I hugged my bag and looked out the window of the Cathay Pacific. I could see the long building and the people busy waving their hands.

They were such a sight to remember in this lonely day. Perhaps my son and my sister are there too waving their hands. I couldn’t tell but

I’m sure they were there staring into the plane.

It was my first flight away from home. I felt edgy.

I felt like crying. I thought of my son. I thought of what I was leaving behind. There was no more turning back. It was final and I was flying to Hong Kong to work for a Chinese family who hired me. It was a very hard decision agreeing to work in a foreign land while leaving my son who was only two years old that time to my elder sister. It wasn’t supposed to be that way. Back then, I was a teacher teaching grade school children and helping them do their assignment while their parents were at work. But things weren’t

as they were planned and I have to leave and work in Hong Kong. I was not flying for pleasure. I was traveling to a foreign land to work as a domestic helper. It was not fun and excitement that I was expecting but something more than bad images crawling into my mind.

I boarded the plane with only the thought of my son. I could see his face, that lovely face of his with those smiles. I sat down and with a sigh, a tear fell from my eyes. This is a trip I could never forget, I whispered to my self. I couldn’t tell whether I have to be thankful for finally flying and experiencing traveling on air or I have to cry and go back home instead to take care of my son.

Soon the flight started.

The plane roared and zoomed up to the sky over the clouds. It was like going up to heaven and mingling with the angels above, but up there I could see nothing except the clouds. I closed my eyes and wanted to go to sleep but the only memory I thought of was my son.

The airplane was calm.

I felt as if I was being lulled to sleep. There was no noise around to disturb me, no movement at all being made. Everything was calm and fear gripped me as I thought how on earth was I to do if the airplane exploded in the air? We were 3000 miles up there and only God knows what may happen while we were traveling up there. I feared what might happen as I looked at the small window and stared at the clouds. I told myself, I would never ride an airplane again. I was so afraid then and what made me more scared was the fact that I had left my son to work abroad without any assurance what I may find there. Leaving home and going to a foreign land to work was not included in my plans back then but there I was fear gripping me as the distance came closer to Hong Kong.

When the pilot finally said we have to fasten our belt, I know by then that we were already miles and miles away from home. A few minutes more and I will be in a foreign land. I fastened my belt and felt nausea threatening me. But I pressed my mouth hard and stopped breathing for a while.

My whole body felt the strong vibration as the plane swooped down ready to land. And when finally the plane stopped, I knew I was out of danger but was I really safe? I breathed hard and then stood and grabbed my hand-carry bag from the baggage compartment.

I have yet to see what may happen to me in this foreign land. For all I know at that moment my flight was an array of nightmares mixed with nostalgia and sadness.

Welcome to Tanzania!

Posted on 15 Sep 2014 In: Hong Kong Transportations

Tanzania is blessed with natural beauty and extraordinary wildlife. It is the largest country in East Africa–-nearly a million square kilometers (386,109 square miles). Agriculture dominates the economy with the vast majority of its crop exports consisting of coffee, tea, cotton, cashews, sisal, cloves and pyrethrum. While somewhat unreliable cash flows frustrate farmers, government intervention is having a significant and positive impact on the country’s economy.

In 1986, to help improve the country’s economy, the Tanzanian government established new policies including reducing its budget deficit, easing trade policies and reducing food crop restrictions. In addition, as a result of significant U.S. funding and numerous international groups in the mining, agricultural, gas and oil, insurance and tourism industries increasing their staff and presence in the country, Tanzania enjoyed a 16% increase in Foreign Direct Investment in 2007.

Tanzania has been growing at approximately 4% a year and is now a fully integrated democratic society that is developing into one of Africa’s most vibrant economies. Dodoma is the capital city and is home to the country’s parliament and government offices. It is situated 440 kilometers (273 miles) due west of Dar es Salaam, the commercial capital. Dar es Salaam is a city that is over five centuries old. It is a mix of African, Arabian, Asian and European cultures. Tanzanians are extremely friendly and will stop to assist foreigners in any way they can.

For someone first arriving in Dar es Salaam by air, they will see a large area with high palm trees and mud dwellings as far as the eye can see. Once on the ground, the buildings are haphazardly constructed and not very clean. By contrast the international hotels are of good quality and well situated to take advantage of the seascapes.

The city is divided into 4 distinct areas: The “town center” is a mixture of office buildings, hotels, restaurants, bars, night clubs, parks and sports facilities. The “peninsular” is where most of the diplomats and expatriates live. It boasts spectacular views of the sea hosts local restaurants, shops, hotels and has a sailing club. Then, there are the coastal homes and resorts which span 20 to 30 kilometers (12 to 19 miles) north and south of Dar es Salaam. The remainder of the city, unfortunately, is characterized by low-cost housing, with a large population of three to four million people living close to the poverty line.

