Thursday, May 26, 1955
I MOVED!! I was up at 8:30 and at 9:30 I sent all my luggage down to Gene’s except for one suitcase which I took with me. I took a ferry to Victoria and then a taxi, arriving at 10:30 at…… REPULSE BAY HOTEL!!! You will remember that I mentioned last Saturday that, after seeing Frank Ballachey’s suite at this hotel, I decided that “this was for me”. As a matter of fact, I even reserved Frank’s suite for myself on Saturday for Thursday and Friday. So, here I was.
The suite I had (not a room, mind you, but a suite!) cost $75.00 H.K. per day (about $12.50 U.S.). I shall now do my best to describe my $12.50 per day suite:
I entered the suite through TWO huge doors and found myself in the entrance hall. To my right was a lighted closet that would easily hold 10 or 12 persons (adults). To my left was my dressing room! Yes, I actually had a separate room just to dress in. It was a huge room in itself (about as big as my whole room at the Hotel de la Poste in Phnom Penh!). At the end of the dressing room there was a storage space for clothes and luggage. So much storage space the I’m sure ER II would have lots of room to spare! Back to the entrance hall. I then went through a curtained door into the bedroom. My goodness, I thought I must be in the main ballroom or something! Now, I’m not very good at guessing measurements but I swear that this room was about 30 feet square (approximately 900 sq. ft!). The bedroom floor was covered with a red and gold rug and there were two chandeliers in the ceiling. To my left as I entered the bedroom there was a telephone table with a telephone on it (naturally). Beyond the telephone table was an easy chair. To might right there was a table with four chairs around it. On the right-hand side of the hall there were two chests of drawers with three big drawers in each. On top of one of these chests of drawers was a silver thermos of ice water. The room was filled practically to overflowing with ashtrays. I had great fun flitting from one ashtray to another dropping an ash here and another ash there. I think the room boy thought me slightly mad. I really must admit I felt a bit eccentric. I even went to the extent o fearing my dark glasses while inside the hotel!! Also, the room was full of lamps. Along the left-hand wall were two big Hollywood beds set in a modern headboard affair with built-in lights and drawers, cupboards and bookshelves, etc. The beds were covered in cream-coloured brocaded bed-spreads. In the left-hand corner of the opposite side of the room there was a door with built-in cupboards and a full-length mirror. This door led into the bathroom. I investigated.
WELL FOR PITY’S SAKE!!! This was the limit!! The entire bathroom was done in PINK!!! There was a pink wash-basin with a medicine chest above it. There was a pink toilet that just sort of hissed snakily at you when you operated it (quite a change from the roar of Niagara that accompanies the chain-pulling in Phnom Penh!). Just beside the toilet and above the T.P compartment there was a built-in pink ashtray. Above the toilet there was a big window with the VIEW I shall mention later. And then there was my pink bathtub!! I’ve kept this to the last because this bathtub was really quite the production number. It was huge. So huge, in fact, that I rather got the impression that it must be an inlet of Repulse Bay and might very well be affected by high and low tide! But the most amazing thing about this pink bathtub was where the faucet should have been (if you can follow that). Instead of a faucet there was a PINK FISH that spewed steamy hot water from its mouth!!! I’m not fooling! There really was! If goat’s milk had issued forth from that pink fish I don’t think it would have alarmed me one little bit! Needless to say, I made good use of my pink fish during my two-day luxury splurge at this swank hotel The thing fascinated me!!!
Back in the bedroom again, I discovered a separate cupboard just for shoes and also another easy chair. Then there was my sitting-room. It was on the same side of the suite as the pink bathroom. I entered the sitting-room through a huge archway with rich drapes hanging down from a lattice-work affair. Separating the bedroom from the sitting-room was a built-in vanity table with a mirror that lighted up when you opened the lid. On the left-hand wall of the dressing room was a very modern built-in desk, the top of which extended behind two built-in easy chairs, one on each side of the desk. On the right-hand wall of the room was a built-in sofa with cupboards and things on either side. Say. It seems that everything is “built-in” in my suite doesn’t it? Well, I must admit, everything was! One of the most modern rooms I’ve ever seen. In front of the sofa was an egg-shaped coffee table. I might mention here that all table tops, desk tops, head-boards, etc., were covered in sheet glass. The opposite wall of the sitting-room consisted of windows with bookcases (built-in, of course) beneath them. On the window sill were some very lovely cactus plants and, in each corner window, there was a huge air-conditioner. Get that, please, it took two air-conditioners to cool the room (pardon me – suite) it was so huge. Also, there were lamps and more ashtrays all over the place.
