Remembering a delicious Cantonese dinner and interesting conversation at Man Wah, the famous Chinese restaurant of the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, which is also one of Hong Kong’s great foodie institutions.
Man Wah, the famous Chinese restaurant at the top of the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, has long been one of my favorite restaurants in Hong Kong, and I’ve actually had the pleasure of dining solo and ordering an entire Peking duck for myself on several occasions, while staying at the Mandarin Hong Kong.
Man Wah is often my last stop before flying out of Hong Kong, you see, and I take the evening flight so I have lunch by myself after all my friends have already left. You can imagine the stares I get from other diners when I do this.
But, to tell you the truth, I quite enjoyed getting a table with a view of Hong Kong harbor at Man Wah and ordering a Peking duck by myself without having to carry on a conversation with someone else.
Dining solo at Man Wah always gave me time to appreciate the view and the food, as well as to think about a lot of things. It also enabled me to better appreciate my incredible luck in life, dining in this beautiful restaurant. I would never be able to think about my life or my luck if I was dining with other people at Man Wah.
One weekend, I was in Hong Kong for a 24-hour stopover after two weeks in Europe and of course I had dinner at Man Wah. Even on a Sunday evening, which is typically a very quiet day for restaurants in the Central district, Man Wah was full of prosperous-looking locals.
A British friend living in Hong Kong joined us for a lauriat dinner at Man Wah so I booked a table for three. It turned out that we were actually four for dinner.
He brought with him that night his new girlfriend, who was very much the type of girl he always dates — a very pretty ex-model from an ex-Russian state with a penchant for expensive jewelry.
This girl wanted to be a lawyer and she seemed very nice and street smart. She’d lived in Tokyo, Luxembourg, Greece, Spain and even in Bulgaria. In Tokyo, she’d done modeling for Louis Vuitton.
She was certainly eye candy for the high-flyer he was, being the kind of guy who wanted to have everything in life — a great career, cash in the bank, expensive toys and the beautiful woman next to him.
So I’d met a never-ending string of his eye candies before, over dinner in all the great restaurants around the world.
I called his penchant for new girlfriends the “revolving door policy” as he had a new girlfriend every six months — so much so that I always hesitated to try and get to know the new girl, as I knew she wasn’t going to be around for long.
TRUE CONFESSIONS IN HONG KONG
But this particular new girlfriend seemed ambitious, determined and yet charmingly warm.
She began almost every other sentence with the phrase “I have to confess to you…“
This initially made me feel like she was going to admit to something earthshaking like “I have to confess to you that I was a Cold War spy,” or “I have to confess to you that I was a man before a sex-change operation.”
Or “I have to confess to you that I was the ex-girl friend of a Russian mobster.” Or perhaps the second wife of a Third World dictator.
It turned out that it was probably just the kind of stilted English she’d learned at school back in Russia — or the result of her translating from Russian to English.
Because her unusual way of starting her sentences with “I have to confess to you” was followed by statements like “that I’m crazy about spas.” So what she actually wanted to say was: “I have to confess to you that I’m crazy about spas.”
Or her other confession: “I have to confess to you that I love designer clothes but I only buy at the Foxtown outlet in Europe.” Foxtown is the designer outlet in Switzerland, just across the Italian border, by the way.
But the two of them seemed very in love, as was always the case anyway with my friend and a new girl, and my friend seemed quite happy.
We talked about many things, but we began the evening by talking about travel, perhaps because of my connection with Travelife Magazine.
THE KIND EVERYONE WANTS.
Then it was time for my friend to make his own confession.
He was in a troubled state of mind.
“So I have two weeks to go on holiday and an unlimited budget,” he began. “But the problem is, we can’t decide where to go. We sat by the pool all morning googling places on our iPhones and we just couldn’t decide.”
He was talking big but he wasn’t really boasting either when he said he had an unlimited budget, but was just doing regular conversation.
In his world — the world of high-flyers in international finance — people talk like this all the time and no one gives it a second thought because that’s just how everyone else around them lives.
Lots of them do have unlimited travel budgets.
THE WHOLE WORLD IS JUST TOO MUCH
“The trouble with you is that you’re spoiled for choice,” I said. “With enough time and no money constraints, you have the whole world and that’s just too much. If you were just a little less fortunate, like most normal people, I can guarantee that you’d be booking a trip somewhere in 30 minutes. There would be at least five places you’d love to visit in a heartbeat.”
I’d definitely be able to quickly name five cities I’d love to spend two weeks in with unlimited spending on my credit card.
Being extremely competitive, he certainly liked the idea of being more fortunate than his other pretty fortunate peers in his pretty fortunate universe.
But it was this very same competitiveness that got him to where he is today — and that’s what’s also getting him to where he’s headed tomorrow.
So over dinner, we continued our lively conversations, although most of it was more true confessions from his now ex-girlfriend from Russia, as well as about our memories over 20 years of living very interesting lives around the world, living a #Travelife.