to finally visit the Ngong Ping cable car. The cable car takes you on a picturesque route out of the city, across the Tung Chung harbor (with great views of the airport) and up into the mountains. It’s about a 5km journey and should take around 20 minutes.

We bought our tickets and didn’t have to wait too long to get escorted to a car, but almost as soon as we got moving the car stopped and an announcement said they were temporarily halting service because of the weather. We got moving again a few minutes later but MY GOD. The wind had really picked up, and the rain was lashing at the cable car, so we were swaying violently about 150m over the harbour. As someone who often gets motion sick (a cruel twist of fate for a cruise-aficionado) this was not ideal. Jimi also had me panicked as he was craning to look at the cable, with a ‘this-looks-unsafe’ expression on his face which was far from reassuring.

Eventually though (after much longer than the standard 20 minutes) we made it to the other end. Obviously it was pouring with rain again but I didn’t care! GROUND! I love ground. Ngong Ping is this cultural man-made village, (with an extra-cultural Starbucks and Subway) but the main attraction is the Big Buddha and the monastery, about 5 minutes walk away. When the rain eased off we headed off to explore.

The Buddha was huge, and hugely impressive. We had to climb about 150 stairs to get to the top, and it’s only once you’re there that you can get a real sense of the size and scale of the statue. It sits atop a massive circular building, which we couldn’t go in, but could walk around the circumference (which took a few minutes to give a scale of the size!) The weather meant the top of the Buddha was shrouded in mist though on a clearer day I’m sure the views were incredible!

After snapping some pictures we headed back down towards the monastery. The scent of incense hung in the air, and there were huge burners the size of wells around the monastery where lots of visitors were lighting sticks and praying. The monastery itself was stunning – with a traditional Chinese roof, and ornately decorated in bright jewel colours with gold detail of dragons, flowers and lettering.


In the mountains, with the mist rolling in from the trees the whole place felt a little magical and it was a shame to have to head back to the modern village, and to the cable car once more (blagh). Fortunately the way back was much calmer and the clouds had lifted so we really did see some of the amazing views as we came back down.


We headed back to Tung Chung station after that, and spotted a bakery so decided to grab some pork buns for lunch. Jimi and I are obsessed with pork buns from a bakery in Chinatown in Soho, so it was good to try an authentic one for comparison! (For reference, I preferred the dough of a London pork bun, but the filling of the Hong Kong one).


We got the train straight back to the hotel, which gave us time to get our bags together before we had to be picked up to head to our cruise ship – Royal Caribbean’s Legend of the Seas.

Our driver on the way to the port was great fun – he was telling us how he used to be a detective, working for the British services but after Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997, the British gave him and his whole family British passports and made him sign the Official Secrets Act. He was forced to retire (at the age of 33) so now drives taxis for a living, while his two daughters go to university in the UK. I don’t know how much of this he should have been sharing, but it was fascinating to listen to him talk!

A road had flooded which meant that the trip to the port took longer than planned, and we ended up arriving around 5.30pm. There was hardly anyone around (and a terrifying moment when the first woman we met looked blank when we asked where the ship was, ‘Ship? What ship?’) but fortunately we found where we were heading and soon checked in. Most people were already on board and we arrived on deck in time for the emergency drill (yawn) but once that was out the way we headed straight to our cabin – 3108 on Deck 3. In a luxury move we have a window and NATURAL LIGHT, but the room us still 90% bed. We dumped our bags and headed straight back on deck for the sail out of Hong Kong, and to start using our drinks package. We get unlimited glasses of wine, so sat at the pool bar enjoying some glasses of prosecco, before watching as the boat pulled away past the glittering Hong Kong skyline. And for once it had stopped raining!

Once the city was out of sight we headed to the Romeo and Juliet dining room on Deck 5 for some late dinner. The food was pretty good, with some fresh bread that Jimi loved, but we weren’t keen on much exploring after that, so headed straight back to the cabin and to bed!

Bye-bye Britain, Hello Hong Kong

We made it to Hong Kong! I’m writing this in bed after a full-on day all over the city, which I would approximate has been raining torrential-downpour style rain for about 90% of the time. Apparently we picked the worst couple of days ever to visit as a typhoon has just blown in! Typical!

We left Heathrow at 6.40pm on Sunday, which will forever be remembered as one of the very worst days of my life. Saying bye to family at the airport? Good luck to you. I can’t remember ever crying so much over such a drawn out length of time in my entire life. Genuinely it was the most horrific experience. Plus Mum and I kept setting each other off all day just leading up to me leaving (Our last Scrabble game! Saying bye to my bedroom! The last squeeze of the cat for a couple of years!)