Dar es Salaam has changed dramatically from socialism to a more capitalist-aligned government over the last 15 years. The influx of diplomats, big business and foreign aid donations have resulted in a gradual improvement in the living standards of the local population. The infrastructure and public facilities are also improving each year–frequent power failures of the past are becoming much less frequent. Water and sewage problems remain high on the government’s list of priorities.

Swahili is the official language of Tanzania, but for business communications, English is almost always used. A person can function quite easily in the city without knowing Swahili, but learning it does make it easier to assimilate, shop and barter in the local communities.

Being polite and greeting Tanzanians is the most important thing you can remember and preferably if it’s done in Swahili. Visitors should try not to raise their voices, even if patience is tested. Dar es Salaam is a Muslim environment and one should be very understanding of the Muslim customs.

Dar es Salaam is extremely hot most of the year around and unless you have an office or house equipped with fans or a good air-conditioning system, you will feel drained by the high temperatures which are generally 30oC (86oF), and in summer, closer to 40oC (104oF) with humidity very close to 100%. Torrential showers come and go without much notice. One can escape from the heat on weekends by going to one of the many beaches.

Foreigners seeking to enter Tanzania should have a valid passport. The passport is to be presented to an Immigration Officer at any entry point, border station, airport or harbor. It must be presented with a Visa, a Residence Permit or a Pass, which is for those in transit en route to another destination.

There are five types of visas: The “Ordinary Visa” is issued at any Tanzanian mission abroad. However, if you arrive at the check point without a visa, you can obtain one at the entry point at a cost of US $50. The “Business Visa,” which is called a CTA, is issued to potential investors or business people trying to establish professional contacts. It is valid for two months. It costs US $100, in addition to the entry visa cost. If the business person leaves the country, they need to get the entry visa and CTA visa again when entering. The “Multiple-Entry Visas” are issued to foreigners who, due to business commitments, are required to make multiple entries. The validity can be from one month to one year. The “Referred Visa” requires special clearance from the Director of Immigration or Principal Immigration officer in Zanzibar. This is usually for people from Lebanon, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Somalia, refugees, stateless people and any other country as specified by the authorities. Applications are made to any Tanzanian missions abroad and cannot be obtained at entry points. Finally, the “Transit Visa” is issued for those who wish to cross Tanzania and the validity is two weeks. It is for those people holding onward tickets.

Visas can be obtained at the airport and if arriving by land or sea, at the port of entry. Although the government has officially stopped asking for yellow fever certificates, it is still advisable to obtain and carry a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate. Weapons, pornographic material, fresh food and cars more than 10 years old should not be brought into Tanzania.

There are two types of work permits, each requiring different documents including resumes, cover letters, academic qualifications and personal photographs. A special type of Work Permit is given specifically to those who successfully apply and possess rare qualifications or skills. These are usually granted to those in highly technical occupations that are not readily available in the local labor market including doctors, pilots, lawyers and accountants.

With a residence permit, spouses and dependents are permitted to stay in Tanzania for the duration of the working relative’s stay. They generally do not work, but there are some exceptions based on specific criteria. A passport is the main document used to verify identity in Tanzania. Apart from getting a Tanzanian driver’s license, no other documentation is required.

The local currency is the Tanzanian Shilling (Shilingi). The notes are TSH 10,000 (red, elephant), TSH 5,000 (purple, rhino), TSH 1,000 (blue, late President Nyerere), TSH 500 (green, buffalo) and TSH 2,00 (brown, Zanzibar Fort). The coins are TSH 200, 100, 50 and 25. TSH 20, 10 and 5 are out of circulation and while they still may be used in banks, are no longer issued or used. Bureau of Exchanges are located throughout the city. The rates vary so it wise to shop around. Hotels will also exchange foreign currency, but at higher rates.

Cash is the most commonly-used payment for everyday purchases e.g., groceries, etc. It is essential for such things as cooking gas, fuel for the car, restaurants, drinks at bars, taxis and most other daily purchases. Recently, larger shops have started accepting Visa and MasterCard and some places will accept American Express, but it is still advisable to have cash available in case of problems with the unreliable machines.

Credit cards are accepted in hotels and some very select restaurants, which will charge a 5% fee. In most instances, you will need Tanzanian shillings. Foreign cash is accepted, but at shocking exchange rates. Some institutions insist on being paid in U.S. dollars, but you have the right to pay in Shillings. However, you will more than likely get a poor exchange rate.

As a foreigner you are able to open a private bank account with a minimum of 50,000 Tanzanian Shillings, 1,000 U.S.-dollars and sometimes with 1,000 Euros, but you will need a work/residence permit, two passport-size photographs, a letter of appointment from your employer and a cash deposit in order to do so. All banks use English and Swahili as the language of correspondence. Provided you have sufficient funds, you can transfer and remit any amount of currency out of the country. Conversely, you can transfer in as much as you want, but it will be converted into the currency of your accounts.

