Looking for Gopher but finding a Legend: The Legend of the Seas

25 11 2010

I have to admit that it has been ages since I have embarked on a cruise, some three and a half decades to be precise – half a lifetime ago. In saying so, I have to also admit that while I went on a series of two cruises in the short space of a year, they had been ones that provided a very different experience from what the magnificent cruise liners we see on our shores today can provide. The two cruises had been ones that were taken on a shoestring, so to speak, as fare paying 2nd Class passengers onboard an old fashioned davit adorned cargo cum passenger ship of a 1950s vintage, the M.V. Kimanis. While that offered the relative comforts of a clean and what would have been a luxuriously outfitted cabin, the simple furnishings of the cabins would probably seem Spartan against the luxurious settings of today’s cruise liners.

The setting for my first two and only cruises to date.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines offered bloggers a peek through the portholes to the wonderful Legend of the Seas - a very different world from the old cargo ship I had taken a cruise on all those years ago.

The concept of luxury cruise liners wasn’t actually alien to this part of the world back then. The M.S. Rasa Sayang, probably the first to be based in Singapore, offered cruises that offered more than the one-armed bandit, duty-free beer, strolls around the wooden sheathed deck and the odd visit to the Bridge. That however, was out of reach to most back then, and it wasn’t until a few years later that I got my very first experience of a cruise liner – with the help of the very merry Captain Merrill Stubin and his jolly crew on the Pacific Princess, I was, together with my parents and sister, carried to exotic sounding ports such as Acapulco and Puerto Vallata on the west coast of North America – not physically, but virtually on the screen of my family’s first coloured television set. That was of course the then very popular sitcom, known to us as “The Love Boat”, which featured characters such as a favourite of mine Gopher, the Yeoman Purser.

The bow of the Legend of the Seas seen through the link bridge at the Cruise Centre.

Now, fast forward to 2010, and despite my early adventures on the high seas, the inspiration provided by Gopher, and having had many past encounters with ships large and small and one that literally flies, during the course of my career, it wasn’t until the generous offer of a half day tour of the Legend of the Seas made by Royal Caribbean Cruises to promote their “My Royal Caribbean Cruise Adventure” to bloggers, that I finally got not just to peek through the portholes of a cruise liner, but actually be brought around one.

The tour of the Legend of the Seas provided bloggers with a first hand view of the fabulous 70000 ton ship operated by Royal Caribbean Cruises.

Taking the first peek at the very luxurious Legend of the Seas.

The ship tour offered a rare opportunity to visit a luxurious cruise ship and cameras started clicking from the word go!

I guess I wasn't the only one awed by the experience ... Mr. Personality at the Urban Homme Challenge Aussie Pete was wide-eyed throughout the ship tour.

The walk through the ship started with a briefing at the Anchors Aweigh lounge on Deck 5 at which evening entertainment is held during cruises, moving through a shopping arcade Boutiques of Centrum, where we learnt that we could shop with the assurance that prices would not just be duty-free, but would come with a lowest price guarantee. Also on Deck 5, are the Shore Excursion Desk, and the Purser’s Desk, where I might, expecting to see a familiar face in Gopher, have been disappointed if not for the wonderful smile I got from the lady Gopher … uh I meant Purser.

The Anchors Aweigh Lounge on Deck 5.

Decoration inside Anchors Aweigh.

Welcoming the bloggers at Anchors Aweigh...

Decoration inside Anchors Aweigh.

Where I guess one can shop till one drops ... prices guaranteed too! The Boutiques of Centrum on Deck 5.

A cute offering at the Boutiques of Centrum.

The Shore Excursion Desk on Deck 5.

The Purser's Desk on Deck 5.

The Purser - not quite Gopher, but with an equally wonderful smile.

Snail mail gets delivered too!

Moving up to Deck 6, we were shown some of the smaller but no less luxurious cabins – the Ocean View Staterooms and the Interior Staterooms, but not before having a glance at the Photo Gallery and Shop, and being tempted by the offerings at the Ben & Jerry Cafe Latte-tudes.

Ben & Jerry's on Deck 6 at the Cafe Latte-tudes.

Cones waiting to be treated with a scoop of Ben & Jerry's ...

There is much more than Ice Cream that Cafe Latte-tudes offers the hungry passenger ....

The Ocean View Stateroom on Deck 6.

