Saturday, May 27, 2017

Back from Hong Kong, terror in Manchester, Oli back from Norway, celebrating her birthday, trip to Barcelona and other stories.

Sunday 28th May 2017
Great to be home again and on my walks with Eladio and the dogs.
Hi again,

Another week in my life has gone past. This was the week I returned from my trip to the exotic and very far away Hong Kong. The trip back was long and tiring as I knew it would be. I left at 8.30 in the morning (2.30 in Madrid), arrived in Dubai nearly 8 hours later and just didn't know what time it was there.  That was when I felt very confused and bewildered. I  had 3 hours there so only saw the enormous airport. I did see some of the terrain as we landed and it looked like a desert. I was told it 37ºc outside which didn't surprise me.
Landing in Dubai
It's a city with the highest sky scrapers in the world and does not attract me at all.  It was funny to see prayer rooms for women and prayer rooms for men at the airport. Why are they separate I wondered?  Even on the Emirates airplane on the multimedia screen there were indications as to how long it was to the next praying time!  Muslims pray 5 times a day.  After a 3 hour wait there, I got on the flight which would take me to Madrid and would last nearly 8 hours too. I was lucky in that on on both flights I had an aisle seat with no one sitting in the middle. The day seemed so long to me. We were given food at all sorts of times and I wasn't really hungry but I ate to pass the time away. The second flight was the most tiring of the lot. I tried to sleep but it wasn't easy. Finally, finally, we touched down in Madrid at about 8.30 pm here. My journey had taken 19 hours, not counting the time it took to get to and from the airports. I had to take a taxi home as Eladio was in Montrondo. It was strange to come home and not find him here. But of course there was my Father and Lucy to greet me. Pippa had a fit of excitement when she saw me and was delighted to sleep in clean white sheets with me in our bed that night. 
It was super to be home and super to see the dogs again. 
Thankfully I slept quite well. I'm not sure if I had jet lag or not but I did feel quite tired for a few days and needed at least the morning to settle in. I would have liked more but time was against me this week. 

Monday was of course Oli's birthday. She turned 32, fancy!  But she wasn't here either, but in Norway filming for her new programme; "Madrileños por el Mundo". It would be the first time in many years that she wasn't at home to celebrate. My Father was delighted to know she was in his favourite country, where he lived during and after the 2nd World War. He was an officer in the Royal Navy and was given a medal by the King (Haakon  VII?) for his help in the liberation of Norway from the Nazis. That makes me so proud of him. He speaks Norwegian like a native and studied German and Scandinavian languages at Cambridge University. He has visited the country many times and was tickled pink when he heard that Oli's first destination with the new programme was precisely Norway. She went to Stavangar and Bergen and of course visited the fjords. Her trip also coincided with the National Day of Norway and my Father knew which date it was, 17th May!  So he was more than delighted when I showed him photos of her trip like these ones of her on a small airplane flying over the fjords and the one below on a speed boat.

Oli in Norway. She loved it. 
We got to test his Norwegian ourselves as when Oli came back, she gave him stuff she had bought for him there; a Norwegian flag,  a national newspaper, and a chocolate bar called "Kvikk Lunsj" which he knew of course. When Oli told him it was the origin of the kitkat, he knew that too. 
The origin of the Kitkat comes from Norway. They invented it first. 
It seems there is still litigation going on by the copiers of the original Norwegian chocolate biscuit. She also brought him some fish paste that people from Norway spread on their bread. We asked him to tell us what it was made of. At 98 he had to read the small print and told us that it was made of cod roe. We couldn't believe he knew how to say or read or translate the Norwegian for cod roe. We told him we were very impressed. He is so humble about his knowledge of languages he said there was not much to be impressed by. Well there is. He's amazing!! 

I must say Oli has the perfect job for a journalist who loves travelling like her. Her next destination may well be Miami, lucky girl. 

Thinking about her, I spent the morning chilling out as much as I could. I was up early and went on my walk which felt glorious. It was so nice to be back in my terrain in our big house and garden surrounded by nature in sharp contrast to Hong Kong and its overwhelming amount of people and sky scrapers. 

I helped Lucy make the lunch for which Eladio would be back. He was travelling home from Montrondo with his brother and his wife and I invited them to lunch. They were here by 2. After lunch we had some quality time together before I started work for my new customer, Adamo, the Swedish owned regional fiber operator. They wanted me to prepare a press conference in Santander on 2nd June as well as a press trip for journalists from Madrid and Barcelona. There was a hell of a lot of work to do and not much time to do it in. Also I would be doing everything myself, whereas at Yoigo I had a press agency to do most of the work and an events agency. Well this week saw me in charge of every single aspect, from contracting the venue, to hiring the audiovisual services, the restaurant for the dinner the night before, the menus, the wording for the invitation, the press list and of course the press release. I worked like there was no tomorrow this week but at the same time I felt so happy to be working on a new and exciting PR project.  

I worked until dinner which we had at 9. We always go to bed after dinner. Well that night I was looking forward to seeing myself on TV again. I think I told you that Paloma, the journalist who took over Oli's job at her previous programme, "Mi Cámara y yo", had filmed me and our house for a programme that would be broadcast that night about alternative services for tourists, including of course, Airbnb.  Unfortunately I was so tired that I fell asleep.  However I was able to watch it the next day. This is the link to see it although I'm not sure it can be viewed in all countries outside Spain. It was quite a lark really and a bit of fun hahaha. I must say I enjoyed doing it. I sent the link to the Colombian guests who appeared in it, Paola and Juan and they loved it. 