Banking hours on weekdays are normally 08:30 am to 15:30 pm and Saturdays, from 09:00 am to noon. There are over 30 banks with Barclay’s, Standard Chartered, Stanbic, Bank of Baroda, FBME, and Citibank being the more well known internationally. Most banks have ATMs and offer Visa, and MasterCard facilities. Cash is dispensed in Tanzanian Shillings. TSH 400,000 is usually the maximum allowed to be withdrawn at one time. Traveler’s cheques are generally only accepted and exchanged at banks, hotels and bureaus of exchange. Credit cards are slowly being introduced but, when dealing with locals, cash is the only acceptable tender.

When searching for a place to live in your city, the most important factor to consider is your budget. Accommodation costs are extremely high while the standards are comparatively low. The other factor to consider is the traveling distance to work and school as traffic congestion is problematic, especially in the morning.

Oysterbay and the Peninsula are the two most popular neighborhoods for expats. Rentals in the Oysterbay and Peninsular vary from US $2,500 to $15,000 per month. The most prominent and sought after areas are Masaki (near the Yacht Club), Msasani Peninsular and Oysterbay. All are located near the most popular school, shopping centers, hospitals, hotels and restaurants. These areas have been developing at an amazing rate in the last five to seven years and you now have a choice of all types of accommodation. Many of them have swimming pools, gyms, tennis courts and security systems. Because these areas are in high demand, the rents are much higher and payment terms are seldom less than a year.

Foreigners are not allowed to buy property. Only businesses are permitted to buy on a 99-year lease agreement. So as a general rule, accommodation is rented. Landlords of property on the Peninsular demand an advance payment for one year. In other areas, some owners ask for only six months in advance.

While looking for your home, you may consider furnished accommodation on a short-term lease. Ask for a list of accommodations available, but book early because it is scarce in Dar es Salaam. There are only two international residential management companies: Knight Frank and Pam Goulding. However there are three to four good local firms. There are over 40 hotels and furnished apartments in Dar es Salaam and the surrounding areas: Holiday Inn, Movenpick, Kempinski, Protea and Sun International are the more commonly known hotel chains.

Utilities are generally not included in the price of rent. Water is a factor to be considered when moving to an area. In certain areas, for example the Yacht Club and Masaki, a house for a family of four requires water to be trucked in four times a month at US $50 a delivery. If DAWASCO, the local company distributing water around Dar es Salaam is connected to your home it can cost about TSH 100,000 (US $85 per month).

Electricity is another high-cost factor. A house that consumes electricity for air-conditioners and appliances can be as much as TSH 500,000 (US $430 per month). TANESCO sells prepaid electricity through its LUKU offices from Monday to Saturday. Some garages offer a 24 hour service for sales of LUKU. Gas is a very useful alternative to electricity and is readily available and most DUKAs (local shops) sell it late at night. The voltage system is 220 but because of the fluctuating .voltage, most households buy many protection plugs to prevent their appliances from being destroyed by the sharp peaks and troughs in supply. Most appliances function in Tanzania.

Tanzania is considered safe, but there has been an increase in petty theft and some gang-related attacks on lone people. Burglary in the home is rare, but one should employ 24-hour security services.

Expats in Dar es Salaam usually enroll children in the main private schools. There are more than a dozen schools to choose from in Dar es Salaam including IST (International School of Tanganyika) in Oysterbay for upper class children and IST Elementary school in Upanga. IST is by far the most popular school of choice for expatriates and for that reason alone, it is difficult to get students placed immediately. Sometimes your luck is determined by those leaving a particular grade. The school is extremely expensive but has the best record in the city. There are also seven selected schools in the Peninsular, Ada Estate and Upanga areas which cater to preschool children. School buses are available, but heavy traffic means that children spend a long time on the bus from very early in the morning. Hence a lot of families drive their children to and from school.

All schools except IST start in January and finish in December. IST starts in September and finishes at the end of June. The schools as a rule, insist that their pupils wear uniforms. Sports are not a high priority, but IST does have some activities other than academic.

It is recommended that you get Yellow Fever and Cholera vaccinations as a precaution, and speak to your doctor about medicine to prevent malaria. You would not be refused medical care, but in Aga Khan and government hospitals, admittance is relatively cheap. Most expatriates go to IST Clinic–International School of Tanganyika Clinic, which is run by professional doctors who charge in U.S. dollars for all services. The local institutions will refer patients to Kenya, South Africa if the situation warrants it.

You can dial 112 for help due to a medical emergency, a fire or if you need to contact the police, however, these numbers are rarely answered. It is best to get the emergency numbers of the security company you belong to. There are three or four security firms that offer reliable ambulance and medical assistance services. Daktari” is the word for “doctor” in Swahili. “Duka la Dawa” is the shop for medicine. The water is not safe to drink from the tap. Bottled water is highly recommended.