On Deck 7, we were greeted by the busts of the likes of Mark Twain and the Bard, William Shakespeare before coming to the little but delightfully furnished Library where a wide array of books awaits the passenger, and the Card Room where Mahjong can also be played. On the same Deck, we also saw the Superior Interior Staterooms, and the D1 Staterooms which were fitted with balconies – something that impressed our Urban Homme Challenge Mr Personality, Aussie Pete no end and probably helped convince him that a cruise was in order.

The bust of Mark Twain next to the Library on Deck 7.

A well-stocked shelf in the Library.

Generous windows illuminate the gorgeous Library.

Inside the Library.

The Card Room on Deck 7.

The cruises offered are very popular with organisations looking for incentive travel packages.

An Interior Stateroom on Deck 7.

The room with a view - the D1 Superior Balcony Stateroom on Deck 7 with a balcony that wowed many.

The Balcony of the D1 Superior Balcony Stateroom.

The reverse view of the D1 Superior Balcony Stateroom.

Bathrobes.

The view from Deck 7.

The view up ... to where the air is thin ...

The oxygen level did seem to get thinner the higher up we went and on Deck 8 as after the peek at the WIFI access area situated at the Crown and Anchor Study, and an internet cafe in the form of Royal Caribbean Online, our breath was taken away by the gorgeous suites on the deck which included the Grand Suite, the Owner’s Suite and the expansive Royal Suite, something that perhaps I would have otherwise only set eyes upon in a glossy magazine.

Crown and Anchor Study on Deck 8.

Royal Caribbean Online on Deck 8.

Decoration on the bulkhead at Royal Caribbean Online.

Beautiful natural light is provided by the skylight to the public areas on Deck 8.

The view through a blind on Deck 8.

Inside a Grand Suite on Deck 8.

The balcony of the Grand Suite.

The Owner's Suite on Deck 8.

The bed in the Owner's Suite.

Even the toilet paper used onboard reeks of luxury.

Towels.

The Royal Suite.

Ashtray / Cigarette disposal in the balcony of the Royal Suite.

On Deck 9, we had a quick look around the Windjammer Cafe, which had what seemed a sumptuous buffet spread that had my stomach growling. The very inviting looking Main Pool is located on the same deck, as well as the Solarium and Day Spa & Fitness Centre, which our group somehow missed, missing a show stealer that was put on by one of the bloggers.

The Windjammer Cafe on Deck 9.

Offerings at the Windjammer Buffet ...

The view on Deck 9.

Refreshments on Deck 9.

Up on Deck 10, we came to the Optix, an area for teens which had what seemed to be a very cool recording studio within the area. Situated in the same area is a Video Arcade as well as Adventure Ocean, a kids play area. We were then shown the open deck area where a row of deck chairs leads aft to the Legend of the Links, a mini-golf course and then to a Rock Climbing Wall located right at the aft end of the deck – awesome!

The view of the Main Pool on Deck 9 from Deck 10.

Optix is an area on Deck 10 for teens to chill out.

Adventure Ocean - a kids activity area.

View of the Main Pool from Deck 10.

View of deck chairs on Deck 9 from Deck 10.

Deck chairs on Deck 10.

Shuffle board on Deck 10.

Legend of the Links - Mini Golf!

The Rock Climbing Wall at the aft end of Deck 10.

Sadly for us, even though many of us harboured thoughts of finding a hiding place to stowaway, we made our way to our final stop, the Romeo & Juliet Dining Room on Deck 4, where we were treated to a wonderful three course meal. I had a prawn cocktail, the steamed Halibut served with vegetables and polenta, and a very sweet but light dessert. While all this was going on, one of the bloggers seemed to be studying the cruise brochure pretty hard – nipping out for a while to check the Casino Royale on the same deck out, perhaps hoping that it was opened so that he can get lucky, and perhaps return for a stay in one of those very luxurious suites on Deck 8 that not just he, but most of us were most impressed with…

Lunch at the Romeo & Juliet Dining Room.

He's definitely sold on a cruise on the Legend of the Seas!

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Gimme that Bling Thing!