It was dreadful to wake up to the news on Tuesday of the terrorist attack at a pop concert for children at the Manchester Arena. Yes, again, Isis struck and a suicide bomber killed innocent people, many of them children. I don't want to add any photos here, only to say that I was shocked to the core.  Manchester is a city I knew quite well when I lived in England and I have school friends living there.  On Monday night in a terrible blast as the people left the concert, 22 people were killed and 64 are injured. Will this type of terrorism ever go away? The photo I will add though is of the Union Jack in the shape of a heart and the name of the city Manchester, a city of peace which did not deserve what happened on Monday night. My heart goes out to the city. Sorry for you Manchester. Hate you terrorists.
Sorry for Manchester
While I was working hard on Tuesday, reeling from what had happened in Manchester, Oli was on her way back from Norway via Amsterdam. We were going to celebrate her birthday with dinner out to La Vaca Argentina that night. However her plane to Madrid was delayed and she was rerouted via Barcelona which meant she wouldn't get home until nearly midnight. We postponed the dinner to Wednesday night which was rather frustrating.

I should mention that on Tuesday I had lunch with my great friends, Julio and Fátima, to celebrate the former's 49th birthday hahah. We went to El Buey in Boadilla which we all agreed we don't like as much since the owner retired and his daughter took over. In any case we had lots to celebrate, especially that Fátima is getting better from the illness she has. I'm sorry I didn't take a photo. 

The rest of the day I spent working on the Adamo project but there was time for a walk. I'm afraid there hasn't been time for 2 walks a day this week as I have been oh so busy. On the walk on Tuesday we took the brush along to groom Elsa who is shedding hair like there's no tomorrow at the moment, leaving hairs all over the house, even though she is not allowed past the kitchen:-(
Dog grooming time on Tuesday morning in the sun
Our walks have had to be in the mornings this week as it has been so hot. We have had a heat wave and temperatures reached over 35ºc at times in Madrid and other parts of Spain. So I badgered Eladio to get the pool ready, not just because of the heat but also for my Airbn guests who, I am sure, are attracted to the house because of the pool. But I would have to wait. 

Oli didn't get home till nearly midnight and to add to the stress of travelling and cancelled flights, they had left her luggage in Amsterdam. Thankfully it arrived the next day. It was late and I was asleep but got up to greet my youngest daughter who I hadn't seen since before I left for Hong Kong. I wanted to give her her presents; clothes from Zara. She tried them on and only half were rejected and to be returned hahaha. Buying clothes for the girls is always a risk.  

On  Wednesday I would be on the road again. I was off to Barcelona to meet the people from Adamo who had hired me to do the PR project. The CEO is a young Swede aged just 37.  He is a real entrepreneur and good at what he does. I got the job because of another Swede, Johan, the ex CEO of Yoigo and my ex boss. It feels good to be working on a project with him again. So I caught the 9.30 high speed train which would get me to Barcelona by 12.30. I worked all the way using my pc but mostly without an internet connection as, believe it or not, there is still no Wifi service on the "Ave" although I have heard that it will soon be available.

I arrived in very humid and warm Barcelona and took a taxi to the Adamo offices. I didn't really know what to expect but was pleasantly surprised to see just how modern and advanced the staff are there and how well they do their job. They have the fastest internet in Spain (1000Mbs) with coverage in regional areas and soon rural ones too as well as densely populated new urban towns.
The Adamo offices. 
I went to lunch with Fredrik the Swede and his colleague Xavi the technology guy. It turned out we have lots of connections in common, including my Catalán friends Pepe and Marc and my Catalán customer Miquel from Genaker!! They are all ex Nokia colleagues:-) We advanced a lot through the lunch and afterwards and I left at around 3.45 with a clearer picture in my mind. I had a ticket for the 5 o'clock train but was able to take an earlier one which would get me to Madrid at 7 instead of 8 pm. I couldn't believe how hot it felt in Madrid when I arrived at Atocha and went outside. I saw Indian tourists sweltering and I commented to them that it was just as hot here as in India hahaha.

My Cabify taxi came (equivalent to Uber here) and soon I was home again. But not for long as we went out to dinner to celebrate Oli's belated birthday. We would continue to do so this weekend too. The only person missing was Suzy. 

Suzy has news too this week in that she finally found accommodation in a nice ground floor flat in Ipswich. In the end she found it through Airbnb although she is paying the owners direct, rather than at the hospital residence who were so complicated and demanding about renting her a room. Some time this week she sent a photo of herself at work. I was so proud to see her in her hospital outfit enjoying being a Band 6 dietitian. Good for you Suzy.
Suzy at work at the Ipswich hospital
Dinner, as I said before, was at La Vaca Argentina where we enjoyed a super meal together. It really is our favourite place around here.
Dinner at La Vaca Argentina on Wednesday night. 
Thursday was just as busy as Wednesday. I had lots to do, I wondered how I would cope. It was like being back at the beginning of Yoigo. I worked non stop on my Adamo PR project all day.  We did go for our morning walk though and afterwards it was Eladio too who worked all day but he was setting up the swimming pool as I had badgered him to do, poor guy. It had been emptied and a part of it painted, so on Thursday, Lucy and I helped him take off the cover which is damned heavy. You might like to know that a few days before, I saw a poisonous snake on the cover. It was being picked at by 2 magpies (disgusting). Of course when I saw it I shouted for Eladio who came running as did Lucy. 
The poisonous snake on the swimming pool cover before it was taken off this week. 
At first Eladio laughed at us saying it was harmless but when he tried to catch it with the swimming pool net - you should have seen him - he admitted it was poisonous.  He lifted it out the best he could and did not kill it. Instead he led it outside into the street. I hope it doesn't come back. 