Dar es Salaam traffic can be very congested especially in the morning and evening hours. It is a definite advantage to have your own vehicle. If a company vehicle is not available to ferry your family around, you may require a second vehicle. Many expatriates use drivers to avoid the stresses of traffic and the perils of possible accidents. You may want to employ a driver to carry out both functions and, in general, these people are very reliable and prepared to work odd hours. Vehicles are generally a four-wheel drive type, because the roads are not in good condition. A new vehicle of that type sells for US $30,000 to $50,000 but good second hand vehicles are available for between US $8,000 and $15,000.

A Tanzanian driver’s license is required within six months upon arrival. The licensing authority requires both a current driver’s license for verification; three passport size photographs and an eye test by a reputable specialist (at a cost of TSH 30,000 or US $26). Insurance is not mandatory, but it is highly recommend that you take out full comprehensive insurance as very few local citizens have insurance and you need to protect your assets.

In Tanzania you drive on the left-hand side. Despite periodic complaints in the press about dangerous driving, dirty uniforms and unsociably loud music, Dar es Salaam’s public transport is surprisingly efficient and you can get almost anywhere within a twenty kilometer (12 mile) radius of the city for less than a thousand Shillings (less than a US $1). “Daladals” are shared minibuses which are all around the town and operate from 5am to 10pm. For short, frequently-used distances, the route is serviced by an inexpensive, three-wheeler motorbike, which accommodates two- to three passengers. Taxis can be found everywhere. Trips to the airport are between TSH 20,000 to 30,000 (US $17 to $26). In the city, the transport is safe but is generally very crowded and can be very hot and congested.

Long haul buses are available to take Expats out of the city. They are of good quality and are fairly inexpensive, but the drivers are known to speed. If the distance is within 40-50 kilometers (24-30 miles), then taxis would be a good option. Because of the huge distances from Dar es Salaam to other major tourist spots, many travelers use local airlines and charter companies to go to these places.

There are many grocery stores to buy food and toiletries including Shoppers Plaza, Shop rite (three outlets), Game, Village Supermarket and Shrijee’s (three outlets). For fresh produce, there are other “Dukas,” but one must be ready to barter for the best price, so most expatriates tend to shop at the main-stream shops and occasionally buy at the odd roadside Duka. Other than fresh food, all other commodities are imported and come with an inflated cost. You can get most things, including appliances locally and quite a variety too.

There are also several brilliant furniture outlets. Tanzanians are very good furniture manufacturers and are renowned for Zanzibar beds, chests, bookshelves, side tables and coffee tables and much more. Zanzibar Doors are grand entrances for a great deal of houses.

The expat community is very friendly and there are many activities available for entertainment. Clubs and groups are available to meet and mix with other expatriates and locals alike including Bridge Clubs, British Council, Dar es Salaam Yacht Club, Diplomatic Spouses Group, Irish Society, Little Theatre, Mah-jong, the Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania and many others. There are not many radio stations and apart from television, the social life is restricted to going to the movies and dining out. There are several groups who welcome (“Karibu”) newcomers. There are night clubs and many bars, but it is suggested that a newcomer only goes to these places once they get to know the city. There are a lot of single, professional expats who are on assignment for a contracted period.

The list of things for spouses to do is almost endless. It is common for spouses to visit the islands near Dar es Salaam, enjoy the sunshine and eat freshly cooked fish and chips. The sporting activities are limited, but golf, tennis and cricket are all very popular social events. There is a bowling alley at the Sea Cliff Hotel on the Peninsular and scuba diving and sailing are popular activities on the weekends.

Nannies are available and are generally have experience working with other expats families. They are very reliable and can double up as housekeepers. Domestic employment contracts are essential, the wages are very affordable.

While Kunduchi Hotel and Beach Resorts are the most popular kid-friendly attractions in the area, other childhood activities are quite limited and families are expected to entertain their children most of the time. Other than school-organized activities, it is suggested that families remain involved with selecting the possible venues for their teenagers before allowing them to explore on their own. Discuss any safety issues for children in this city. There are no real fears for children, but it is recommended that teenagers do not go into the city on their own.

Written by:
Chris Draeger, Group Vice President, Crown Relocations

Crown Relocations has been providing international moving and relocation services since 1965. With 200 offices in 50 countries, Crown has “people on the ground” in all the major Expat communities around the world. Crown provides a range of services to help Expats and their families move and settle into their new home ranging from Orientation Tours, Home finding, School Search and more. Crown also organizes Expat Clubs with regular events to help people meet and socialize with other Expats.

We also serve corporate clients as they develop and manage the relocation policies and employee benefit programs for the staff moving overseas. Services include expense management, program development, policy counseling, customized online reporting and full departure and destination services for the employees.