When we got to the airport, we managed to catch up quickly with Delene who was heading out on a flight too which was so lovely as we got to say a last goodbye, but that completely set me off again. (LOVE YOU D! Sorry we never got to hang in the First Class lounge!) Unfortunately despite arriving with plenty of time to spare (which we NEVER do), we had a whole lot of drama checking in, and it looked for a while that we may get bumped off the flight which was added unnecessary stress – though British Airways were amazing, and their T5 staff are just the best. (Particular sorry shout-out to the lovely check-in desk attendant who I made cry when I started crying. It was an emotional day.)

Eventually though we were all sorted, and it was time for Jimi and I to head through security. We were both bawling, all our families were crying, EVERYONE was staring…

IT WAS THE VERY WORST THING EVER.


Anyway, let us not dwell any more on that else I’ll start weeping again now. The flight was fine – your standard economy twelve hour night flight. Magical. My hand luggage was CLEARLY far too big for an overhead locker but we wedged it in anyway; the food was crap but an air steward brought us three extra chocolate mousses and a REAL spoon – it’s the little things! (Sidenote: in real time I read this line out to Jimi who looked a bit shocked, as though he’d forgotten about the chocolate mousses, and has now gone to check that he hasn’t left one in his bag… yum). We both got a bit of sleep so by the time we landed in Hong Kong, at 2pm local time on Monday, we were both more-or-less functioning.

The holiday package we’ve booked meant that we had transfers from the airport – ta luxurious and amazing treat! Our name on a sign! Obviously we couldn’t find the driver for about twenty minutes, but eventually we were united, and he drove us into the city.

Neither of us have ever been to Hong Kong, or indeed any Asian city before, and first impressions were that it is COMPLETELY unlike anywhere else. The temperature was around 30 degrees when we landed, but really overcast and muggy, and it started spitting with rain as we drove to the hotel. As Hong Kong is made up of lots of islands, the airport is on a separate (man-made) island to where we were staying, so the drive took about 45 minutes, across lots of bridges. There are so many skyscrapers – both apartment blocks and offices, and the architecture is really unique – the best I can describe it as is really ‘blocky’. Plus neon lights and signs EVERYWHERE which I love, and Jimi loves to photograph.

We’re staying at the Hotel Jen, which is conveniently about 30 seconds away from the HKU MTR line. The hotel is big – 28 floors – and like a nice business hotel which is perfect for us. Once we’d showered and felt a bit fresher, we headed straight back out to spend the evening in Macau. You can get to Macau by ferry, which takes about an hour from a port a couple of MTR stops from our hotel (luckily Luke had done us a detailed itinerary so we found it easily). The MTR is great – like the underground, but more efficient and cleaner, and ORGANISED. The ferry port on the other hand was absolute chaos, with people everywhere, shouting, lugging bags around and/or tripping down escalators. (Incidentally there are hundreds of warnings about the danger of escalators and either consequently/relatedly no one seems to be able to use an escalator. There’s a lot of hesitation and panic when it comes to stepping on and stepping off. Really odd).


I fell asleep on the ferry but woke up to Jimi shaking me away to look at the view as we docked into Macau. It’s basically like Vegas, but instead of along a strip, the casinos are set out around a bay. The sun had gone down while we were on the ferry, so the huge neon lettering of all the hotel resorts were lighting up the skyline. We disembarked and managed to locate a free shuttle service to the Venetian hotel. It’s just like the one in Vegas and absolutely enormous. But unlike Vegas, which is always loud and messy and BUSY, and has that entertainment/seedy (read: fun) side to it as well as all of the gambling, Macau felt very sanitised. Like a boring, clean Vegas. There was barely anyone there, which may well have been because it was a Monday night, but even so it just didn’t have the same kind of atmosphere. Less excitement. A distinct lack of drunk people. Though Macau apparently has an amazing old town, but we couldn’t see very much as we only had a few hours there this time so we definitely need to come back at some point.



We had a touristy couple of hours, eating a very American dinner in the Hard Rock Cafe, and having a look around the Venetian and the Grand Canal Shoppes which was fun, but as the hotels are so spread out we couldn’t get very far in the time we had. So after wandering through a few casinos, we got incredibly lost in the Venetian, ended up in a service lift and eventually got escorted by a kind security guard to a taxi rank, to catch a cab back to the port. We both slept again on the way back (damn you jet lag!) before catching the MTR back to the hotel to get some sleep, knowing we’d be having another VERY busy day ahead…

(Spoiler: we did have another very busy day.)