After removing the cover he spent most of the morning cleaning the walls of the pool in the heat.
Eladio cleaning the pool
He then began to fill it with water which would take all day and part of the following morning. He spent the afternoon cleaning the huge cover and then I was amazed to see him mow the lawn. At 72, he is very strong and sprightly. I do admire him. As my friend Juana said on FB, he is a "treasure". Indeed he is. I have never regretted marrying him; quite the opposite. 

On Friday morning again I was up at 6. Finally I had found the right moment to draft the press release for the upcoming press conference in Santander next Friday. I had being doing everything but writing it as perhaps it was the most difficult of the tasks I had to do; most of them were contacting journalists for the press trip. It was so nice to be back in the sector so to speak and to be inviting them. They seemed pleased too.

We managed our walk after Eladio had proof read the release - I always get him to check my Spanish just in case. My client immediately put the document into Google Docs for opinions and editing. I am not familiar with the tool and although it is useful, it can become a never ending editing of a document that actually drives me mad. 

I had one exciting thing to do that morning and it was to go and pick up the Samsung Galaxy S8 I had ordered through Yoigo. Currently I have the S7 edge and love it. The girl on the  phone assured me the S8 was bigger as I had asked for the Plus version which she said was far too big. They were supposed to deliver it at home when suddenly on Thursday afternoon I got an sms to say they hadn't been able to deliver it as no one was at home - well that wasn't true. So off I went to the courier's office in an industrial estate in Villaviciosa. I brought it home, eager to start on the unboxing but when I opened it and put my S7 next to the new S8 I saw with my own eyes that the latter is actually smaller (narrower) than the S7. Because I have bad eyesight I need a big phone, so feeling rather disappointed I rang Yoigo to return it and they will be coming for it on Monday. I am now wondering whether to go the Corte Inglés (department store) to take a look at the Plus version and buy it from them. That way too I will have more choice in colours as Yoigo only has the black and dark grey versions. I want the pink gold one don't I hahaha.

I came home via Mercadona (supermarket) to to a bit of extra fruit shopping. We had done the weekly shopping on Tuesday but nearly all the summer fruit had diminished. I just love the summer fruit here, especially the black juicy cherries.
Summer fruit. I love it. 
It was just before lunch that I finally took the plunge and had my first bathe of the season. The pool had only just finished being filled with water - I don't want to know what the water bill will be:-( And here I am in the water.
My first swim of the season. We opened the pool on Friday morning. 
I was very thankful to Eladio for getting it ready. With the pool open and the beautiful sunshine and all the outdoor furniture ready for use, it felt as though summer had come. In a way it has although it's not official till next month. The pool terrace looked lovely too.
The swimming pool and terrace ready for the summer

That night after all our combined work I thought both Eladio and I deserved dinner out. We chose to go to Ginos and were joined by Oli and Miguel. 

We would be celebrating Oli's birthday on Saturday morning this time with my Father and we organised a proper birthday breakfast.  Eladio went to get the "churros" and "porras" as well as the thick chocolate you dip these fritters in. Again I broke my diet. I must be careful after all the excesses of Hong Kong. Promise I shall be good this week coming. 
Oli's birthday breakfast on Saturday morning. 
We had it outside as the weather was so benign. We all enjoyed the churros and the moment, as did the dogs, hahaha who you can see in the picture. 

Before starting with the rest of the day, Eladio, the dogs and I went on our walk and Oli and Miguel who drove past on their way to the sports centre, took the photo of us that illustrates this week's post. Thank you darling. 

Later they would do food shopping for another birthday celebration. Some of their "manada" friends were coming for lunch. They would stay until late at night. 

Yesterday I had to prepare for more Airbnb guests who were arriving. A family of 4 from London were coming and a couple and their baby too. Joaquim, actually from Catalonia, and his Lithuanian wife, arrived around 6.  They live, by the way, in Milton Keynes where he works for the Spanish bank, Santander. As soon as they had settled in they went straight into the pool. Their reason for coming you may wonder; well to see the Copa del Rey final last night between Barcelona and Alavés (from Vitoria in the north of Spain) at the Altético de Madrid stadium "Vicente Calderon". Joaquim told me it would the last match played there before the team moved stadiums. I checked this morning to see who had won and it was Barcelona so I was happy for my guests. 

No sooner had they left for the match, when the other guests arrived, Amaia, her husband and their 3 month old baby. They had come from Bilbao. So it was funny to have Catalonian and Basque guests together under our room on the same night hahaha. 

Eladio spent another day in the garden, this time with all the garden lights, getting them ready for my 60th birthday party next month. Yes, he really is a treasure.

And today is Sunday and we shall have our own guests for lunch today; Irene and Tomas. No doubt you will hear about it in next week's blog post. So I must sign off now and get on with the day. In the afternoon I have to start on the dreaded power point presentation for next week's press conference.