24 08 2010

One of the delightful things about Hong Kong is that there are many surprises that await as one wanders through the maze of streets and back alleys. There is much to savour, from the sights and sounds presented by the colourful streets, to the sumptous smells wafting out of the many eating places, and also to the many tempting objects on offer at the glittering retail outlets all around. There is quite an interesting mix of just about anything one may desire in the many shops, from items of luxury to items that would appeal to the young and trendy. It is in the latter that Hong Kong does offer a host of surprises. Chic is not just everywhere and anywhere. It is in many ways a way of life in some of the more interesting streets of Hong Kong.

Shops that surprise are very much in evidence on the streets of Hong Kong.

A fashion outlet with a South Asian theme in Central being one.

One such area where there is a concentration of hip, is in Tsim Sha Tsui. Nestled in what appears to be a back lane off an area which had once been associated with the affordable fashion of the many factory outlets that once dominated the area, Granville Road, Granville Circuit offers just about anything the young and trendy could desire … and at prices are not far off from what one might have expected at the factory outlets that had once dominated the area.

A large concentration of trendy outlets and lots of Bling Bling ones can be found around Granville Road and Granville Circuit.


Scenes along Granville Road. The shops offer a little more than the lingerie shops that seem to dominate the road.

Walking along Granville Road, the countless lingerie shops as well as what is apparently one of Hong Kong’s most haunted buildings, may serve as a distraction, and one could be forgiven for thinking that by turning off the main street to Granville Circuit, one would be led to a seedy back alley. At first glance, it did resemble one of the back streets of London’s Soho. Walking down the street, the illuminations provided by the bright neon signs of an entertainment outlet that one might associate with London’s Soho, casts a glow on a row of shops to be discovered – there are many little boutiques and outlets for the young: clothes, shoes, accessories, and lots of bling things that have hip written all over them. That apparently I was to find, was only the tip of the iceberg. Much more of these were to be discovered in a nondescript and somewhat tired looking shopping arcade off Granville Circuit, the Rise Shopping Arcade. Walking through the somewhat run down entrance, one is seemingly transported into a time warp. The shopping arcade looking as if it would have been more at home in the 1960s and 1970s, than something that exists in the 21st Century. But the archaic looking entrance and stairwell had masked what had awaited … taking the escalator up to the three floors of small outlets, I was pleasantly surprised by the sheer quantity of small but very hip outlets, each independently run by the many young and aspiring designers that have populated the shopping arcade.



Set amongst the back lanes off Granville Road, Granville Circuit is a mecca of street fashion waiting to be discovered.

Granville Circuit offers a glimpse into the hip in fashion on the streets of Hong Kong ...

The lights of an entertainment outlet being reflected off a windscreen on Granville Circuit. Set amongst some rather dark alleyways that perhaps resemble the back streets of London

Shop fronts on Granville Circuit ...


More shops on Granville Circuit.

Geck Geck spent hours browsing through the shops along Granville Circuit and in the Rise Shopping Arcade.

The glitter on Granville Circuit is in a rather old shopping arcade named Rise.

Stepping into the Rise Shopping Arcade transports one back in time ...

For some of the younger and more trendy, Geck Geck being one, wandering around Granville Circuit and Rise, offered hours of wonderment (those who accompanied her would testify to that). Rise had also offered some of the more mature something as well – very bling bling silver pieces that caught the eye of not just Catherine, but also Pete, who wanted to get his wife a pair of earings (how sweet!). For me, not be terribly into bling, wandering around offered me an opportunity to satisfy my curiosity, and perhaps to discover what Hong Kong has in store for the young, chic and bling.

Even Pete was taken by some of the bling things on offer.

Another view inside Rise Shopping Arcade.


On the Rise, inside the Rise ...

The lights in the shops in the Rise and along Granville Circuit, I was told, remain on well into the wee hours of the morning ...


Note: this is a repost of my post on the omy My Hong Kong Travel Blog site. Please visit the My Hong Kong Travel Blog where you can vote for you favourite blogger and stand a chance to win a trip to Hong Kong. Details would be provided at the voting page.