Last day in the UK

7.19am. It is the morning of Sunday 16th October. I should probably be asleep, but it feels like such a waste when these are my last twelve hours in the UK for a while. Why sleep through them? (I realise I will regret this massively tomorrow, when I’m in Hong Kong and unable to function, because realistically how much decent sleep am I going to get on the plane?)

The last ten days have been surreal – filled with lovely moments, and too many goodbyes. I finished at Penguin last week, and packing up my desk was horrible. I still can’t really wrap my head around the fact that we’re not just going on a holiday; that I won’t be coming back. I had a spectacular send off from everyone there last Thursday with an amazing gift and a card crammed full of messages from so many of the friends I made there. I’m going to miss working there so much – the last four years have taught me so much, but mainly they’ve given me the chance to make some wonderful friends. It has never felt like a job to go into work, and for that I know I’ve been exceptionally lucky. There were tears on the way out, when I swiped out the gates for the last time (and who knew that was a thing to get sad about?!)

Then on Saturday, Jimi and I went to Janet’s house in Stortford (like old times!) to say goodbye to the group properly. I can’t remember the last time we got everyone in one place for even a little while – it’s so tricky now everyone is spread out over the country. It was just the perfect chilled evening, accompanied by far too much Domino’s Pizza (complete with the standard miscalculation when we assumed that we’d all eat at least half a pizza each – we never learn!) But the highlight was by far the gift that Jess, Louise and Rachel had assembled but that everyone had contributed to. It’s this incredible scrapbook of our lives – packed with photos of Jimi, me and all our friends and family. And then the girls went to the incredible effort of getting letters and messages from everybody – friends from work, friends all over the world! – which have all been mounted on coloured card and stuck in the book. It is such a gorgeous thing to have, but more than that the time that has so obviously gone into it is unbelievable. We have the best friends. The messages are amazing to have (shoutout in particular to JK’s interactive message – a personalised computer game! Which Rachel was bizarrely the best at!) It was just the perfect gift, something we will keep forever so THANK YOU again if you are reading this everyone who contributed – we love it! I am posting it to Australia so we have it as soon as we arrive, as it won’t be so daunting if we have everyone else there with us.

Goodbyes are the worst, so let’s gloss over how awful it was to say bye to people for a while. Please come and visit, we love you all.

img_6514Last Sunday was Movecube packing day. The Movecube is the shipping container that we ordered for Monday morning, which was the only opportunity (aside from our two suitcases today) to take things to Australia. At two cubic metres, it was not big enough to fit everything – and my judge of size and space is not the best. Lucky Jimi prides himself on being a king of tessellation but neither of us could have done it without Louise, who was an actual saint/crazy person for coming and helping pack and practise stacking things all day. I cannot think of anything less fun to do on a Sunday, and we could never have got it done without her. I LOVE YOU LOUISE.

Monday through Wednesday were just horrific. The Movecube arrived, about 2cm shorter than we’d anticipated from our masking tape layout of it in the flat, meaning we had to reassemble it on the go! Luckily it all fitted – with small pockets of space to spare. In hindsight I wish we’d kept some loose clothes/scarves/coats out to plug the gaps as what a waste! Then we went on what felt like a hundred (was actually three) trips to the tip – throwing out so many things and packing up the rest. I hate throwing things out (WHAT IF IT HOLDS A MEMORY???) but in the end we had to be ruthless. God knows how we collected so much stuff in the first place.

By Wednesday evening we were both back home in Herts, out of the flat (thanks Mum and Dad for coming up! Sorry I didn’t realise we would need a bigger van!). Unpacking into my room at home also took a boring amount of time – setting an alarm for 6am to sort through boxes under my bed is about as good as it sounds. Luckily once that was over I had some great London times with Mum – we had tickets to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and front row seats. I also got to have a last dinner with Louise and Jess, but hugging them goodbye was heartbreaking. I’ll miss you both unbelievable amounts. (Also felt terrible for having to rush Louise’s goodbye (“Love you! Visit soon!! BYEEEEE!”) when ten minutes before the start of the play I realised I’d walked us to the wrong theatre. And I thought I’d got to know London so well, sighimg_6545.

The play was incredible and as a Harry Potter obsessive, I adored it. Friday we were back there for Part 2, but Mum and I went to the Sky Garden before that in the Walkie Talkie building. It was so stunning there with views across all of London, and we got some great photos up there. It’s free if you get a ticket from the website and I would highly recommend a visit!

Then yesterday was my last full day in the UK, or Fondue Saturday as it shall now be known. Luke got back from his work trip from Cairo at lunch time, and I spent the afternoon packing my cases in the lounge (with ‘help’ from the cat, who seemed to think it was a game. It was not a game.) The cases are bulging but seem to be pretty spot on weight-wise. Obviously a lot of things didn’t make the cut so my wardrobe at home is still packed full of clothes. I’m wondering if Jimi will have room in his bags if I bring some extra bits to the airport. That’s allowed right? Then cheese fondue for dinner which was amazing – a massive retro faff, but who doesn’t img_6604enjoy dipping things in cheese (answer: no one) and a memorable last night.

Which brings us to now, today, leaving day. I actually feel sick thinking about it. There aren’t really any words to describe this nervous, scared, excited, ill feeling. I feel like there needs to be a word for this, other languages probably have one. I am just overwhelmed. Leaving has come about so fast and I can’t believe it is actually happening.

Today.

But it’s raining which seems pretty fitting.

And so it begins . . .

I’ve never been good at keeping diaries.

When we were children, my brother Luke would religiously detail his life into yearly diaries which my parents would put in his stocking every year. It was his evening ritual, the posts scratched neatly into the pages with a slightly blunt HB pencil. He has a permanent record of what it meant to be nine, then ten, then eleven – to change schools and go to new places, to try new things and make new friends. And not just in an abstract way – he has a personal account of what it was actually like for him. And he’ll have that forever.

Obviously now I wish I’d been as diligent, but then I’ve never been as self-disciplined as Luke. I never had the patience to learn an instrument; couldn’t be bothered to practise. I know I tried to keep a diary once when I was about six. I had a Peter Rabbit pocket diary that Mum got me, and I found it recently back in my childhood bedroom. Most of the entries proclaim that I’d led ‘An ordinary day today.’ I wish I could remember what that looked like.

So while I’ve always been a reader, being a writer has never come as naturally to me. I’d rather be lost in other people’s stories and worlds than writing my own. Even now, working in publishing, getting to know authors, having seen Mum become a published author of three novels with a fourth in the pipeline – even with all this exposure to writing,  it’s still not something I would typically choose to spend any free time doing. I’ve never had a burning desire to ‘tell my story’ and besides – what would it say? I haven’t really had much happen to me yet. An ordinary day today.

But maybe fiction? I get asked this a lot. After all I read enough of it, both at work (as a Commissioning Editor for a publishing house) and for pleasure, whenever I can find the time. The only problem is I can’t  think of a story that excites me. One of the hazards of the industry – you read so much, a little that’s amazing, a lot that’s perfectly fine, so you become numbed to a lot of it, and ever more critical of any of your own ideas. (Or at least I do. Lots of other editors have gone on to write, so maybe they’ve got exasperated in a different way. I could write better than this.) For me, I feel  as though whatever I write will never be as good as the books that I love, and until I can think of something that is, I’ll wait. I could be waiting a while.

So all of this preamble is in part a disclaimer: I don’t do this often.

But then I’ve never moved to the other side of the world before either, and it feels as though this could do with being remembered. Immortalised on the internet so friends and family can keep up with us on our way to Sydney – and beyond. ‘Us’ being myself, Kimberley and my boyfriend, Jimi. I imagine most of you reading this will already know us but for those who don’t: a potted history. (Apologies now to those who do – this will be boring).

Jimi and I both grew up in rural villages in Hertfordshire and went to secondary school in Bishop’s Stortford. I was at Herts & Essex (the girls’ school) while he was at The Boy’s High (the boys’ school). We met for the first time at the birthday party of one of our mutual friends in 2003 maybe? I remember we went paint-balling, and Jimi crushed me under a fence before shooting me repeatedly with paint pellets at close range. I did not like him. He was this lanky ball of energy – loud and annoying and just such a boy. I didn’t think we’d be friends.

But I was wrong. Over the next few years we started to spend more time together, and Jimi on his own was different to Jimi in front of the boys. He made me laugh like no one else, and he used to drive out to pick me up from my house in his battered little white Fiat Uno just so we could hang out with everyone at the pub playing pool, or in the park while the boys played football. We were friends for a long time, and then for a little while in 2005 we were more than friends until I started university that September. It took until 2010 for us (me) to realise where this had always been going. Now it’s hard to imagine it any other way.

And now we’re leaving our flat and our jobs and friends and families (and most of our belongings) and moving to Sydney, Australia. In three weeks time we’ll be at Heathrow, getting ready to board a plane and wave bye to the UK for the time being. I hope it’s going to be a lot of things (exciting/terrifying/fun/lonely/unforgettable) but above all I know it’s going to be an adventure. We are way outside our comfort zones on this one. So please do stick with us – I hope you enjoy the ride.