Wish me luck for next week in Santander. And I wish you all a great week ahead.

Cheers till next time

Sunday, May 21, 2017

A week in Hong Kong; work and pleasure: Victoria Peak, the Star Ferry, Soho, Lantau Island and the Big Buddha, Stanley Market, the Ladies Market, afternoon tea at the Peninsula hotel, harbour cruise, the symphony of lights and my experiences.

Sunday 21st May 2017

By the harbour in Hong Kong
Hi everyone,

How time flies! Last Sunday was my first full day in Hong Kong and now the week is over and I am writing on the airplane on the first leg of my long haul back to Madrid. I am on the impressive Emirates B888-300 Boeing flight which will cross over parts of China and Indo China and the whole of India and Pakistan until it reaches Dubai and which will take 7.45h. It’s very cool to be flying over places such as “Mandalay”.
My flight route from HK to Dubai
Also the Emirates flight lets you know when it’s time to pray hahaha. I didn’t pray, but was up at 4.45 local time and the flight left at 8am. From Dubai I shall take another 7 hour long Emirates flight which should get me to Madrid, all going well, tonight just after 8pm local time. It’s been a great week with lots of experiences but now I cannot wait to return to Spain, my family and home.

So let’s start from last Monday 15th. The exhibition I was coming for, Critical Communications World, wasn’t starting until Tuesday and we had hoped to decorate the stand on the Monday but found out it wasn’t allowed. Thus I had a whole free day to myself. It rained all day – as it did a lot of the week, although it was warm and humid – and I stayed in my small but perfectly equipped hotel room (BP International Hotel on Kowleen Peninsula, opposite HK Island) and worked, mainly on fine tuning our international press release and sending it out.

At about 5pm I ventured out, got out some HK Dollars (approx. 7 or 8 dollars per euro) which I would need as a lot of things, like taxis and the metro can only be paid in cash. My destination was the Victoria Peak overlooking the HK skyline. For that I would have to take the famous Peak Tram up to the top. It was built over a hundred years ago and is one of the musts to do in HK. Thankfully it has been renovated over the years by Swiss engineers, who are the worlds’ experts on funicular cars hahaha. It was, however, an amazing piece of engineering for its times.
Peak Tram
There are pretty long queues to get into the 2 old carriages but the wait was worth it as you ride past the towering skyscrapers of this mega city. Once at the top you walk straight into a shopping centre – that is very common here – but thankfully I found my way outside and was able to enjoy the views and the greenery on the mountain top.

The ugly and big shopping and leisure centre at the peak
The view at the peak as you get off the tram and come through the ugly shopping centre.
It was wonderful to be there, but not that much fun on my own as there was no one to share the experience with. Even so, I enjoyed walking along the HK trail in the mountain spying the skyline of HK. Then, before it got dark I went up to the Peak Sky Terrace, once again using my octopus card, as I did with the tram.

There you are at the very top of HK. Unfortunately it was raining and cloudy so the views were not as good as they should be.  However I still loved every moment of it. I even had my photo professionally taken for a lark; the one below.
My paid for picture at the top of the shopping centre. Loved the moment. 

I then wandered down through the gigantic shopping hall – how I hate them – to find somewhere for dinner. I chose a Chinese restaurant as I was eager to taste the typical HK dumplings; the “dim sum”. My place was laid at a table overlooking the skyline of the city. What a pity I was on my own. I was, of course, given chopsticks and had to ask for a knife and fork (sorry, never could handle them however many times I have tried).
My Chinese dinner at The Peak 
The dinner was delicious as you can see in the photo.

But I had to curtail it a little to join my colleague Miquel who was in town after dinner with a customer and we were to meet at Pier 7 by the Central Harbour to take the 5 minute ride on the Star Ferry to Kowleen. Hong Kong is on the Pearl River, a tributary of the South China Sea and apparently Hong Kong means the harbour of fragrance. Taking the Star Ferry is perhaps the number 1 thing to do in HK and it’s a lovely experience watching both skylines of the two islands it joins. Little did I know but I would take the famous ferry at least 5 times but each time I marveled at the views.
On the Star Ferry for the first time.
The ferry is used by the locals just as much as it is by tourists. It’s cheap and I always paid using the proverbial Octopus card – very useful indeed.

The Star Ferry from Central Pier 7 left us at Kowleen pier and here we had to walk back to our hotel; about 20 minutes as the metro combination involves as much walking underground as over ground.

Even walking is a problem with so many people on the pavements; it’s very crowded. After all, 7 million people live in HK with the smallest amount of space per person in the world we heard. Traffic is horrendous, so taxis are not practical unless you get lost or it’s very early in the morning. Unlike mainland China, you do not see bicycles here which surprised me, although there were some in the lesser populated Lantau Island. Everywhere there are signs on what not to do for every possible situation which drove me mad.  
There were telling you what to do and mostly not what to do were everywhere.
HK may not be communist, from its history of being a British colony, but I must say it seems like a very strict “nanny” state. Some of the people, here, mostly officials of any kind can be very abrupt and quite rude when telling you what to do or not to do. That’s the one thing I hated about HK; otherwise, non-official type people were lovely and very helpful whether they knew English or not and many did not. I should add that surprisingly, HK is quite clean and you can see there is a clear effort to diminish pollution although it might be a losing battle. The loos are very acceptable too (that’s important for me hahah) and in general everything is very well organized; maybe even a bit too organized for me – nanny state again I’m afraid but, then again, it can’t be easy to govern HK. Who am I to judge after only havong spent a week here?