And before we knew it, it was time to reluctantly say good-bye …

6 08 2010

Having had a great time in Hong Kong, courtesy of the Hong Kong Tourism Board, and omy.sg, and having made some wonderful friends over the previous three days, the final day came all too quickly, and it was time to bid the Fragrant Harbour goodbye. All I guess were busy in the morning trying to stuff whatever shopping they had done into their bags, and when the time came to say a sad goodbye to the fabulous hotel room at 9.30 am, most of us had made it down to the glorious lobby of the hotel with bulging bags, which we soon loaded into the bus that was to ferry us around that day. Once on the bus, the ever amusing Aussie Pete, gave us an account of his shopping exploits at Harbour City Shopping Mall, and how he had managed to fill his very large and what had been an almost empty suitcase, even getting a toy dog that his son had wanted (isn’t that sweet?). That I can tell you is no mean feat, having not had much time to do any form of serious shopping, with the activity packed programme that the HKTB had lined up for us over the previous three days!

Pete started our morning with the story of how he managed to fulfill the big shopping task his wife had set him.

Evidence of Pete's shopping exploits.

The day’s programme started with breakfast at a congee restaurant that is apparently on list of recommended local restaurants in Michelin Guide, Law Fu Kee on Des Voeux Road. The word is that the chef has been dutifully gotten up at 3 am everyday for the last 50 years to prepare his highly rated concoction of Thai rice, crushed preserved eggs and fish bones that many crave. I myself, not being fond of congee, opted for a plate of beef brisket noodles, after which I was ready for what was to prove a very interesting walk around SoHo and Sheung Wan with Mr Leon Suen, which I have mentioned in two previous posts.

The day's programme started with breakfast at Law Fu Kee on Des Voeux Road in Central.

Law Fu Kee is highly rated for its congee which has been prepared in the same way for 50 years.

After the walk which ended at the Man Mo Temple on Hollywood Road, it was time for lunch at the Yin Yang, a private kitchen with three tables housed in a historic building of 1930s vintage in the Wan Chai area, run by celebrity chef Margaret Xu. Xu had given up a job at an advertising firm to run the kitchen and an organic farm on which most of the fresh produce used in the kitchen comes from. The exclusive kitchen, known for its signature dish of “Yellow Earth” chicken which is roasted in an earthern oven designed by Xu herself, hosts up to 30 people and each sitting features a menu that is hand picked by Xu herself, which can cost around HKD 700 per person. I guess this and the sauce making session conducted by Xu herself that followed deserves another post and that I guess is what I would just do.

Yin Yang is a private kitchen housed in a historic building on Ship Street.

The historic building dates back to the 1930s.

Yin Yang's signature dish: "Yellow Earth" Chicken

The specially designed oven that the "Yellow Earth" chicken is roasted in.

We had a Blue Girl at the table.

Celebrity chef Margaret Xu later conducted a sauce making session for some of the bloggers.

Margaret's sauce making demonstration was very intently followed by the bloggers who attended the session.

Margaret Xu demonstrated how to turn this mixture of green chillies, spring onions, ginger and oil from this ....

... to this tangy tasting pesto like paste ...

... which Pete seemed to like ...

We each had a bottle to take home with us.

When the session came to an end, we had a chance to taste the tangy green chilli sauce that Margaret had shown us how to make, which had perhaps the consistency of pesto, of which Pete seemed to enjoy the most. We were each given a bottle of the green sauce which Catherine Ling of Camemberu fame mentioned goes well with Chicken Rice. With that, it was almost time for a sad goodbye to what had been a really enjoyable trip, made better by the company of the friends we had all made on the trip, including the members of the HKTB team, the omy team, and my fellow bloggers, as well as that of the excellent hospitality we all had been shown by the HKTB. After a quick look around the area, during which I had a quick glance at the Hung Shing temple on Queen’s Road East, which was constructed in 1847 and at the time of its construction was by the sea, it was time to board the bus for the airport and say goodbye to some of those who had opted to stay behind. With that, what certainly had been one of the most enjoyable trips I have made, came to an end.

A last look around: Hung Shing Temple (1847) on Queen's Road East.

An annex to the Hung Shing temple, a Kwan Yum temple was added in 1867.

Queen's Road East in Wan Chai.

Darren completing formalities, before we said goodbye ...

A lasting last impression of Hong Kong ... a city that reaches out for the skies in many ways.

Time to say goodbye.

All settled for the final journey to the airport.


Note: this is a repost of my post on the omy My Hong Kong Travel Blog site. Please visit the My Hong Kong Travel Blog where you can vote for you favourite blogger and stand a chance to win a trip to Hong Kong. Details would be provided at the voting page.