Crown is a private organization headquartered in Hong Kong, with European HQ in London and Americas HQ in Los Angeles California.

Crown provides free moving quotations on its website at http://www.crownrelo.com

It is hard to find any product in this day and age that doesn’t come from China. But are these products well received and has Chinese manufacturing managed to shake its bad reputation the same way some other Asian countries did 20 years ago. Apparently not if you followed last year’s news reports of safety concerns and product recall of Chinese-made goods.

So are all the criticisms true? We decided to look at the three most common myths of buying products from China and see how valid they were.

1. “Chinese products are unsafe.”

This is a long-held belief that has been brought to the forefront of people’s minds again by several high-profile cases in the US.

Mattel enacted a massive toy recall in August 2007 because the toys had been decorated with lead paint, an illegal practice in many western countries. An estimated 10.5 million toys were recalled, which led people to question the safety of many other Chinese products.

Who is to blame in such cases?

Some Chinese export companies say that people are looking in wrong place for answers and, instead of looking at manufacturer, we should look at the companies ordering the products.

Rose Li, Chinavasion public relations manager, said Chinese factories were only able to work to the specifications given to them by the customer.

“Chinese factories will view improved materials and certification as optional extras, which increase the price,” she said.

Ms Li said importers looking at sourcing products from China should first find out the end markets’ exact safety compliance standards before telling the manufacturer about the exact specifications they needed for the product.

She said it is also a good idea to buy a single item first to check that the product was safe and worked well to guarantee customer satisfaction.

2. “Chinese manufacturers will try to cheat you after you pay.”

While a quick search online could turn up hundreds of stories of people who say they have been cheated by Chinese suppliers you would be getting an unbalanced picture as those with good experiences are much less likely to speak out.

Steve Wu, Chinavasion purchase specialist, recommended those using credit cards to do it through a third party payment handler like PayPal.

“That will prevent the seller from getting sensitive credit information from the buyer and allow the buyer to stop the payment if there are any problems with the deal,” he said.

Another key piece of advice offered by regular goods traders is to transfer money into company bank accounts and not personal bank accounts, and always keep a documented record of transactions to help dispute cases if things go wrong.

3. “There is no way to tell if a Chinese company is legitimate.”

This is a particularly big fear for exporters who buy online or over the phone and are afraid the company they are ordering their products in might not actually exist, or may be in financial trouble, leaving them no recourse if they pay for an order and that order does not arrive.

Analysing some case studies of people who’ve been scammed, certain patterns emerge. Seasoned importers will spot obvious danger signs at the beginning of each story that should have warned the buyer away at an early stage… before money changed hands.

Many Chinese manufactures are also registered in Hong Kong and can be checked online at icris.cr.gov.hk/csci/

Hong Kong, 11 November 2006 – It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been good or bad this year, you’re invited to celebrate with us at Langham Place Hotel. From a spectacular children’s chocolate fashion show to yuletide buffets and exciting New Year’s Eve parties, you’ll be certain to have fun in style. Santa will also be making a special appearance so make sure you come and say hello!

Chocolate on Parade – Celebrate the start of the festive season with Hong Kong’s first chocolate haute couture parade conceptualised and orchestrated by Langham Place Hotel’s culinary team. Featuring over 160 kilos of exquisite Lindt chocolate melted and shaped into all sorts of hats, bags, shirts, trousers and dresses and modelled by the children of Mongkok, this parade will both amaze and delight. Chef Teddy will sell home baked ginger Christmas Tree cookies at $20 with proceeds going to the Hong Kong Society for the Protection of Children.

White Christmas – If you’ve been dreaming of a white Christmas then celebrate the season at The Backyard where a snowy winter wonderland awaits!

The Backyard comes alive with traditional yuletide treats like Gluhwein, Alpine chocolate fondue and eggnog; perfect to savour while rejoicing the season. Enjoy the freshest seafood and the hottest festive barbecue in town. With an excellent selection of wines, the customary Christmas puddings and fairytale surrounds, The Backyard creates a white Christmas to remember.

Festive Voices – The festive season would not be complete without the wonderful voices of our carollers, Resonance Chanters: Praise U Christian Choir, formed by the students of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. On Christmas Day come to see the choir sing all your favourite Christmas carols and songs to share the joy and peace of the festive season.
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Christmas Cookies – Fresh home-baked Christmas cookies: the perfect gift for the festive season. With a pre-order time of only one day, Chef Teddy will customise your individual giant cookie gift and present it to you in a specially designed gift box.

Post a Letter to Santa – Santa will set up a special post box in December so that children dining at The Place for lunch, afternoon tea or dinner can write a letter to him at the North Pole. Every letter mailed receives an instant prize from Santa’s sack. Santa himself will also announce three lucky winners on 24 December (Sun) for great prizes including a Nintendo Game Boy, mountain bike and a $1000 voucher from Toys R Us.