My other impression was just how gaudy, kitsch and over the top the local taste for fashion, jewelry etc, is. The HK people just love neon lights and the favourite colour must be either red or yellow. I found it too much but of course, without it, HK would not be HK.

So much gaudy taste in HK
Miquel is great with maps and we got there walking through the pretty Kowleen Park where we even saw an open air swimming pool with people bathing at 11pm in total darkness!
People swimming late at night in a public pool!
I had to walk to and from Kowleen Station/Piers from our hotel in Austin Road by Nathan Road or Jordan Road many times and each time I got lost as there is so much construction going on and Google Maps couldn’t always keep up. I have to say I got lost when I was on my own; not with Miquel, a real wizard getting round HK on foot or by metro. If you have Miquel in town, you don’t need a guide hahaha.

We were late back at our hotel as we nearly always would be as getting around in HK is so time consuming. The next day, Tuesday, would be challenging and what I had really come for and I needed a good night’s sleep. Thankfully my jet lag was receding.

The exhibition we had come for was starting that afternoon and would last until Thursday evening. We were up early, took the free shuttle bus to the Airport/Asia World Expo express station at Kowleen and were at the Expo by 10ish. We were carrying all the stuff we had brought from Spain and had bought locally in HK which was a bit of a burden.

This was what our shell booth looked like just as we began. Miquel looks a little forlorn in the middle of the picture haha, wondering what it would look like in the end.
Arriving at our empty stand with all our stuff.
We had to put up 8 gigantic adhesive posters on the booth panels for which we had been given smaller sizes, so we had to do our best to make sure no one noticed haha.  And here we are putting up the posters made by my events agency, QuintaEsencia. Thanks girls.
Having fun decorating our stand.
Once they were up and looking good, we started on the rest. We did a guessing game, a sort of low cost marketing tool to get customer’s details.
Our guessing game.
Most popular would be our Spanish food and wine corner offering ham and Rioja wine. After all we were the only Spanish company present and had to fly the flag so to say. 
Our Spanish food and wine corner
Everything looked ok and well ahead of the start of the exhibition which on the first day was from 4 to 8pm.
Our finished stand.
But our food and wine corner was inaugurated before anything else when the Chairman of the TCCA, Mladen (can’t remember his complicated Serbian surname) came to taste the Rioja with Miquel.
Inaugurating our stand with the Chairman of the TCCA
But not all things were alright. Poor Miquel had cut his finger with the Ikea knife we had bought when he was about to cut the chorizo. It bled a lot and I went with him in search of first aid. Before finding it, the head of the Finnish pavilion, guided us to two nurses on their booth. They were there with a policeman and other colleagues to represent their community where they all used “critical communications” the sort shown in the Finnish pavilion. They were so sweet and bandaged Miquel’s finger very efficiently.
Miquel after having his finger bandaged by the Finnish nurses!
We then invited them over to try our wine and ham and of course they came. I got talking to the Finnish policeman, who, by the way, was extremely dishy hahaha. I asked him what the main crime was in Finland. He told me that this Nordic country has the lowest crime rate in the world which I can believe. And here I am with the guy, enjoying the moment on our stand.
With my Finnish policeman.
It was a long day, but lots of fun, trying to drive traffic to our small stand at the back, but we managed it. One good thing we did that morning was to secure a better location at next year’s event which will take place in Berlin (nice). In fact we were the first company to do so! 

When the fair finished we took the express train back to Kowleen and from there we went straight to a dinner engagement in Harbour City. One of Genaker’s partners, Kevlin from Singapore, would be hosting the dinner at a great Italian place called Al Molo which I think means by the harbour in Italian.
Al Molo restaurant. 
Also with us was Ariel, Genaker’s distributor in the Philippines. So we were a very international team.
My dinner partners at Al Molo
I should mention that David and Nabil from Genaker, based in Barcelona, arrived on Monday night and got to the stand on time to help us with the decoration the next morning.

The location of Al Molo couldn’t have been better, the skyline of HK island with all the lights at night. The food too was out of this world, expensive but worth splashing out on as I would write in my Tripadvisor review. I especially enjoyed the dessert, my first in HK – it’s not a very cultural thing to have desserts with meals in this area of the worldL

I think the best photo of myself in HK was taken there by a kind passerby and it’s the one I chose to illustrate this week’s blog. The look on my face tells you how I was feeling.

We walked back, once again guided by Miquel but even so it seemed that each time we took that walk we always went a different way. It doesn’t help that all streets look just the same with their bright neon lights advertising all the brands in the world.

Once back in my room it was midnight, rather late if I was to get up at 6.30 the next day and especially as it was daytime in Spain and I wanted contact with my family and had to answer some emails. Oli had arrived in Stavangar that very day. We could not have been further apart.
Oli after having arrived at her hotel in Stavangar in Norway
The next day would be Norway’s national holiday. She sent us this photo with some Norwegians all dressed up in their colourful national costume. Apparently they had to climb a huge rock which took some effort.
Oli with her Norwegians on their national day
I also had to respond to Airbnb enquiries and bookings and I got quite a few this week. In fact I think all the weekends are fully booked from now to August apart from my birthday party weekend. I can’t believe my luck. The people who booked that night were from Bordeaux, a group coming to take part in a martial arts competition in Villaviciosa de Odón! I must say our guests are very varied in many ways. But I like it like that.