Day 3 in Hong Kong and finally able to get a feel of the gorgeous hotel room

29 07 2010

Having had two fully packed days of excitement that the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) had planned, the ten bloggers were provided with an opportunity to sleep in on Day 3. We were all grateful for it, having caught very little sleep amidst the excitement the night prior to the trip. And I suppose for the members of the two teams preparing for the much anticipated bath tub race the next day, it was a time to get some needed rest. With my body clock waking me up at a time when I would usually wake putting paid to an hope I had to sleep in, what was left for me to do was to savour the gorgeous room that the HKTB had arranged in one of the 66 “Coolest New Hotels in the World” as the Condé Nast Traveller Hot List for 2010 would have it. Indeed, The Mira does qualify as super cool, a feeling you get just stepping into the lobby. Based on the information kit provided by the hotel, the Mira has a total of 492 guest rooms and 56 suites and specialty suites, the rooms are decorated in one of three vibrant themes: Red, Green and Silver, furnished with handpicked fabrics and materials and feature the Egg Chair by Arne Jacobsen, a 40-inch LCD TV, 500GB Sony Personal Computer / Entertainment Centre, Bose in-room soundscapes, a “My Mobile” Nokia phone service (which assists guests to connect anywhere, anytime, inside or outside of the hotel) and complimentary high-speed WiFi and wired Internet.

The Mira is a stylish boutique hotel at the corner of Nathan Road and Kimberly Road in Tsim Sha Tsui which opened in 2009.

The Mira is a stylish boutique hotel at the corner of Nathan Road and Kimberly Road in Tsim Sha Tsui which opened in 2009 (all images of the Mira are courtesy of the hotel).

The three coloured themes that the rooms are designed in: Red, Green and Silver.

The three coloured themes that the rooms are designed in: Red, Green and Silver.

Indeed, the room was really cool, and having already used the Bose sound dock the previous two nights, I set out to discover what else was cool about the LCD TV and the Sony Personal Computer. What was a really nice touch was just this, combined with the wireless keyboard, one could do just about anything on the internet from the comfort of the luxurious bed, or from the red Jacobsen Egg Chair in the red themed room that I was in. Super cool!

The PC and Wireless Keyboard.

The PC and Wireless Keyboard.

Room One, a lounge which is seamlessly woven into the hotel's lobby.

Room One, a lounge which is seamlessly woven into the hotel's lobby.

Yamm: an international buffet restaurant.

Yamm: an international buffet restaurant.

The day’s activities started at 11 with brunch, and I guess I was so engrossed with what I had at my disposal in the room, that I had almost forgotten about the time. Brunch was at a café prior to making our way to the promenade where the much anticipated bath tub race was to be held. If there was tension between members of the two rival teams at brunch, it was not really evident. Darren seemed intent on fuelling up with food, while Pete was all cool and smiling. Violet was her usual talkative self and Geck Geck was a picture of cool composure. There was some evidence of paparazzi gathered outside the café, but that did not seem to affect our stars.

Darren was intent on fuelling up before the race.

Darren was intent on fuelling up before the race.

Geck Geck was cool and composed, as was Aussie Pete.

Geck Geck was cool and composed, as was Aussie Pete.

Were these paparazzi gathered outside the cafe?

Were these paparazzi gathered outside the cafe?

Pre-race tension ... Darren giving Pete the cold hard stare!

Pre-race tension ... Darren giving Pete the cold hard stare!

By the time we got down to the promenade, a large crowd had already gathered and although Pete imagined (or hoped) that the screams of excitement were directed at him (see my previous post on the bath tub race), the largely teenage crowd had in fact come to see the stars from the Korean entertainment network KBS. We were to discover that the four had almost missed the boat or rather, bath tub … as we were a little late for registration. Well, register they did, and it was fortunate that they were able to, as we would have certainly missed out on the excitement of Pete’s and Geck Geck’s big splash into the harbour.

Were those Pete's fans?

Were those Pete's fans?

Pete's turn now!

Pete's turn now!

We're gonna win it says Pete!

We're gonna win it says Pete!

Go Singapore!

Go Singapore!

The reporter was on hand to interview Pete for what was to be his famous victory which somehow became a dip in the harbour.

The reporter was on hand to interview Pete for what was to be his famous victory which somehow became a dip in the harbour.

The crowd excitedly rose to catch a glimpse of Pete's famous dip.