Traditional Festive Fare – Merry Christmas from Chef Lorraine & Teddy and their culinary teams as they dish up a spectacular and sumptuous buffet of yuletide treats. Enjoy all the festive trimmings with fresh baked ham and turkey, roasted vegetables, fruit mince pies, Christmas cake and pudding. During each seating Santa and Santarina will visit The Place with delicious home-made gifts from the pastry shop.

Christmas Dim Sum – Award-winning Chef Tsang has created a Chinese inspired Christmas menu in the spirit of the season. Featuring six flavoursome choices his menu will delight the palate and excite the senses.

Please refer to the attachment for the details of programmes and festive buffets.

The Backyard is located on Level L of Langham Place Hotel Reservation: 3552 3200
The Place is located on Level L of Langham Place Hotel Reservation: 3552 3200
Portal – Work & Play is located on Level 5 of Langham Place Reservation: 3552 3232
Ming Court is located on Level 6 of Langham Place Hotel Reservation: 3552 3300

About Langham
Langham has a legendary hotel heritage dating back to 1865 when the The Langham Hotel in London originally opened as Europe’s first Grand Hotel. For 140 years, this flagship hotel has been at the forefront of sophisticated and gracious hospitality. Today, all Langham Hotels worldwide inherit the same philosophy that reflects elegance, continuous innovation and genuine hospitality creating a truly unique hotel experience

About Langham Hotels International:
Langham Hotels International (LHI) features six properties with over 2,700 rooms in five gateway cities across the four continents, namely, London, Boston, Hong Kong (2), Melbourne and Auckland. In each city Langham Hotels is associated with the prestigious “The Leading Hotels of the World” group which represents some of the world’s finest luxury hotels.

LHI is wholly owned by Great Eagle Holdings Limited a publicly listed company (HKSE: 41) which was founded in 1963 and was listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in 1972.

Wedding in Hong Kong

Posted on 13 Aug 2014 In: Flights to Hong Kong

Last year, one of my wife’s friends got married. Her wedding was in Hong Kong and another one in Canada.

She stays in Hong Kong and when she sent us her wedding photos, my head got blown off and I was speechless.

Can you imagine looking at photos of Cinderella or Snow White in their wedding photos?

Can you imagine fairies flying around and sprinkling some magic dust on you so that you can float too?

Her wedding photos were perfect. The feel is more towards a fairy tale theme.

In total, I think she had more than 10 gowns. In Singapore, we only had 3 gowns at most 4.

Of course there is no limit to the number of gowns you can have if your budget is bottomless.

Over there in Hong Kong, wedding photos were taken very differently. First of all, the designs of gowns in Hong Kong differs alot.

They have more designs and more themes. There are more themes, much much more. Their gowns look more of higher class and the fashion trend is more up-to date.

When I saw their wedding gowns, I got really disappointed in Sinagpore’s wedding gowns and their designs.

It makes me doubt the design of the best wedding gowns of local bridal studios.

I have heard of couples flying all the way to Hong Kong to take their wedding shots.

For those who have plenty of cash to spare and can afford more, they can order their gowns which can be delivered to Singapore.

Hotels In Hong Kong

Posted on 13 Aug 2014 In: Hong Kong Hotels

When it comes to traveling to Hong Kong for winter vacations, it is more likely that traditional celebrations of this season run away with your mind, bringing images of the Chinese New Year’s Parade, which is in fact, one of the main seasonal attractions in the city. However, Hong Kong became a British colony in 1842, and the Opium War of 1860 left the city as a British Protectorate until the year 2000, when Hong Kong returned to China’s hands. History made this place a cosmopolitan city where visitors can enjoy a traditional Christmas pudding cake, or a New Year’s dinner with a Cantonese touch. In fact, many hotels in Hong Kong offer special packages from late November to mid-February to cover all the seasonal events, including the Chinese New Year.

On the island side, some of the most popular hotels include the Charterhouse Empire, Hotel Causeway Bay, South Pacific Hotel, Novotel Century, Grand Hyatt. JW Marriott Hotel, Ritz Carlton Hong Kong and Harbour Plaza North Point. Hong Kong’s Kowloon area has many other reputable hotels, including the YMCA International House, The Imperial Hotel, Ramada Hotel Kowloon, Royal Pacific Tower, and the Nikko hotel Inter-Continental Hong Kong.

Whether booking your lodging in the traditional district, in Kowloon, the new territories or the outlaying island, Christmas and New Years celebrations in Hong Kong are seasonal events. Chinese New Year in Hong Kong last for three days and it is coming next February 18, 2007. The new moon comes to end for the Year of the Dog and welcomes the Year of the Boar, which is the twelfth animal of the Chinese horoscope that.