I woke up on Wednesday morning after just 5 hours sleep. We were at the fair by 9, ready to open it. That day we got some quality visitors as we did every day actually.
Our busy stand on Wednesday
We also got a visit from a representative of the Spanish Commercial Office, a young man called Julian from Granada. We had contacted the Spanish consular services in HK to alert them to the fact that we, Genaker, would be at the fair, the only Spanish company taking part. So Julian came along and after being obviously satisfied with what he saw, he sent along his boss, the Commercial Attaché, the next day haha.
With Julian from the Spanish Commercial office in HK
I got bad news at the end of the day at the exhibition. It was from my ex Nokia friend and colleague, Keka who lives in HK.  I was to stay on for the weekend with her at her home in the “new territories” in Lantau, but she wrote to say she was in hospital with a suspected virus and advised me to look for alternative accommodation. I was sorry for her of course, but gutted. Firstly I could not change my flight to leave with my colleagues on Friday morning and secondly, I had nowhere to stay and would have to try to extend 3 more nights at my hotel which was not cheap. I would have to deal with that later.

Meanwhile I had some good news. It was from my potential Swedish customer, a fiber network operator in Spain, who wanted to go ahead with a plan we had discussed. That was great except there is not much time. All has to be ready and done by 2nd June and I was here in HK. But it was good to know that after the PR project in HK I had another one to work on.  On Saturday I had a conference call with them and on Wednesday next I shall be going to see them in Barcelona – funny my 2 customers are based thereJ

All that happened just as the exhibition was closing for the day and on the express train back. We took the shuttle bus back to our hotel which was a wrong decision as it got us back so late because of the horrendous traffic. We had a quick shower and change and were on the street again at about 9pm. We refers to Miquel, David and I. Miquel wanted to show us the Soho area and especially the amazingly long escalators, the longest in the world, up to the top, past all sorts of tempting restaurants and bars. They are called mid-level and high-level I think and they are just great. Soho was really special and worth visiting.
The escalator in Soho
We had dinner at a Greek place. I was tired of Chinese, David not too keen on it either – plus he had lived in Greece – and Miquel didn’t seem to mind. He had already been there with his customer the night I took the tram to the Peak. The place was called Santorini and we loved it. It was so relaxed and the food was good. Here are my 2 dinner companions at our table that night.
David and Miquel at dinner at the Greek restaurant Santorini in Soho
From Santorini in Soho, we made our way down towards Central which is just huge. Miquel wanted to show David the iconic Bank of China building, not the tallest on the HK Island but the best known.
The iconic Bank of China building lit up at night. 
We walked and walked until we got back late to our hotel and there began my battle to extend my stay for 3 nights. At reception they told me it was fully booked but to try the web. Once in my room I went online only to find there was just one room left and 22 people looking at it! My fingers trembled as I made the booking but it was successful. No it was not cheap but now at least I was not on the street with my suitcase in HK! I was shattered when I finally went to bed with only 5 or so hours ahead of sleep for the second night in a row and another long day at the fair. But I had to carry on and carry on I did.

Thursday was the last day of the fair and it was a good one, although we were all tired, partly from the jet lag I imagine, not only the long nights and the long days on foot on our stand. It was busy again and very soon we received the visit of the Commercial Attaché as Julian had promised the day before.
With the Spanish Commercial attaché on our stand.
We also announced the winner of our sweet jar guessing game. There were 207 sweets in the jar and the guess of the nearest figure would win. I was very happy it was one of the Finnish paramedics, Mikko, the one who had been involved in bandaging Miquel’s finger on the first dayJ When we went to tell him, he and his colleagues came to our booth for the photo and of course for some of our wine and ham.
Mykko the Finnish paramedic who won our guessing game.
At 5 all stands had to be taken down. This time we were 4 people and we did it quite quickly. Here we are in the middle of it.
Taking the stand down on Thursday with the team.
We left after 6 with all our possessions, especially the stand posters to be kept to use again. It was a nightmare getting back to our hotel as everything was packed. We eventually did so by metro and once again had to rush as that night we had a dinner arranged by an important customer of Genaker’s. It was to be at the Victoria Peak which pleased me as I didn’t think I would get to go there again and also because it meant both Miquel and David would experience it too.

We had 20 minutes to get ready. I spent 10 of them on the phone to Eladio who was in Montrondo for a fraternal meeting. It was strange for me to be in HK and my husband in Montrondo.
Eladio in Montrondo
We took a taxi to the Peak Tram station but just one look at the queue made us take another one to the top, Victoria Peak, Our dinner date with Patrick and Peter was at a very American type joint called Wildfire with great views from the Peak. Before eating, we had a photo session. We were also celebrating an important agreement which for obvious reasons I cannot disclose here or anywhere. I do know though, that Miquel and David will never forget that night.
David and Miquel at the Peak for the celebration dinner
It was a bit windy and there was slight rain and it was the first time I had felt cold during this trip. The food was superb and included fish and chips. Yes it did. The dinner was a celebration of an agreement and finished late. We took the peak tram down for Miquel and David to experience it. Then it was another long walk to Central station to take the metro to Jordan road. We recharged our octopus cards for the umpteenth time. I also recharged my local pre-paid sim card which has been very useful here.