The crowd excitedly rose to catch a glimpse of Pete's famous dip.

Darren and Violet came in second.

Darren and Violet came in second.

We had to leave behind the excitement and electric atmosphere of the Dragon Boat races that were going on, but not before catching a glimpse of the KBS Dream Team receiving an award, and the presentation ceremony for the Pink Spartans a team of breast cancer survivors and supporters from Singapore who won the Pink Dragon Boat Racing Breast Cancer Survivor Invitation Race.

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The crowd had gathered to catch a glimpse of the KBS Dream Team which included members of U-KISS.

The crowd had gathered to catch a glimpse of the KBS Dream Team which included members of U-KISS.

The Pink Spartans.

The Pink Spartans.

Saying goodbye to the races.

Saying goodbye to the races.

It was time for some rest and relaxation at the hotel, and then for me, a walk around town. I somehow found myself taking the Star Ferry to Central and back just for the fun of it, I guess something I would devote another post to. I made it just in time to catch a quick shower and dress up for dinner, which was at the Hong Kong Old Restaurant on the fourth level of the Miramar Shopping Centre, just across Kimberly Road from the hotel. The popular restaurant which serves Shanghainese cuisine and also features dishes from Yang Zhou and Szechuan we were told was named in a way to discretely draw reference to the “old money” in Hong Kong, a reference to the wealthy Shanghainese that had settled in the territory.

The Hong Kong Old Restaurant in the Miramar Shopping Centre.

The Hong Kong Old Restaurant in the Miramar Shopping Centre.

Entering the restaurant.

Entering the restaurant.

The menu.

The menu.

Dinner was an interesting affair, perhaps with the mood lightened by a loosening of tongues brought about by the familiarity of having been together for three days, some Tsingtao and perhaps due to the face that it was our last evening as a group, most choosing to return as scheduled the following day. The food wasn’t quite the usual Shanghainese fare that I had previously been used to, with a variety of very interesting concoctions which included pig trotters that had been soaked in vinegar prior to cooking, in typical Shanghainese fashion we were told. The highlight I guess most would say was dessert, ice cream that had been fried – simply delicious! After dinner, there was still time to walk through the emptying streets, which some of us did, ending up around the Granville Road area – which I would again attempt to cover in another post. After that, it was our last night to savour the interestingly cool hotel room, before we say goodbye to what had up to that point been an exhilarating three days in the Fragrant Harbour.

The Tsingtao may have helped with the loosening of tongues ...

The Tsingtao may have helped with the loosening of tongues ...

Umm ... a few of us couldn't resist more of the beer ...

Umm ... a few of us couldn't resist more of the beer ...

The excellent food was the highlight.

The excellent food was the highlight.

An egg dish...

An egg dish...

I even tried the pigs trotters ... something which I usually wouldn't even look at.

I even tried the pigs trotters ... something which I usually wouldn't even look at.

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Point, point, shoot, shoot ...

Point, point, shoot, shoot ...

mmm!

mmm!

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More point, point, shoot, shoot

More point, point, shoot, shoot

Fish!

Fish!

Objects of desire!

Objects of desire!

Someone had seconds ...

Someone had seconds ...

The super model had fun as well!

The super model had fun as well!


Note: this is a repost of my post on the omy My Hong Kong Travel Blog site. Please visit the My Hong Kong Travel Blog where you can vote for you favourite blogger and stand a chance to win a trip to Hong Kong. Details would be provided at the voting page.





It’s hard to remain dry with a model in the tub!

27 07 2010

I guess that was what Pete found out, much to the dismay of his cheering fans ashore in Sunday’s Media Bath Tub Race that was held at Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong, part of the weekend’s highlight, the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival. The exciting race, which saw the team from the Philippines winning, also featured two teams representing omy.sg, one with Pete and model Ang Geck Geck, and the other with Darren and Violet, who eventually came in a close second to the team from the Philippines.

Screaming girls cheering for Aussie Pete?

Not cheering for Pete as Pete might have imagined. A face amongst the thousands of fans who had gathered to scream at the sight of the KBS dream team.

There were literally thousands of screaming fans gathered for the race, and as Pete would have it, they would have been rooting for him in the race. Having made all the necessary preparations in the run up to the race, the two teams from omy.sg were expected to do fairly well, and based on the strategies that were discussed by the repective teams, it seemed like the teams had everything worked out.

