This summer I went on a research vessel that crossed the Indian Ocean for 5 weeks. We left from Perth in June and ended up in Colombo in July. Before all of that however, I had to make my way from London to Perth and we had a few days stop-over in Hong Kong (pt 1 of 4) and later a few days in Australia (pt 2 of 4). Here are some pictures and thoughts about my few days in Hong Kong. I never had time to put this up before I sailed out of Australia, but here it is, 6 weeks late.
When I was writing this, I was sitting in a Hong Kong flat with an eagle's eye view over the rolling green mountains and the sea. It’s about 3am in the morning and I am battling my jetlag. As a circadian biologist, I know that looking at a bright screen when trying to sleep is the worst thing you can do whilst trying to get sleepy. Sometimes you can’t help it though.
David (my boss and good friend) and I are on our way to Perth, Australia where we will board the German research vessel FS Sonne. The ship will be loaded to the brim with biologists and geologists hoping to reveal some of the secrets of the Indian Ocean. However, before we started on this adventure, we had a 2 night stop-over in Hong Kong.
The adventure started with a 3-hour delayed fight from Heathrow to HK. I am seriously bad luck for fellow passengers, as most of my flights are delayed. I have started writing down all the delays so I can do statistics on which flight, how long and why it was delayed so I can make more informed choices about the airlines I choose in the future (well, sometimes you don’t have a choice). For once it didn’t really matter, as I was so wound up and stressed after trying to wrap everything before leaving for 2 months. So I was quite happy just to sit and wait.
The flight to HK is about 12 hours (+2.5 hours on the plane prior to take off in this instance). I usually think of flying as quite mundane and like a boring “commute”. However, I have never flown a night flight before, and never a long haul flight so I was unexpectedly childishly excited about it. I barely slept on the flight, something I partly (or maybe fully) blame on my fellow passengers in front of me, which thought it would be great to shout loudly in Cantonese to their friends 4 rows behind us at fairly regular intervals from 2 am-5 am.
Sleep or no sleep, David and I made it to Hong Kong where we were met by fellow colleague Professor Andrew Miller at the airport. I was lucky enough to meet Andrew in London when he came in late 2016 as he is really a great guy. Andrew has a reputation for taking good care of guests with extravagant programs, involving a lot of alcohol. I mean, how often do you get picked up at the airport and then get served champagne in the car? My sister has something to live up to when she picks me up at Oslo Airport with her half-finished iced tea bottles.
We stayed with Andrew at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) campus where he has his lab. He has a great flat with absolutely magnificent views over the rolling hills and the sea from the balcony. I didn’t expect HK to be this green and lush.
After a quick shower and a change (and another glass of bubbles), we grabbed a cab and went downtown. We had been invited to the Foreign Correspondence Club (FCC) for dinner and drinks by one of Miller's friends, a real character with lots of great stories. We hit it off straight away when he told me about his adventures in Norway in the early 90s. I must say I am impressed with any Singaporean Chinese who travels to Norway for the first time, to meet up with a business partner and client, and then ends up having to cross country skiing for 20 km (although being new to skiing which can be difficult if you have never done it before) to a client's cabin. Cabins and skiing is something many Norwegians pride themselves on and a foreigner that likes both is considered to be a match made in heaven. Although I do not think he went back to that cabin, they did business for many years after.
The Foreign Correspondence Club was founded in 1943 in Chongqing in Japanese-occupied China. The club then moved to Nanjing as the struggle between Chiang Kai-Shek and Mao escalated, and later to Shanghai. In 1949 it was again relocated to Hong Kong. The FCC has been an important hub for war time journalists, especially during World War II and even more so during the Vietnam war. It was very fun and interesting to get to visit such a historic place plastered with iconic photos, lonely old white journalists in the dark corners and young Chinese business men and women.
We had a really nice evening with a bit too much to drink. As the FCC is a club for diplomats, business and media, we met a lot of colourful people, ranging from fellow UCL alumni to the vice consul from Canada. Quite the opposite of the dingy London pub clientele we usually frequent.
The vibe was really good and I think it was about midnight by the time we left. Now, we didn’t go home, but up Victoria peak to view HK by night as it was a relatively clear night. To be frank, I have very little recollection of what we did due to my overconsumption of espresso martinis, but I have vague memories that we walked around in a closed shopping centre for some reason. I also took a lot of photos without a tripod in the dark, which turned out very, very blurry. I do remember lots of laughing and a beautiful view. We had a great night.
The next day was supposed to be our sightseeing day at least in the morning. However, as we were hung over from the night before and jetlagged as hell, David and I decided to take it easy and take a humid walk around campus instead of making it down to the city. Later in the afternoon we went to a talk by one Andrew Miller’s PhD students followed by dinner at the HK Yacht Club with some of Miller's absolutely lovely lab members.
I had a really great time in HK. I am sad I didn’t get to see much of down town and take more pictures. On the other hand, I got to see the inside of a historic club most tourist and travellers will never get into. I wish we had stayed for a few more days, but flights to Perth were already booked and we had to be on our way.
Thanks a lot for reading,