Let me now do my best to describe my VIEW!! Directly below my windows there was a tropical garden with palm trees, flame trees (bright orange), brilliant flowers and birds. Indeed, it was so quiet at Repulse Bay that all I could hear was the birds. Repulse Bay is nestled in a sort of “U” formed by the surrounding mountains. As I stood in my window looking out I could see an old castle built on the hill to the right. Evidently, this castle is a replica of Edinburgh Castle built by an eccentric Chinaman. I think the world needs more eccentric Chinamen. It certainly was a magnificent sight to see!! To the left, the green mountains curved down to the sea. Straight ahead, beyond the garden and the beach, was the bay itself. The water was turquoise in colour near the shore, changing into green and then deep blue farther out. As far as I could see, right to the horizon, there were mountainous islands rising out of the sea. And all day long could be seen fishing junks with their wonderful old patched sails silhouetted against the horizon. I don’t think I had better go on too long this way or I’ll surely be taking the next plane back to Hong Kong!
I unpacked and ordered orange juice, toast and coffee. I had scarcely settled onto the sofa when my order arrived! When the boy came into the room I could smell the aroma of freshly percolated coffee and I decided that I was LIVING once again after so long in the “bush”. Everything was served on a great heavy silver tray. The hot toast was enclosed in a silver steamer and there was a great dish of butter “rosebuds”. The boy poured my coffee from a great silver pot, added sugar and then plopped a big blog of whipped cream into it. All I had to do was drink it. I was just a little confused when I unfolded my linen napkin. I thought it must surely be a table cloth!
After breakfast I washed up. I never saw the towel I used again! It’s a fact. If I only used a towel once, it would mysteriously disappear and be replaced by a fresh one!
Well, to get on with the day. I loafed around until noon, just drinking in my VIEW and luxuriating in the luxury of my luxurious room (wow!). Then I walked down to the beach and, much to my surprise and pleasure, found the Repulse Bay branch of the Dairy Farm! It was a wonderful little place, set a little back from the beach and all surrounded by palm trees and bright flowers. I decided to lunch on the sun deck which I reached by climbing a wonderful spiral staircase that wound its way lazily up through the branches of a tree that grew just beside the staircase. I had a hamburger and coffee and a glass of milk to boot. I wandered around a bit after lunch and then retired (or should I say “repaired, like in a book I read once) to my sitting room and read until 3 o’clock.
I decided to go for a swim but was just a bit concerned about what sort of reaction my bikini bathing suit would cause in a British Colony. Therefore, I purchased a very conservative pair of bathing trunks and trotted off into the surf. I’ve never seen such water!! As I mentioned in last Saturday’s instalment, the water was very salty, turquoise green and crystal clear. I imagine the bottom was sand, but if someone had told me it was velvet I would have believed him! The most amazing thing about this water was the fact that when you plunged your hand down into it, and the bubbles had subsided, you could see little drops of water shooting up in the air – like soda water!
After swimming for a while, I returned to the beach and just sat there soaking up the wonderful sun and a good sun-burn. Then I met Frank and Lou.
Now I’ve always been told never to speak to strangers, but these two Petty Officers in the British Navy (Frank and Lou by name) had evidently never heard this sage advice, so they invited me over to their section of the beach and insisted on my joining them in a rum and coke because, they said, I “looked lonely sitting there all by myself”. The funny thing about all this was that they thought I was an American and Lou was planning to “go out” to the wilds of CANADA within a year or so to settle down. So they wanted to know if knew anything about Canada!!!