The KBS dream team included members of boyband U-KISS with the very popular Alexander.

The race started with the blast of a horn, and from the vantage point of the media cordon amongst the very large numbers that had turned out, as it turned out, to greet the Korean Dream team from the KBS network which included U-KISS with the popular Alexander, who were taking part in an international media networks race (and not disappointingly for Pete, Pete and Geck Geck – although I must say that both have got star qualities). As the race progressed, the clumsily fashioned “bathtubs” laboured their way forward to the almighty efforts of the teams of two that seemed to want to have their bathtubs capsize with every stroke of the paddle, and midway through the race, spectators got more than what they had bargained for as with a big stroke of the paddle, Pete had put his weight to the starboard side and while not as graceful as the dolphins in Ocean Park, the sight of Pete and Geck Geck falling into the depths of the Fragrant Harbour appeared to be graceful and choreographed (hmm, maybe it was staged). The incident was greeted not in stunned silence, but with a big roar from the crowd … and any fears for the safety of the two was quickly proved to be unfounded by the quick appearance of the rescue parties (maybe it was the pretty damsel in distress that they were all concerned with).

The moment it happened, it did appear to have been a carefully choreographed move.

Into the depths of the Fragrant Harbour went Pete and the model.

Hey, wait a minute ... they seem to be having fun!

Rescuers were quickly on the scene ... perhaps more concerned with the pretty model.

The rescue.

I guess it was certainly a blast for the participants in the race, as it was for the fans who caught a glimpse of their KBS heroes, and for us bloggers to have had a chance to soak in the atmosphere of a dragon boating event in the very home of Dragon Boat racing as we know it today. The race also featured teams made up of breast cancer survivors and their supporters in which a team from Singapore, the Pink Spartans won.

Darren and Violet paddled their way to second place.

The soaking wet pair after being rescued from their bathtub adventures.

Even the buoys seemed to give Pete and Geck Geck a perfect 10!


Note: this is a repost of my post on the omy My Hong Kong Travel Blog site. Please visit the My Hong Kong Travel Blog where you can vote for you favourite blogger and stand a chance to win a trip to Hong Kong. Details would be provided at the voting page.





Day 1 in Hong Kong and it looks like Pete and Geck Geck got a head start on Darren and Violet!

24 07 2010

Arriving in Hong Kong after what was for me an eventful preparation for the much anticipated trip to Hong Kong, which included having the drama of not being able to find my passport and warnings on the weather in the wake of Typhoon Chanthu which made landfall in Guangdong on the previous day, it was nice to first be greeted with sunny skies instead of the wet and windy weather I had anticipated, and then by the gorgeous hotel room in the Mira Hotel where we are being put up in.

The gorgeous room in the Mira Hotel that I am staying in.

The gorgeous room in the Mira Hotel that I am staying in.

For the few of us who had decided to follow on the optional programme put up for us by the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB), the first day started with afternoon tea at the hotel, followed by a visit to the opening ceremony of the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival and the accompanying Cross-over concert, and culminated in the highlight of the day – a sumptous feast at the charming busy suzie Japanese restuarant.

The day culminated in dinner at busy suzie, a Robatayaki restaurant in Tsim Sha Tsui.

The day culminated in dinner at busy suzie, a Robatayaki restaurant in Tsim Sha Tsui.

In getting to the opening ceremony, we took a detour to the Avenue of the Stars, where the very amusing Aussie Pete, the author of the best “What the Hell” blog category at the 2010 Singapore Blog Awards, managed to not only survey the route for Sunday’s bathtub race in which he is partnering the petite Geck Geck, the author of the best Modelling blog who was also with us, but also get his picture taken with Jackie Chan! Peter even got his hands on the paddle during the day’s events – Geck Geck too, which will become apparent further on in this post. I guess that you can say now that Pete and Geck Geck hold an unfair advantage over the other competitors – and besides, with their relative sizes, the bathtub would be loaded in a way it might actually plane (as in a planing boat)!

Aussie Pete got his picture with Jackie along the Avenue of the Stars.

Aussie Pete got his picture with Jackie along the Avenue of the Stars.

