My Trip to Hong Kong (Part 5)

Friday, May 27, 1955

Friday was a wonderful day – clear and hot. I slept in until 11:30, got up and turned off the air-conditioning and opened the windows to let the wonderful sea air waft in from over the garden. I got dressed and walked down to the “Seaview Restaurant” for lunch. I had a light salad and enjoyed the view immensely. My table was just a few yards from the water’s edge.

After lunch I walked around for about an hour. There were so many wonderful gardens to explore and also, behind the hotel, there were terraces extending halfway up the mountain. Then I swam until about 3:30 and wandered back to my room about 4:00. I ordered some tea and toast and just read and loafed until supper time. I had my last HOT BATH that evening.

There was a beautiful sunset that evening as I ate supper out on the terrace. It was all pink and grey and, as it got darker, I could see the lights of dozens of junks that had anchored in the bay for the night. They looked like bright stars in a black sky.

The evening was lovely so I decided to take a walk along the beach. To my way of thinking, palm trees and moonlight are synonymous, and that night the moon was out. Palm trees should be seen in the moonlight and especially with the background music of waves breaking onto a white beach. I was amazed, also, at the way the flame trees glowed brilliantly orange in the moonlight. It was a magical evening indeed. I found all sorts of little walks to explore, where the palms were so thick they brushed against my face as I passed. And the air was heavy with the scent of flowers. ANd this was my last night in Hong Kong. I she a tear or two of grief, I’m sure.

I think, maybe, that I could write a dandy travel folder.

When I got back to my suite the boy was waiting to open the doors for me. He was having a bit of difficulty in turning on the air-conditioners, so he excused himself for a moment and returned with a monocle (of all things!) in his eye. I could hardly keep a straight face – indeed, I nearly burst out laughing at the sight of a monocled Chinaman adjusting the dials on the air-conditioners!!

After my monocled friend had left, I packed my suitcase and then went to bed.

The two tallest buildings in Hong Kong, 1955

The two tallest buildings in Hong Kong, 1955

Saturday, May 28, 1955

I was up at 7:30 and checked out at 9. I took a taxi to the ferry landing and crossed to Kowloon, where I took another taxi to Gene’s. I then had my final fitting and Gene drove me around to do some last-minute shopping. At 11:30 I went back to Victoria and took a taxi to the Tiger Balm Gardens. This was without doubt the weirdest place I have ever been!! I’m afraid I couldn’t do justice to the Tiger Balm Gardens with mere words, so you shall have to wait until you see the colour slides I took during the visit. [Here are a few of David’s slides]

Entering the Tiger Balm Gardens

Entering the Tiger Balm Gardens

A colourful corner of the Tiger Balm Gardens

A colourful corner 

At the heart of the Gardens

At the heart of the Gardens

Upon reaching the bottom of the Gardens

Upon reaching the bottom of the Gardens

At 1 o’clock I was back in Kowloon and had lunch with Mr. Duder at the Peninsula Hotel. At 2:30 I went back to Gene’s and finished packing the clothes that he had just finished that morning. Gene and I chatted for a while and then a horrible thought struck me!!

I had 6 suitcases with me, four of my own and two I had bought for my room-mate, Hap. And they were all full!! My ticket allowed me only 20 kilos (44 pounds) of luggage!! Why I hand’t thought of this before is a mystery to me. Here I was, nearly out of money, with enough excess luggage to cost me a king’s ransom!!! I mentioned this trivial point to Gene and suggested that perhaps I could send the whole business back to Phnom Penh on a boat or something. Gene didn’t say anything, but instead picked up his telephone and dialled. Pause. Then Gene said: “Charlie? Gene.” There followed about five minutes of Chinese and Gene hung up. He said not to worry and that everything had been arranged. ARRANGED!?! I suddenly had visions of becoming involved in some sort of smuggling deal but decided to wait and see what would happen.

At 4 o’clock (my plane was due to leave at 5:30) Gene drove me and my six suitcases to Kai Tak Airport. We went into an office and I met Charlie.