Even though Christmas is celebrated much like any other big city of the world there is also a Western-like New Year’s parade with fireworks. Dragon dancers are the main attraction of the New Year Parade, going from one point to another on the island, spreading the good wishes and scaring away the evil spirits that were left from the previous year. Christmas celebrations not only attract many international visitors to Hong Kong to see how the Orient celebrates holidays, but it also attracts performers from all over the world who meet in Hong Kong.

Hotels in Hong Kong decorate Christmas trees and are dressed in colorful decorations throughout December, but many other decorated floats remain until the Chinese new year, when music, dance and street entertainers take over all the streets, starting from the Harbour front.

Christmas lights are substituted by paper lanterns that hang between buildings. Candles are placed inside the lantern to create a colorful glow through out Hong Kong streets. They are usually made from red paper and golden ink, symbolizing happiness, prosperity, healing, and good fortune.

Hong Kong is filled with flower displays all over the island. There will be literally millions of people on the streets, crowded on the streets of Hong Kong celebrating for days and creating an atmosphere like you will never see in any other city around the world. A great display of fireworks and firecrackers over Victoria Harbor announces the end of the Chinese New Year celebrations.

Food has deep meaning in Chinese culture and is of great significance to the colourful and grandiose festivals celebrated by people of East Asian descent all over the world. Each of the major and minor holidays during the year is intrinsically connected with special dishes that are essential to eat during the celebrations.

Perhaps the most well known of these holidays is Chinese New Year which is celebrated during January or February each year depending on the lunar calendar. It can be quite noisy at this time of year as anyone who has lived near any East or South East Asian community knows because of the abundant number of firecrackers set off during this time to which are believed to drive away evil spirits.

Many foods eaten during the New Year are said to bring good luck, symbolise togetherness and long life and always should be presented whole on the table, such as whole fish and chicken. Noodles are also eaten during New Year celebrations and should be made as long as possible as they represent a long and prosperous life.

The next big celebration is the Dragon Boat festival, which marks the time for Dragon Boat races whose participants range from amateurs to professional teams that compete in big cities around the world. The must-have delicacy during this festival is ‘zongzi’, a glutinous rice dumpling flavoured with different ingredients depending on the local custom before being wrapped and cooked in a banana leaf.

The dumpling eating history of this festival revolves around a famous poet named Qu Yuan. It is said he ended his life by jumping into a river because of great sorrow and disillusionment he felt in response to the corruption that he saw happening all around him. After his death legend says all the villagers threw rice into the river to tempt the river dragons to eat the rice and save his spirit from being devoured. His sacrifice caused the country to begin a period of reflection and a long period of peace followed. To commemorate his death, villagers began making the rice dumplings or ‘zongzi’ during the time of the anniversary of Qu Yuan’s sacrifice, which later became known as the Dragon Boat festival and this is why ‘zongzi’ are still eaten to this day.

Booking flights and accommodation during either of these major festivals can be challenging due to their popularity, but if you can make it out there, the experience is extremely rewarding. Visiting a city like Hong Kong, Beijing, Taipei, or any other cities in the far-east during one of these festivals is well worth doing as the sights, sounds, food and mingling with the local people is sure to provide an authentic experience.

If you wish to find a hotel in Hong Kong or accommodation elsewhere it is best to book early if you’re contemplating a visit to the far-east during festival-time. Many people in the region will also be travelling around festival time but if bookings are arranged in advance it is possible to find cheap flights and accommodation and experience a true taste of the Orient.

On the Trail of the Killer

Posted on 10 Aug 2014 In: Hong Kong Transportations


When I arrived in Hong Kong, I was about two weeks early for the Lunar New Year Festival, the most important of all Chinese celebrations.

Like traditional New Year celebrations around the world, the people of Hong Kong mark the four-day holiday by cleaning the house, getting a haircut, buying new clothes, visiting relatives and friends, and plenty of fireworks.

Pictures of gods and red strips of paper (which symbolize wealth, good fortune and longevity) adorn the doors of residents. Legend says this protected the early settlers from a beast called ninh which was scared away by bright lights, the color red and loud noises. If only the same ploy worked for the killer I was hunting! Alas, I had to find other means to outwit him – fast.

My sanctuary in Hong Kong was called the New World Harbor View Hotel. Situated in Wanchai, this 42-storey hotel gave me a breathtaking view of Victoria Harbor which separated Hong Kong Island from the Kowloon Peninsula.

Star Ferry cruises (which have been operating since 1898), sampans, Chinese junks and luxury yachts endlessly crossed the calm waters of the busy harbor.

For a while I thought I was at the top of the world. But my hotel wasn’t the highest. The nearby Central Plaza stood 78-storeys high, making it the fourth tallest building in the world and the tallest in Asia.

My view of Paradise, however, was spoiled by a brochure I picked up at the hotel. It warned tourists of pickpockets operating in the area. Most of them were from my place, the brochure said.