Once back at our hotel it was time to say goodbye to Miquel and David as they would be leaving with Nabil early the next morning. Of course, I was staying on for 2 more days; on my own. I owe this trip to Miquel, my first customer and ex Nokia colleague who has now become a firm friend. I am so grateful to him, my first customer, not only for bringing me here but for inspiring me to become a freelance Communications Consultant.  I hope I have done them justice helping with their participation in the exhibition. As Miquel says, it’s a “win win” situation and I could not agree more wholeheartedly.

That night I slept like a baby until 9 am. I went to have breakfast which is not included in the room rate and costs 20 euros and is nothing special. As I mentioned before, this is a very strict country, in many ways and often for silly little things. I had problems persuading the breakfast staff to let me take a cup of coffee to my room or get a take away for some fruit. They drove me mad and the last two mornings I had breakfast in my room by buying nescafe, milk, croissants and fruit wherever I could find them.

I spent Friday morning winding down and chillaxing in my room and also beginning to work on the new project.  I had booked two tours, an afternoon tour of Lantau Island that day and a Harbour cruise on Saturday night. In between time I planned on doing some shopping.

The tour people came for me earlier than scheduled at around 13.15. I was to join other tourists on the same trip, some from my hotel and some from others. Thus the tour began with visiting various hotels before our little bus was full of tourists like me. It seems to me that most tourists in HK come from India, Philippines, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand which makes sense. There were some English people too but not one Spaniard did I see.

We set off for Lantau, the biggest island but actually a peninsula. It’s where the New Territories are (newly inhabited area next to the border of China) and is still quite sparsely populated.

There are 260 islands or so in HK but only about 4 are inhabited. Lantau, although the least populated (hundred thousand plus) is the biggest and I like this fact: it is half way between HK Island and Macau, the ex-Portuguese colony, just about 40 miles or so away and easily reachable on a fast speed boat.

The suspension bridge to get there is bigger than the one in San Francisco! The population will grow since the new airport was built there and you can already spy lots of ugly high rise buildings which will spoil the beautiful terrain full of mountains, beaches, cows and dogs. There is even a Disneyland now in Lantau – hate them tooL
Beautiful Lantau Island as seen from the Big Buddha
Regarding the beaches, we were told there are sharks everywhere on the coast and quite a few deaths caused each year. Recently they government has put anti shark nets in nearly all of them. That piece of information put me off any bathing in the sea at all hahaha.

Our destination was the famous big Buddha aka Tian Tan Buddha. It is a huge bronze statue of the Buddha Shayamuni which was built quite recently and located above the Po Lin Monastery. It was built by the monks who, by the way are decreasing – with just 15 or so of them left. They did it with the big money donations they get from tourists. However they are finding it difficult to recruit new monks these days as young men are not keen on becoming celibate or vegetarian. Who can blame them?   I was bowled over by it. 
The Big Buddha
For the record it is 34 metres high, weighs over 250 metric tons and was built from 202 bronze pieces.
By the Big Buddha
I noticed our guide using both the metric and imperial system and that seems to be normal in HK. I was told they also use the Chinese system.

We then visited the monastery which is in a pretty amazing location nature wise.

The Monastery 
We even got to see the monks praying, something I had seen years ago in Shanghai.

From Po Lin Monastery we made our way to the nearby village Ngong
The monks praying
Ping. Here we were supposed to see one of the last traditional fishing villages left in HK. It’s one of the last because of “over fishing”. We learned that only 1% of fish consumed in HK is local and that most of it comes from Japan and Indonesia. Even the fresh water is imported but from China.
One of the fishing boats at the village in Lantau
It is one of the few villages left with houses on stilts. It seems people still live in them. I was fascinated.

Houses with stilts still in existence in the fishing village in Lantau
Ngong Ping was a strange little place but worth visiting. It also had a market where the locals sold dried fish bowels or something similar or equally awful. A Singapore lady told me it was used to make stock. Well it stank and I was glad to get away.

We also saw another, much more modest, temple and a lot older too. Here we experienced placing joss sticks by the Buddhas and making a wish. It was a nice moment.

The temple in Ngong Ping in Lantau
That was the end of our afternoon tour to Lantua and now we had to catch the catamaran ferry back to HK Central.
The Catamaran ferry we took from Lantau back to HK

It was freezing on board, thanks to the air conditioning. That was a bit of a problem everywhere reallyL

I arrived at Pier 5 and walked the short distance to Pier 7 to catch the Star Ferry to Kowleen. I never tired of the views of both sides of the city. This time, instead of walking back to my hotel, I went to have dinner on my own and I chose the Italian place, Al Molo, right by the harbour where we had been with Genaker’s customers. I got a privileged seat outside overlooking the city buildings.
Dinner alone on Saturday night by the Harbour at Al Molo
 Also I would finally get to see the symphony of lights. It is supposed to be a light performance which is in the Guinness Book of Records but honestly it is nothing special. With a name like that, I was expecting a lot more.
Symphony of lights
Dinner was alone but it was fabulous and accompanied by not just one glass of Chardonnay but two! Later I managed to walk back to my hotel using google maps and a bit of my memory. It was all so busy and all so gaudy. It’s an amazing place to visit but I just could not live here. I was back in my little hotel room earlier than usual so chilled out, spoke to Eladio and also dealt with a few new Airbnb enquiries. In fact someone was coming that night from Portugal and I had to alert Lucy. Sofia, the guest, was coming especially to take photos of our house and videos as she is an avid “instagramer” I was amazed. We had two other guests that night, 2 brothers from Denmark coming for a drone competition!!!