The opening ceremony and concert was graced by the appearance of Sherman Chung, a popular cantopop artiste and U-Kiss – a Korean boyband which, one the evidence of the many screaming fans who had come, popular with teenage girls in Hong Kong – not surprising I suppose, as amongst the members of U-Kiss, is the (I guess some would consider) cute Alexander who apparently has a Hong Kong father and a Korean mother and also speaks Cantonese.

The Hong King Dragon Boat carnival is officially opened.

The Hong Kong Dragon Boat carnival is officially opened.

Drum display at the official opening of the Hong Kong Dragon Boat carnival.

Drum display at the official opening of the Hong Kong Dragon Boat carnival.

Sherman Chung made an apperance.

Sherman Chung made an apperance.

But the highlight for the many gathered seemed to be the appearance of Alexander of Korean boyband U-KISS.

But the highlight for the many gathered seemed to be the appearance of Alexander of Korean boyband U-KISS.

which was greeted by the screams of the adoring teenage crowd that had gathered.

which was greeted by the screams of the adoring teenage crowd that had gathered.

and more screams!

and more screams!

Sherman was not without her fans though!

Sherman was not without her fans though!

Alexander charmed the crowd with his fluent Cantonese.

Alexander charmed the crowd with his fluent Cantonese.

Members of U-KISS on stage.

Members of U-KISS on stage.

U-KISS on stage.

U-KISS on stage.

Fans of U-KISS were out in full force.

Fans of U-KISS were out in full force.

Leaving the concert and with it the blast of great music and screaming girls which had my ears ringing for a while, we then made our way on foot through the busy streets of Tsim Sha Tsui towards busy suzie’s – but not before Pete was grateful to be finally able to find what he had been looking for several hours earlier.

Aussie Pete's saviour!

Aussie Pete's saviour!

The restaurant is located at former lighthouse building which is now part of the very charming 1881 Heritage complex, a mix of Victorian styled buildings which once were used as the Marine Police headquarters, a lighhouse and a fire-station. The complex was opened last year and also features a very exclusive boutique hotel, housed in Hulett House, which we were informed, had only six lavish suites and is booked up to as far ahead as November.

Hulett House in the 1881 Heritage complex is now an exclusive boutique hotel.

Hulett House in the 1881 Heritage complex is now an exclusive boutique hotel.

The former Kowloon Fire Station.

The former Kowloon Fire Station.

The time ball of the former lighthouse.

The time ball of the former lighthouse.

busy suzie, a robatayaki restaurant named after an intended play on the word “Lazy Susan” to reflect the unique style of serving food robata style in which wooden paddles are used by the chefs seated in front of diners to pass the dishes which are prepared on the spot to them. This practice is said to have originated in the simple beach resturants of Sendai in northern Japan where Robatayaki traces its origins to, where fishermen cooked their catch over an open fire with only a boat oar to use. The layout of the restaurant is unique in itself, being arranged in a circular fashion and features a curved lounge bar and seating arrangements which is set in a modern contemporary fashion that is in keeping with the restaurant’s intended theme of old cusine served fusion style.

busy suzie features a unique circular layout.

busy suzie features a unique circular layout.

and wonderful decor!

and wonderful decor!

Pete got to practice with the paddle.

Pete got to practice with the paddle.

I must say the overall dining experience was really something to remember. We were provided with a superb selection of food exquisitely prepared by chef Iwagami Yoshiaki, which certainly went down very smoothly in the company of the HKTB’s representatives, the omy representatives and my fellow bloggers. With this it was back to the very nice hotel room, a soak in the bath and some long awaited rest to recharge for a second day packed with some more exciting events lined up for us by the HKTB.

A Robata chef at work.

A Robata chef at work.

Food is flown in fresh everyday ...

Food is flown in fresh everyday ...

Chef Iwagami San at work.

Chef Iwagami San at work.

Iwagami San preparing a Kinky Fish.

Iwagami San preparing a Kinky Fish.

Iwagami San.

Iwagami San.

Hands on the paddle.

Hands on the paddle.

A selection of the food as it was served:

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And finally, if you are ever at busy suzie's, don't forget a visit to this important place ...

And finally, if you are ever at busy suzie's, don't forget a visit to this important place ...


Note: this is a repost of my post on the omy My Hong Kong Travel Blog site. Please visit the My Hong Kong Travel Blog where you can vote for you favourite blogger and stand a chance to win a trip to Hong Kong. Details would be provided at the voting page.