I scratched my eyes in disbelief. I found it hard to accept the fact that my countrymen were associated with a bunch of thieves. I admit we have our own share of criminals, but then so does the world.

I’ve been a medical detective for a long time now to know that there are dregs in every society. Even God made a criminal out of Judas and Lucifer. Why then were we given that dubious distinction – in this place?

I’d like to imagine that Hong Kong is heaven on earth – free from every ounce and trace of criminality – to justify what the brochure said. But the more I read the newspaper, the more I was disappointed.

While scanning the pages of the Hong Kong Standard, an English daily, I learned that a senior police inspector lost his revolver and 12 rounds of ammunition to an unidentified burglar. Last year, a police officer took off with a sub-machine gun, two pistols, and 400 rounds of ammunition.

In another page, a 12-year-old boy drowned in the Tai Po waterfront after sniffing glue – a common practice among secondary school children. Ten people were killed when arsonists attacked the Hong Kong Bank in Shek Kip Mei.

As I thought about these things, the killer once again occupied my mind. It was only a matter of time before he would strike. I had to stop him before it was too late.

My search would begin in the afternoon. The assignment proved harder than I thought. Hong Kong has more than five million people. How the hell do you single out a bloodthirsty maniac who left little or no clues?

Lady Luck came sooner than I expected, I got a tip that the killer’s name would be revealed on the opening day of a convention I was attending. It was my only hope of saving many people from an early death. (Next: Face to face with death.)

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Speaking about this region makes me feel inspired. At same time, speaking about finding cheap flights to go there is completely another world, and probably if somebody asked me to find a cheap flight to the South Pacific, I would make them pay for that. That is due to the amount of hours I have spent doing research on the options to go there, only to realize that it really does not exist this deal we are all looking for.

On the other hand, it exists thousands of possibilities where you can get an astronomic fee to get there, when you could have reached the zone for a lot less. So, the first thing to set is: how much should you be paying to get there? Let’s be sincere. If you travel from Europe, everything that goes up from 1500 euros the round trip… let it be, this will not be your flight, I promise. From Asia and from America, you could probably find some deals for around 700 euros, that should be a price to look at. And from Africa, there are really thousands of options, but seriously i wouldn’t take anything for more than 1500 euros also.

The second step is to look at how many flights will you need to take. One golden rule applies nearly always. The higher the number of times you change from plane, the higher the cost involved, so try to keep it simple. After this, one thing has to be considered. Believe me or not, but I can promise to you that low cost has not arrived to this part of the world. It simply does not exist. Trying to be a bit more positive, I am going to mention a couple of things that can be useful. Always use the search engines for arilines to find names that cover the route you want, but never book through them. Instead, go to the mentioned airline, and scan it to the very end until you find this low fare. I promise it will always be cheaper.

In the end, the possibility to get cheap flights to the zone turns around two airlines. One of them is Zoom Airlines, and the other Oasis Hong Kong. The first one is possibly the first low cost airline that crosses the Atlantic that has ever existed. It means it allows you to go from London to New York for just 350 euros (about 450 dollars) the round trip, and it specially connects all European destinations with Canada, and we are looking specially at the flights to Vancouver, that is placed on the eastern coast of North America. From there, you could find good options to travel to the South Pacific, but do not expect any great deal. It is simply the best you can find. Also Alitalia has normally the cheapest flights to reach America.

If you are US resident, of course this would not make sense. Your first step will be to reach Los Angeles or San Francisco with a low cost carrier, and from there take the best option.

When looking at the other side, an airline that appeared just 1 year ago, Oasis Hong Kong, is bringing low fares to the route between Europe and Asia. From London to Hong Kong you can find it for 500 euros (725 dollars) which is pretty good compared to the competition. At the day of writing this article, this option is something that will probably close you in front of some airlines that will make you pay a lot to get to Australia or New Zealand from there. But, this is about to change, as Oasis Hong Kong is already developing to get specially a new route from Hong Kong to Sydney and Canberra, which will be a real hit to competition, specially to Cathay Pacific, as they will make the cost of this trip for the half of what this last ones actually offer. We will see.

Let me now tell you about the possibilities within South Pacific, studying specially Australia and New Zealand, top touristic destinations. Still there is no way to cross the sea between them for a reasonable price. A European trip of the same distance with Ryanair would be more than 10 times less the price those guys charge to cross. Still no solution to this problem. The good news is that within the countries themselves, it does exist some low cost companies that can make the national trips affordable. For instance, the Auckland – Christchurch can be made for 40 euros, about 80 kiwi dollars, or 60 US dollars. Still it is a terrible amount compared to the distance, but I will not complain.

Finally, a last deal found at the time of writing. The airline Qantas has very good options to travel from Europe to the area. Check their prices at their web-site, specially the Hot Deals section, and you will find some good discounts, reaching the 1300 euros barrier. They are also one of the favorites between America and South Pacific.

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