It seems that Charlie is in charge of all luggage and is an old pal of Gene’s. Charlie had all my baggage checks made up for me and asked to see my passport. I handed it to him and he made a mysterious phone call in Chinese. Charlie then wished me “bon voyage” and Gene and I went into the airport restaurant to await plane time. At about 5 o’clock all passengers were summoned into the baggage room for luggage inspection, so I said my farewells to Gene and proceeded to the aforesaid room. There was my luggage, all six pieces, set out in a neat row. The customs official merely asked me where my luggage was and I pointed to the six pieces. He said “thank you” and the luggage was loaded onto a little cart and taken to the plane. Just like that.

I guess Charlie had phoned ahead. Come take-off time and I walked with the other passengers out to the plane. I was on the end of the line and was horrified to see all the other passengers hand the stewardess a “Boarding Pass”. I didn’t have one!! Just as my turn came up to board the plane, I had a sudden fear that Charlie had failed me.

I was about to explain to the stewardess that I was sorry and that I didn’t have a Boarding Pass, but before I could get out any more than “I’m sorry but…” she interrupted me with “Oh, that’s all right Mr. Nixon. We know ALL ABOUT YOU. Please get aboard and make yourself right at home.” I nearly died! That must have been quite the phone call that Charlie made. Now that I come to think about it, nobody even asked me if I had a ticket or not!!

And so, I left Hong Kong for the second time in my life. The plane warmed up for about 15 minutes, went roaring down the runway and, seemingly, went straight up. Then followed some rather clever gymnastics with the mountains of South China and we were on our way to Saigon.

It was a very nice flight and the air was filled with Eau de Cologne. There was even a bottle of E de C in the men’s washroom! I was served a creme de menthe and then handed THE FORMS. There were four in all, one to be filled out in triplicate. One of the forms caused me to nearly break out in hysterics! There was a question on this particular FORM which read: “State where you spent the fourteen nights prior to arrival in this country:” Below this rather personal question were listed: “Last night: Two nights ago: Three nights ago:” etc., all the way down to “Fourteen nights ago:” My little list included three countries – Cambodia, Vietnam and Hong Kong. That should confuse them!

After completing THE FORMS I was served a very nice dinner, and after that I read a murder mystery. At :30 we landed in Saigon and the air was heavy with the threat of an oncoming monsoon storm. There was nobody to meet me at the airport, so at 9:30 I climbed aboard the airline bus and was taken to the Air France office at some obscure address in downtown Saigon. I asked for a taxi to take me to the Continental Palace Hotel and was told “pas possible, Monsieur”.

Well, there was only one resort – the cyclo-pousse!! I managed to hail two of these dubious means of locomotion and stacked my six bags into one of them and packed myself into the other. This little caravan of two cyclos proceeded down the main street of Saigon and drew many a curious glance from passers-by. I arrived, after a while, at the Continental Palace Hotel and was given a drab little room with mosquito nets and bugs (to say nothing of the lizards). UGH!! I think I shed a tear when I thought of the conditions under which I retired the night previous.

Sunday, May 29, 1955

I slept until noon, had lunch, slept all afternoon, had dinner and went to bed. I was back in Indochina.

Monday, May 30, 1955

I was up at some weird little hour in the morning and drove out to the airport in a white Commission jeep with all my luggage in a trailer behind. I left Saigon around 8 a.m. and was back in Phnom Penh around 8:50.

And so ended my adventure to Hong Kong.

————–

CONCLUSION:

Well, for one thing, I think I’m terribly long-winded, judging by the length of this epistle!

I think I proved something, however, and that is that a person can have a heck of a lot of fun in foreign lands, even when by himself.

There is nothing fabricated or exaggerated about this record of my trip to Hong Kong. I only hope that you’ve had as much fun reading it as I had living it, and that I’ve been able to get across to you a little of the atmosphere that puts the “magical” into MAGICAL HONG KONG!!

FIN (roughly translated – THE END)

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