Hong Kong 7’s

A super flight from Malaga to Luton, the Easy jet plane was full other than two seats, one next to me on my left and one next to me on my right, yes I had all three. I think this was a gesture for causing me so much grief at Malaga Airport; it was so busy it took all of the two hours to check in, clear security then passport control, and I still had to run to catch the plane. Malaga was heaving, all flying Easy jet and not enough desks open.

Still, arrived at Luton a little early, caught the Express bus to Heathrow then the shuttle to my hotel, it couldn’t have been easier.

A good nights sleep then on the shuttle to terminal 3 to meet Martin at 0830hrs at the Cathy Pacific counter, wow, no queue, straight up then through security and onto breakfast. We boarded and left on time, One thing, we were very glad we up-graded to Premium Economy, the extra width seats and more leg room made for a more comfortable flight, must do that again.

Arrived the next day (Tuesday), HK airport at 0630hrs, straight through immigration etc, collected our bags the onto the train into the city. Everything here being so new and there is spare capacity so no waiting or queuing, wonderful. We arrived at our destination station and found the free shuttle bus to our hotel waiting; 15 minutes later we were checking In.

Being early we had to wait for our room but when we went in it was obvious it was going to be rather uncomfortable, so small, only 1 small wardrobe and nowhere to put a second case. After a little debate Martin went back to reception to negotiate for something more appropriate and how well he did. We were upgraded to a two room suite though it was laid out as a bedroom (2 single beds) and a lounge. We agreed the price and got the hotel to move the lounge out and bring in one of the beds. This they did and we had a room each with private facilities, though we did have to share the shower; very accommodating these Chinese. Once we had unpacked we went “walk-about” though we were tired having missed a nights sleep, we were determined to not go to bed too early, we needed to avoid “jet-lag”. Returning to the hotel we came across a rather nice looking Chinese restaurant so in we went, wonderful and proper Chinese food, really enjoyable, then hotel and bed.

Wednesday was the day Martin had to carry out business meetings so
When I eventually woke up it was no surprise to me to find him gone. I went down to breakfast Just before the restaurant closed after an 14 hr sleep, so hopefully overcame any jet-lag.

Today I decided to go to Stanley, a small seaside town to the south side of Hong Kong Island and where the famous Stanley Market is. Public transport was going to be my mode today so down to the metro station where I was told I could get a 1 day tourist ticket, though unfortunately it transpired there was not one to cover the buses and the metro. After some debate with the kiosk attendant and playing the “pensioner” thing, she said I could get a card, put some money on it and travel anywhere on Hong Kong transport for 2 Hong Kong Dollars each trip, less than 20 pence. I was not too sure if I qualified for this card, I suspect it was for residents only but I think the girl behind the desk wanted to get rid of me!!!

So my first ride was on the metro then onto a bus that took me over the mountains and dropped me by Stanley Market. I wandered through the market (it appears you could buy anything here) and down to the beach for a paddle, but the sea was cold so didn’t stay in it for long. It was a beautiful sunny and warm day so I meandered the length of the promenade and finished up in a Guinness bar watching some Australian rugby match and chatting with other people over here for the Sevens.

I returned on a different bus that went straight back to the hotel, another $2 and met back up with Martin late afternoon. After the three S’s we went out; Wednesday night in Hong Kong is race night so we jumped into a taxi to go to the race course only to be informed upon arrival that there was no racing on tonight, but there always is racing every Wednesday night, we said, “yes” came the answer “but not tonight”! After wandering around the area we finished up in the same restaurant we had been in the night before; again an excellent meal then back to the hotel for a quick drink before bed. Unfortunately this quick drink wasn’t so quick as we met up with some Ozzie and Scottish visitors over here for the rugby. Not too sure when the bar closed but we were the last people to leave!!!!!

Breakfast the next morning (Thursday) was very welcome and we decided to visit the Rugby “Tens”, this is a 10 a side version of the sevens, new to me, I hadn’t seen this game before.

The games were being played at the Hong Club Football Stadium which happens to be in the middle of the race course, though this time Martin navigated and we walked. At this point all I will say is that the walk back was much quicker!!!!!

The “tens” competition was over two days, we had missed the first day but this second day was excellent, tacitly it is a different game to 7’s, not quite so fast but very exciting. We had fairly good seats in the stand near the half way line but behind us we had an Ozzie who wouldn’t “shut-up”. He kept talking all day to anyone who came near him and the more beer he had the more he talked, if that was possible, nice fellow all the same. These “tens” teams were mainly rugby clubs though there were many international players in bedded into various teams. We left the ground after the presentations and tried a different Chinese restaurant but unfortunately we both preferred the one we had been to the previous two nights.