Saturday was my last day in Hong Kong and I was determined to make the most of it. It started with home-bought breakfast in my room thanks to the kettle there. Saturday would be a day for shopping; after all I hadn’t done any since I’d been there and that’s what HK is supposed to be all about. Well advised, I went to visit Stanley Market on the other side of the island of HK; the south side.  A guide called Frances told me to take a bus nearby. It was a double decker one (English of course) where I used my octopus card and it took about an hour. There was lots to see on the way, including the beaches with the shark protector nets.

There are shark protection nets like this one on nearly all of the beaches in HK

Stanley market was nice as I had been told and not too big.

Stanley Market
It was drizzling again; I hardly saw the sun during my stay although it was only cold once and that was at Victoria Peak. But I didn’t need the sun to shop and shop I did. I bought a silver ring with a pearl and quite a few linen garments, the latter from a lovely “Filipino” woman. I also got some polo shirts for Eladio but nothing for the girls because I had no idea if they would like any of the clothes.

I also walked along the Stanley promenade and saw Murray House.

Stanley Bay from the Promenade
It was very quiet in Stanley in sharp contrast to the metropolis and I was grateful for that. When my bags were full, it was time to go and I caught the same bus back which seemed to hurtle around the bends as if it were a funfair attraction. I had to hang on for dear life hahaha.

The other market I wanted to see was The Ladies Market which I got to by metro, the Mong Kok station.

Mong Kok station
I was disappointed with the market which was full of “made in China” rubbish, the sort of stuff you see all over the world in cheap markets. Here I just bought 2 umbrellas and nothing more.
The Ladies market, a lot of rubbishy stuff really
I was hungry by then and decided on the spur of the moment to go to the Peninsula Hotel, the signature 5 star hotel built in Colonial times. I wanted to have their afternoon tea which I had been told was just like in London.
The flagship hotel in HK, The Peninsula Hotel
Google Maps got it wrong directing me to the 21A bus which actually went to the airport and I had to get off it after a couple of stops. Then I was completely lost in Hong Kong hahah, so just had to take a taxi.

Once at the Hotel I joined what looked like an endless queue for afternoon tea in the lobby while a live orchestra played music from above. It was majestic.
Afternoon Tea at The Peninsula Hotel (The Lobby)
It was also a vestige of Colonial times. I was interested to see for myself how much British influence there was in HK and if it remained. Well there is, certainly, but not a lot. One thing that stands out is that they drive on the left. All the names are in Chinese (sorry Cantonese for these parts) and in English. There are lots of English street names, Austin Road, Jordan Road, Salisbury Road, etc, but people don’t speak English well as a rule. HK now belongs officially to China but is allowed semi home rule for the next 50 years. They continue to have their own currency and trade and people borders with China.

It was past 4 in the afternoon when I had to attend to a conference call with my new Swedish customer and a Spanish colleague of his. They rang my Chinese prepaid number after a few attempts. Meanwhile, I finally got a table and using sign language, so as not to interrupt the conference call, I ordered full afternoon tea. This is what it looked like:
My mouth watering afternoon tea
And I ate it all, down to the last morsel. Feeling stuffed, I walked out of the luxurious hotel where Jaguars and Ferraris were parked and asked the doorman where the nearest metro station was hahaha. I found it and took the train for the last time back to Jordan station.
The metro
I got back to my hotel on time to drop my shopping and get a breather before venturing out for the last time. I was to go the harbour cruise I had booked on a supposedly old fashioned Chinese boat to see the symphony of lights. Well I got there just on time, after slightly losing my way, and was a little disappointed with the boat. It was Chinese but not the old type with the red sails.

The Chinese boat I went on for the Harbour cruise

The Chinese boat I would have liked to go on.
We were to see the symphony of lights I had already seen the night before and which I wasn’t that impressed with. Well on my last night it was very cloudy and you could hardly see the lights for the clouds. However, I still enjoyed my last vistas of the HK skyline from both sides and the breeze of the South China Sea on my face. It has been an amazing experience. The cruise dropped us an hour or so later at Central, so guess what? Yeah, I had to take the Star Ferry back to Kowleen Ocean terminal for the last time.

I was back at Kowleen by 9ish and this time did not get lost finding Nathan Street on my way to the hotel. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw an M+S on the way and in I went to buy fruit for my journey today. I also bought chocolate and quite a lot of it tooJ

Once back in my hotel, I finished packing, had a shower and washed my hair and went to bed as early as possible as I had to be up at 4.45 a.m. this morning.

Everything went smoothly and I am now writing mid-air looking forward to my stop in Dubai to stretch my legs.

So, guys and gals, I’ll leave it there now and try and get a few winks, aided by the glass of Reisling just given to me by a charming Icelandic air hostess who I confused with being from New Zealand – flags are similar and she’s in the wrong part of the world hahaha.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my tales of my trip to Hong Kong.  If you’ve been there you will be reminded of your time or times there and if you haven’t maybe I have inspired you to go.

So, my friends and readers, all the best until next time.
Cheers from “up in the air". Masha

PS You can see the full set of photos of my trip here