Needless to say, Lou went practically balmy when I introduced myself as a Canadian. He plans to go to Vancouver (another balmy spell ensued when I told him Vancouver was my birthplace) and work as a radio technician (his job in the British Navy). Frank and Lou were stationed at H.M. S. Tamar base (or whatever the Navy calls it) in Hong Kong and invited me down to their mess that evening. They just wouldn’t take “no” for an answer, especially from a fellow Commonwealther, so I promised to meet them at H.M.S Tamar that evening at nine.
We hadn’t been sitting on the beach for very long when an old American couple toddled by and were lured by Frank and Lou to join us for a rum and coke. They were a wonderful old couple on a world tour. They came from New York state and had, at one point in their travels, taken in the glorious sights of Ottawa, Canada – “near Montreal”. Frank took the male half of this globe-trotting duo down to the water for a swimming lesson while Lou tried to convince his wife that she and her husband should join them that evening in their mess. I think they would have come, too, if not for a previous engagement!! Not much later an American sailor was hailed into our happy group and this rather internationally-flavoured party continued until nearly 6 o’clock. When we finally went our separate ways, I was gloriously burned (like a tomato) from sitting out in the sun all afternoon, but feeling fit as a fiddle as a result of the fresh air and salt water.
I went back to my suite and put the pink fish into action and was soon soaking in steamy hot water and then drying myself in snowy white towels (big as bed sheets). I dressed and had dinner at the hotel dining room. Some of the tables were set out on a terrace overlooking the garden and bay, so I chose to sit there. The dinner was excellent. I started with with a shrimp cocktail that turned up in a little crystal bowl, around which was packed crushed ice inside another little silver bowl, which was inside a larger silver bowl which sat upon a little lace doily, which was on a great china plate. Whew!! The arrival of the sauce for the shrimp gave me a bit of a turn. I thought I was seeing things. The waiter materialized bearing a great silver tray. On either end of the tray there was a silver “gravy boat” with a great silver ladle in each. And in the centre of the silver tray was a little red chair upo which sat a stuffed lobster with a little white crown on his head and Neptune’s spear clutched in his right claw!!
I ordered breaded veal cutlets and also a side dish of tomatoes. Now in Indochina you have to order your meat, potatoes, vegetables, etc., all separately and they all arrive on separate plates. In Hong Kong, however, everything is included when you order your main dish, i.e., breaded veal cutlets. The meal arrived and I found that a tomato salad was included with the breaded veal cutlets. And I also had the side dish of sliced tomatoes to face. I’m sure the waiter thought I was a tomato-fiend but I didn’t mind his thoughts one little bit and wolfed down every last tomato in sight! I finished off the meal with a whopping piece of apple pie and ice cream and a pot of coffee. I produced an after-dinner cigarette and scarcely had it left the pack when a little man was standing beside me with a lighted match.
Which reminds me, I meant to mention before that every time I approached the doors (there were two, remember?) of my suite there was always somebody standing outside to open them for me. I can’t remember having to open the doors myself even once during my two-day stay!
Following dinner I ordered a taxi and drove into Victoria City and found H.M.S. Tamar base without any difficulty. I asked the guard at the gate where I would find the Petty Officers’ Mess and he nearly floored me by saying: “Are you the Can-AYE-dee-an Frank and Lou are expectin’?” I admitted I was and the guard issued me with an escort to the mess!!
The H.M.S. Tamar’s mess was a replica of what I’ve always imagined an old English pub would look like. There was a piano in one corner of the room and a dart-board on the wall. Great ale tubs surmounted the bar and there were stuffed leather chairs all over the place. I certainly had a pleasant evening. Frank, Lou and I chatted until 11 o’clock when the mess closed. They walked me back to the gate and I boarded an ancient Chinese bus bound for Repulse Bay.
The trip to Repulse Bay over those steep, winding roads with hair-pin curves is quite an experience in a car and in broad daylight. To make the same trip in a creaking, old bus full of Chinamen at 11 o’clock at night is something I would recommend only for the very courageous and devil-may-care types!! I certainly do get myself in the strangest places!
The bus stopped just in front of the hotel and soon I was curling up beneath my blanket enjoying the frosty bite of the air-conditioners.