Breakfast in The Square, Hong Kong

Novotel, Nathan Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong

When staying in-house and upgrading to The Premier Floor to take advantage of the onsite options, we found it was worth dropping by The Square Restaurant for the morning feed, especially as it’s included in the rack rate, and is more comprehensive than the Premier Lounge offering.

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From 6.30 to 11 am each morning the Novotel’s main restaurant offers both a full American breakfast option, or an Asian Breakfast on the first floor.  And for the Aussies, a large jar of Vegemite is featured by the toaster. You lil ripper!

And it’s hard to go wrong with all that’s on offer!

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As you enter, the breads and pastries are featured to your right, with the relevant spreads on offer, as you make your way to your table.  It’s a fairly large space so lots of options!

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Two large coffee machines turn out espressos to cappuccinos and the three food buffets have heaps on offer.

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If you love the Asian style breakfast, there’s pork dumplings and bbq buns (or bums as noted in the sign) steamed vegetables, noodles, congee and fried fish.  For the more traditional; bacon, eggs, hash browns, tomatoes, sausages and baked beans.

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Afterwards, my hotel stay favourite includes Bircher muesli and prunes, yoghurt options and fresh fruit.  For the kids there’s cereal, and for those with a more discerning palate, even hams and a cheese platter.

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Not bad for an in house option when staying at the Novotel.  Worth brekky in The Square before a big day of exploring and shopping.

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Rethinking Retirement

On my final morning in Beijing, we headed to The Temple of Heaven, a Taoist monument dedicated to praying to the heavens to bring a good harvest at the start of spring, and to offer thanks when it was done.

This is a 600+ year old building, that’s managed to survive the Japanese and British, and has been restored to its former glory for tourists the world over to enjoy.

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This story however, isn’t about the monument, but about the fun that takes place in the surrounding grounds of 200+ acres surrounding the central buildings.

Over 55’s can buy an annual pass to the parklands surrounding the temple allowing unlimited annual entry for around $20AUD.  Over 65’s are free.  And you should see what these creative retirees are up to!

On entering at The North Gate, there were couples learning Rock & roll, and incongruously jiving away to classical Chinese tunes.  Check them out here: http://youtu.be/DLVBi86HPoE

Others were honing their skills with a shuttlecock with an agile version of Hackysack.  Paddles were available for those who prefer a racquet to using their feet and large and small groups were loving kicking it around.  The feathered ball was also available for purchase for anyone wanting to take one home to try with the family. I’m kind of regretting now that I didn’t grab one off the touts for practice at home.  Then I’d be a legend by retirement!

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Others were learning or had mastered the art of tai chi and slowly went about their moves, completely engrossed and ignoring all onlookers.

One group of four that stopped us in our tracks was a human game of quoits and I captured a little on video. Their skills obviously the result of much practice.  Check out their skills: http://youtu.be/dtwF4VzwvyQ

One woman regaled us with her operatic tunes while women danced, and more practiced their musical instruments, mostly brass, and loudly.  And if not well, at least with enthusiasm.

I kid you not, I’m sure I heard bagpipes!

Others had dressed up in traditional Turkish garb and were practising their Whirling Dervish routines.  And all with massive smiles of enjoyment on their faces at the fabulous gift of being alive and the wonderful sense of community they no doubt felt.

So, for all those who think retirement means hanging up the boots, an occasional game of golf or going home to die… Think again!

What was it you’ve always wanted to accomplish?

Maybe it’s time to find a tribe and invade your local park!  Perhaps I won’t lock myself away in a mouldy attic to write a novel after all.  It appears my seniors beach volleyball team awaits!  Or salsa lessons… Retirement’s looking better to me every day!  But hey! Why wait?

The Tai Pan House of Pain, Kowloon

 

After a jam packed tour of Hong Kong Island one morning, hubby and I stopped for a late lunch feed, followed by a massage at Tai Pan on Nathan Road.

The special offered was a 50 minute body massage for around $35 AUD. So, ok, it’s not Thailand or Bali prices, but still better than the in-house spa or Aussie prices. Lockers used, plastic slides fitted, we were directed to the massage chairs and had our feet cleansed for a few minutes before commencing. And if I’d known better, this was probably when I should have cut and run!

In the couples room, we slipped on our loose fittings cotton tees and pants and lay face down to await our fairy handed pleasuring.

Well, it appears that my benign and smiling elderly Chinese handmaiden, had recently returned from concentration boot camp and was there to give me the pummelling of my life.

Chinese water torture, bamboo shoots under my fingernails or childbirth to my 9lb+ (4.7kg) daughter again would have been preferable to what was in store for me.

Now, I do admit to being a fair skinned, inclined to freckle, red-headed English-Irish rose, and it’s apparently been scientifically proven we have a lower pain threshold than other mortals. I also admit to having had three disc bulges in the lumbar area in the past which I’m inclined to be tender with, and do sit on my ample arse for far too long each working day.

All that aside, I’ve never had a massage that felt more like a gouging and left me begging, near silently and in tears for it to end. Had I been sensible, I should have called it quits within the first two minutes, but also have a large ‘suck it up, princess’ valve that was overactive this particular day.

My groans of agony were met with Chinese titters, and my vigorous head shaking ‘no’ when asked ‘you ok?’ seemed only to invoke mirth.

The wicked hooked talons of this vicious inquisitor poked and probed every muscle, joint, tendon, fascia, bone, nook and cranny. Elbows dug where no fingers dared and my body fought her every move.

If yoga class taught me one thing, it’s to breathe. Follow the breath, focus! Breathe in, breathe out. And still, my body fought her every inch of the way. I tensed, I moved, I twisted, I groaned, I gritted my teeth, tensed some more, and sobbed, and still she carried on, poking, prodding, massaging? All the while, I was breathing… Deep. Ragged. Sobbing. Breaths.

I tried to chant silently,… ‘Dear God, let it end’ repeatedly. I’m always writing and composing in my head, and tried to think of adjectives to describe what she was doing to me, but tears sprung when words could not.

She pulled each finger to the tip, to flick them out, and I though she was trying to cleave my beautifully manicured nails from their comfortable beds. They’re still sore… And it’s six hours later…

Finally, the karate chops rained down the middle of my back indicating the torture was almost done and it was time to roll over. I fantasised about practising some Bruce Lee moves on her as I finally managed with great difficulty to turn onto my horrified back.

Now I love anyone giving me a head massage, and I’m sure the one that followed, was possibly meant to induce me once again with feelings of wellness, bliss, happiness and relaxation and fellowship with the world. Let’s just say that it failed.

At last, I heard my husband kindly thank his massage goddess whilst I mumbled incoherently at mine and she patted me sharply on my lower and now incredibly sore back, whilst chatting in Chinese to me, no doubt letting me know I had a spot of congestion there.

Finally the girls left the room, for us both to change, and I broke down, and sobbed like a baby for five minutes flat, whilst my poor husband looked on aghast.

As I lie in bed, feeling the bruises tenderly under me, I feel compelled to warn all against the Tai Pan Mistress of Pain.

But hey, if you’re anyone but me, and get anyone but her, it’s probably worth your while…