Saturday, October 8, 2016

Cocktails and Craft Beer

A deal came up and we took advantage of cheap flights to Hong Kong. 

1st was an overnight in Bangkok so we could catch the flight the next morning.  We were talking and realised after so many trips we had never had cocktails in the city, on top of a hotel, at sunset.  So we set about fixing that.  The Octave Bar, on the 47nd floor of the Marriot was our choice and even better they have a happy hour from 5 – 7 pm,  Sipping our Thai Mojito [Thai rum and Basil instead of mint – very nice] we watched as the light started to disappear.  What started to appear was the rain front and we watched as it swept across the river towards us.  We finished our drinks just as drops started to fall.  We’ll do it again outside of rainy season – it was great.

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With our umbrellas up we picked our way further along the street to Mikkeller – a seriously good craft beer place.  With 30 beers on tap, good bar food and Danish design & influence, it is highly recommended.  Off the main drag and down a dead-end street, it doesn’t get any passing trade – you really have to make the effort to get there.  We will be back there also.
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Bangkok interlude over, we headed to Hong Kong where we stayed on Hong Kong Island.  The location meant we could take the bus in from the airport and be dropped almost outside the door.  Andrew loved Hong Kong transport because as a senior his fares were heavily discounted.  The Island Pacific Hotel in Sai Ying Pun, a new district to us, was on the waterfront and had lovely views over the harbour,  Andrew could have sat for hours on our 29th floor room, watching the ferries zoom in and out.
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We had a quite unstructured time and did a bit of walking, a tiny bit of shopping {1 single purchase – a mandolin for cutting vegetables!] and rather a lot of eating.  We walked around our neighbourhood and made a journey from our hotel, through the University grounds and down to Kennedy Town.  At Kennedy Town after a brief walk we spotted Little Creatures.  Some Australian origin hospitality and craft beer, brewed on-site – why not?  We dined Dim Sum, at Dim Sum Square, which was cheap and good.  We ate disappointing Xiao Long Bao at Crystal Jade.  The wait was ling and the dumplings we good, but not great.  And we went back to an old favourite from our last visit 22 Ships.  Here we again had the lamb with baba ganoush and it was fantastic.  Not cheap, but delicious!
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The Tianamen Square statue on the HK university campus
The PMQ, Police Married Quarters building, has been turned into a hub for creative shops.  They looked really interesting and we need to go back because it was Monday morning, most shops didn’t open on Monday and we just wandered past windows – but it could have been good.

A nice relaxing trip over we headed to the airport after lunch.  Before we even handed over our passports the check in agent said, the flight is delayed 2 hours.  Oh, bother@.  On the plus side we sat for a number of hours (the flight was delayed 3.5 hours) in the very good Qantas longue.  Staff *brought* us drinks and meals.  Service was outstanding.  I went to the toilet and when I came back Andrew had somehow acquired a bowl of ice-cream – they offered it to me and I couldn’t refuse he said…probably he would apply the same reasoning to the multiple glasses of wine he *had* to drink. 

Very, very late into Bangkok we got the last shuttle of the evening across to Don Mueang airport on the other side of the city.  Rather more tired than we should have been we stayed at the hotel beside the airport before the return flight to Vientiane.  Short trip, but very relaxed and enjoyable.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Andrew travels to Malacca – alone, and survives!

In September a window of opportunity for travel arose when Paula had a 10-day Lao business trip away from Vientiane.  She recommended Malacca, Malaysia (and got me set up for the trip) [editors note: booked his flights, accommodation, bus tickets and gave him guides, restaurant recommendations, maps and printouts]  

A  flight Vientiane to Kuala Lumpur and then a 3-hour bus trip, finding the right bus was a bit hairy. The notable sights from the bus were the endless Palm trees (Malaysia produces 40% of the world’s palm oil), a bus that had just been driven off the motorway down a bank via the safety barrier (no injuries apparent) and heavy traffic so we travelled about 50km for a good part of the trip.

Malacca old city centre was made a World Heritage site in 2008 by UNESCO. It was at times ruled by Portuguese, Dutch and British with a strong Chinese influence due to the trade routes. 

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I went to the Belge Café for a meal and the main listed item was NZ mussels which the owner said were consistently excellent. I passed on them and did enjoy the Belgian beer with my meal.

I had been instructed by an old NZ mate to go on the river cruise which I did. It was a good way to see the old part of the town and the new 30/40 storied buildings without getting lost. They have an interesting walk way alongside the river which allowed some more exploring.

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The town was busy given a long weekend with a public holiday and accessible from a couple of big cities. People queued along the street for access to the popular food places. Some food shops had mystery processed Durian items. I was at a loss as to how they would be used.

 
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The Tri-shaws were parading in the city centre with flowers and loud music. The drivers did not really look strong enough to move me about any faster than I could walk.

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There are lots of museums though many were closed. The old historical places, such as St Paul’s church on a hill top, were interesting. The Sultan’s palace had historical items and was set out so one could understand some of the issues they dealt with.

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One gem was the Baba & Nyonya Museum is a Peranakan heritage town house which has been in the same family for more than 150 years and has a significant Chinese input. It was three houses in one. It had its own water collection setting, some very smart furniture, different dining places, a large kitchen, stairs with a locking mechanism, a spy door to see downstairs, gaming tables and some very ornate clothes. Worth a visit. www.babanyonyamuseum.com

I did stop for a beer alongside the river at a small cafe, the people were friendly, I was given some free biscuits and the young man asked where I was from and “how old are you”. Not sure why the age question.

There did seem to be an excessive display everywhere of the national flag such as 15 on one building.


[Editor:
Andrew managed to get back on a bus to Kuala Lumpur airport and back through to Vientiane without any international incidents!  He did manage to fall off his bike going up the kerb of the drive-way of our local shop.  They all rushed out to pick up the big farang (foreigner) with his grazed and bleeding knee :-)

Meanwhile back in rural Laos we had a staff annual meeting of 130 people, visited some plantations, drove for hours, flights home got grounded for a day because of torrential rain]

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