OK, OK... I know I'm not a VIP!! However, I don't think that our friends at the HKTB see it that way. We have been pampered, escorted, wined and dined and generally been made to feel quite important indeed! - and this was just the first day! Who would've thought that I'd be sitting in a fenced off media area, stage-front for the opening of the Dragon Boat Carnival watching superstars from Korea strut their stuff, while literally thousands of screaming fans and groupies lined the fences with their banners and signs?
So here's how it happened... the team of bloggers arrived at Changi airport at 6:30am yesterday (Monday, 23rd July) - or at least most of us were punctual :) Very few of is had any sleep to speak of on Thursday night, as we were busy preparing and social networking until almost 4am (poor Alvin was stuck in the office until after 3am, I think - how's that for diligent and dedicated... maybe he could come and work with me!!).
After a quite enjoyable flight with Cathay Pacific, we landed in Hong Kong around 15 minutes before schedule. Not one for sleeping much on a plane, I watched a movie before catching some shut-eye for around 30-minutes before we touched down.
As with any major international airport, the immigration queue was pretty substantial, and being one who doesn't like lining up for too long, I leveraged my APEC priveleges and breezed through the diplomat lane (in hindsight, I feel bad that I didn't wait with the rest of the team - but it did give me some time to 'partake in my vice' and also gave me the opportunity to watch everyone arrive through the arrival gate on the wide screen TVs they have set up at the airport).
We then travelled by charter bus to the hotel - many other bloggers have (and will) write more about the hotel, but as a regular business traveller across all of Asia Pacific and across the globe, I can tell you with certainty that for the price you would be hard-put to find anything better.
Upon arrival at the hotel, we were ushered into a private section (lounge bar) of the lobby where the pampering began (even got served what were like cream puffs of waffles, while the friendly staff looked after all the administration and checking in for us).
Next, we had around 40 minutes in our rooms to 'freshen up', familiarize ourselves with the amenities (and ensure that the wireless internet was all working well), a group of us reconvened downstairs for afternoon tea at the Hotel restaurant. By this time our stomachs were roaring in protest - so the afternoon tea was more of a 'late lunch' - and very well received.
The same group then travelled a short distance to the waterfront, where we took a stroll along the 'avenue of stars' (and I had a brief encounter with Jackie Chan), until we arrived at the location where the Dragon Boat races (and our now infamous bathtub event) will be held... let's call this a 'reconnaissance tour'. Any advantage we can attain is one worth achieving :)
We then received special 'press' passes and entered into the fenced off area for the opening ceremony of the Dragon Boat Carnival - the major atttraction were the group of Korean super stars, and I won't even pretend to know who they all are (not sure if that's a cultural thing - I suspect it's more of an 'age' thing), but I've uploaded a couple of 'crude' iPhone videos and will embed them later below - if you recognize the artists, please comment and let everybody else know who they are.
Then came dinner!! Oh MY!!! How to describe this experience? Let me say to all of my male readers - if you want to impress your wife or girlfriend, this is the place to do it - Busy Suzie!! The name is a play on the well-known Chinese dining table, 'Lazy Susan'. This is because the Japanese chef cooks in front of you and then serves the food on an 'oar' - after feeling the weight of this thing, it's amazing that the chefs don't look like Popeye with extra large forearms. The food was absolutely exquisite and the atmosphere completely unique. My fellow blogger and now good friend, Jerome has provided some wonderful images in his article here.
I really would love to write more - and will - but for now, I need to get ready to head off for another day of awe-inspiring adventures in this amazing place, Hong Kong!! Watch this space...
Official Opening of the Dragon Boat Carnival:
My screaming fans?? Wow, they really love the Aussie Pete blog!!:
The drummers at the opening ceremony - so very passionate and dynamic: