Monday, June 27, 2011

From one home to another -- and another


Last weekend was spent basically making a long trip across the world. I finally left the beautiful Silver Spirit cruise ship -- my home for the last eight days -- in Barcelona and then flew back to Manila via Istanbul and Hong Kong. In Barcelona, I got a car and driver to take me around the city for a few hours to revisit favorites spots and old haunts: Sagrada Familia, the Casa Mira, and the old town around the cathedral.

And then I got a bite of tapas -- several plates of my favorite jamon jabugo accompanied by slices of local cheeses and an order of fried anchovies -- before heading to the airport to catch my flight to Istanbul. If you've read my previous posts, you'll know that Silversea is like a second holiday home to me; and it was very comfortable to be on the Silver Spirit again, after sailing with this same ship and crew just three months ago, from Bali to Manila.


HOME UP IN THE AIR

In Barcelona, which has a really impressive modern terminal so in keeping with its reputation as a design capital, I boarded Turkish Airlines to Istanbul to catch my onward connection to Hong Kong. Again, it was like another "home away from home" as Turkish Airlines is really a comfortable set-up. Everyone who travels with me when I take Turkish Airlines always laughs, because I get this feeling of being so at home once I get into that THY 777 jet that crisscrosses between Hong Kong and Istanbul. I like everything about it, including the size of the beds, the meals, and the entertainment.

The Turkish Airlines flight that departs every evening from Hong Kong is really a great connection between Asia and Europe, as far as I'm concerned. The planes leave either place at midnight, and you arrive in either Hong Kong or Istanbul with enough time and daylight to still get a lot of things done. So last night in Istanbul, I got on the plane, had a couple of appetizers and some champagne, and then pressed the buttons to transform my club seat into a proper bed. I've ridden business class long-haul on so many airlines now, and Turkish Airlines is really among the most comfortable. It's wide, completely flat, and it comes with comforters instead of blankets.

I went to sleep and when I woke up, we were less than one hour away from Hong Kong and I had just enough time for breakfast. Talk about a painless way to travel between continents.

HOME IN HONG KONG


In Hong Kong, I'd barely landed and my other "home away from home" was ready to greet me. As I stepped out of the plane, there was the familiar Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong's Meet and Greet staff at the airplane doorside with a sign and a welcoming smile. She'd also prepared a passenger cart to navigate that long airport and get me to immigrations ahead of everyone else. That walk to immigrations from the Turkish Airlines landing gate is certainly a long one, and there are just so many people on that immigration line -- so it made all the difference after a long but not uncomfortable flight to have the cart.

Within 20 minutes, I was in the hotel car zooming past picturesque bays and hills towards Central. I was back in my part of the world and now in good hands. Everything works like clockwork at the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong -- I've been staying here for years and this has got to be one of the finest hotels in the world for service, as far as I'm concerned -- and as we glided into the driveway, the hotel's welcoming committee was at the driveway with my check-in documents and key all ready for handover. No downtime for registration and zero fuss.

A ROOM WITH A VIEW

"Welcome back to the Mandarin," the girl said. We walked through the lobby and straight to my suite on the 22nd floor as I had all my details on file and all she needed was to update my passport. With such tedious things out of the way so quickly and effortlessly, I was able to head for the spa within a few minutes of arrival and was soon chilling out at the Mandarin's Chinese Herbal Thermal Steam Room before anyone else could say "Welcome back to Hong Kong."

I returned to my suite just in time to get ready for the arrival of an old friend who was joining us for dinner, and bringing his new Russian girlfriend with him. A real high flyer, he's quite a catch in many ways so he's never without eye candy next to him -- usually a European model-type with a sexy accent.

Anyway, we were going to have a lauriat dinner at Man Wah, the Mandarin's fabled Cantonese restaurant on the top floor; but since it was such a lovely evening in Hong Kong and my suite had a terrace with an amazing view, I decided to ask them over to my suite to start the night off with champagne on the terrace. No need to go to Sevva for cocktails when I had the same view in private from my hotel room terrace.

We had such interesting conversations over delicious Cantonese food at Man Wah until late last night. More on that and his new Ferrari in my next blog entry.

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