Back to the hotel bar but none of the people from the previous evening were about, probably can’t take it! Sevens start tomorrow

Friday: Leaving the hotel after breakfast we started talking to three more chaps from Scotland and we walked with them to the Stadium. The layout was the Stadium on one side of the road and the HSBC hospitality village on the other, so decided that’s where we would start as we wanted some merchandise. After indulging in a few of the games/competitions that were there we went to get some beer only to find the 3 Scotsman sitting with their jug of beer, so we joined them. They were Father and two sons, the sons were 48 & 50 and very big tall men whilst their dad was about only 5ft. I asked how such a short person could manage two such strapping lads,apparently their mother was tall! They were a good laugh and Martin and one of the brothers were trying to outdo each other with the tennis game. One had to serve the tennis ball into a net and it recorded the speed. This went on for quite a time but in the end Martim was 1 MPH faster and very “chuffed” before we went across to the Stadium. After a short sit in the South Stand amongst the revellers, we decided to move somewhere else. We wandered about and found some very nice seats, near the half way, pitch level and a drink holder, very nice but then realised we had wandered into the Corporate area. The worst they could do was ask us to leave but being a very large international construction company, no one seemed to know anyone, so we enjoyed free beer and food for the rest of the day. The boss man was a couple of seats next to Martin and kept looking at us but as we just behaved as if we were invited guests from UK, he didn’t want to challenge us. Thank you “Gammon” our hosts!

Today (Friday) was all about pool games with England only playing once, Argentina, which we won fairly comfortably. At this stage of the competition there are 28 countries involved and they all play in pool groups of 4 with the top two teams going through to the cup competition. The bottom 2 of each group then go onto play another competition including qualification for next years tournament. This was an excellent days rugby and after the last game about 2100 hrs we returned to the HSBC village to find our 3 Scotsman still sitting there. I should add that there was a very big TV screen televising all the games, live!

After leaving this area we wandered into town to eat and yes we went back to our favourite restaurant only to find we were too late, the kitchens were closed. We, along with many, couldn’t understand their mentality. Here were were, 40,000 + leaving the stadium! many of which were wandering into the centre to eat and they closed and being turned away; I thought these people were shrewd in business. Any way we eventually found an “Outback”, the Australian chain of steak houses, nice but not Chinese. Back to the hotel for a nightcap, again no one in the bar we recognised but on our way out we bumped into our 3 Scotsman arriving. We now had a decision, go back in and god knows what time or state we would leave in or be light weights and get into the lift; we chose the lift!

Leaving the breakfast dining room (Saturday) we bumped into the Father, who said he left soon after us but he looked in a “right” state, we had made the right decision.

This morning we went straight into the Stadium, missing the beer tent in the HSBC village and watched the rest of the pool games where England played and won against Canada and Portugal, though Canada gave us a fairly hard time, this meant we went through to the knock-out competition as pool leaders. Now who were we going to play? Our path through the tournament meant we played the second place from pool “B” which on form would suggest we played Australia but in a thrilling game between Australia and South Africa, Australia won so we had to face the South Africans in the Quarter finals. This caused much consternation amongst the English fans, especially as at this moment SA are leading the world sevens series.

At midday the heavens opened, fortunately we were under cover but within minutes the South Stand was empty. The South Stand is the party stand, no one under 18 allowed in, most are in fancy dress or minimal dress, and beer flows freely. The centre of the pitch was water logged and play had to be suspended for a while to let some of the surface water drain away. By the end of the days play the pitch was quite churned up, I wonder what can be done over night!

This evening we left the stadium and went straight to town and to our favourite Chinese restaurant, yes for the third time! Whilst waiting for a table we got talking to a couple who turned out to be James Rodwell’s parents, the most capped English sevens player in the squad.

Back to hotel, a quick night cap as we want to leave in the morning at 0900hrs to get good seats, tomorrow is finals day and the stadium gets very full.

Sunday: Out of bed for 0800hrs, breakfast where we made ourselves some rolls for lunch, and away just after 0900hrs. We arrived in the stadium about 0930 and were amazed just how many people were already in the stands. After trying this seat and that seat we settled in the East stand, under cover as rain is forecast, between the half way and 22 lines, good seats. The first thing to strike us how good the pitch looked after yesterday, they must have had an army of groundsmen at work all night to get it back to this state, well done but as I mentioned earlier, the forecast is for more rain today.

Mid morning was when we faced South Africa and when the teams emerged our hearts were in our mouths, they are a very good side though yesterday they did falter. After a challenging game England was victorious 14 : 7, a good score. This gave us Fiji in the semi finals; Fiji have been playing very well and are the favourites to win these HK 7’s, having won in Dubai and Japan they are also 3rd in the World Series tournament, ahead of us, oh dear another heart stopping moment to come around 1600hrs. In the mean time we enjoyed all the games, especially cheering for any team that played France as we were surrounded by French supporters, including, in the stand behind us loads of French children, probably the whole local French School were here at the HK 7’s. Excellent atmosphere with much stick being given by everyone. Both Scotland and Wales won their respective matches though by now they were playing for the plate or bowl.

When the moment arrived and Fiji and England came out the ground erupted especially as the Fijians play such entertaining rugby, never a dull moment when they are on the pitch and Their supporters are so colourful, anyway after a very hard fought battle England emerged as winners, 7 : 17, again a conclusive score line. We had made the finals but who would we play, Australia or New Zealand that was the next big game. I was sitting next to an Ozzie who introduced himself to me as Rocky, he was good company and we had a laugh with lots of “stick” flowing both ways, he has threatened to Come and visit us in Spain, I wonder!!! Anyway the outcome of that game was New Zealand 19. Australia 7, we now knew our fate, we were facing the best in the world, oh well you never know, we have beaten them before.

After a number of other games and the 3rd / 4th play offs it was the time that these three days had been working to, the cup final. After much razz-a-matz and an impressive firework display the whistle went for the start. As predicted New Zealand were all over us and scored try after try, we did get one but on this occasion we were no match for them, they played very well and deserved to win. England did very well to get to the final as they were not seeded to get there so runners up is very good. The final score line was NZ: 26 England: 7

As soon as the match ended the heavens opened, the forecasted rain held off until the last whistle. It was now time for celebrating and the Kiwi’s did their Hakka, several times around the ground.

We let the crowds leave then went across the road for a drink as we had not had any beer, the stand we were in was alcohol free, this became a challenge and so we managed to sneak in a couple of Gin & Tonics each during the course of the day to enjoy with our rolls. After enjoying a couple of pints, stood under a sun umbrella, soaking, we started to walk back to the hotel when the rain eased off a little. Half way back the heavens opened again so we dived into an Italian to eat and wait. The rain was so hard the roads flooded, the drains couldn’t cope. Eventually the rain again eased off so we paid and went, arriving back to our hotel before the next deluge.

Into the bar and met up with our Scottish friends so naturally had to share a few whiskies, then off to bed.

Monday: A free day and had decided to go up to the big Buddha, in the cable car with the glass bottom but unfortunately after waking and surveying the weather, we couldn’t see anything, the mist/cloud was very low so we hung about the hotel, Martin catching up with his e mails and me bringing my log up to date. By late morning there was no change so decided to ride the Metro to Kowloon, Martin was on a mission to buy Russell a special “cool” pair of shoes that had to be white. Though we did find a shop that sold this particular brand, these “white” shoes are not sold in Hong Kong!!!! We then walked the length of Nathem Street (the Oxford St of HK) passing the the exclusive Peninsula Hotel, the hotel that runs a fleet of green RR’s to pick up thei guests and onto a Star Ferry back to HK Island.

Walking back we found a Guinness bar so indulged then into a Steak Restaurant before getting a taxi back. Walked into the hotel bar and it was dead, everybody had left, oh dear, a quick night cap and bed after all we had to be up early as tomorrow is flight back to UK.

Alarm set for 0730, shower and breakfast and caught the 0900 hrs shuttle to the central train station where we picked up the airport express. Their transport system is very efficient, we could even check our bags in at the train station. Upon checking they asked us if we would consider down grading our seats to economy, with compensation naturally, both Martin and I said NO before the clerk had got all his sentence out, ha!

Because of the appalling weather on Sunday there was a backlog of flights so we were about half an hour late in leaving but as it was 12 1/2 flight, half an hour was neither here or there.

Again, Cathy Pacific did us proud, a little turbulence around HK and parts of China but otherwise a comfortable but day time flight. Unfortunately having got so wet and cold Sunday I was now full of cold so Coughing and spluttering all the way back.

Arrived at Heathrow, collected our bags, Martin had booked his car into Purple Parking with the meet & greet service so his car was waiting for us. What a good system that is, I think I will use that in future. A good drive back to Derbyshire with minimal traffic, arriving a little after 2300hrs followed by a good nights sleep.

A leisurely morning with Marion, where I managed to watch the Malaysian Grand Prix on I player, a lift to Manchester Airport with Marian and Russell and joined the Ryanair queue.

Straight through security and after a coffee onto the flight to Murcia. I collected my bags and there was Christine and Bella waiting and 15 minutes later was sitting down; it’s good to be home!

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