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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 42: 5 November

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysOutside the handsome period frontage of the Peninsula Hotel, Passepartout One take their last shot of me. As I come through the doors into the lobby Passepartout Two take up the story. The cameraman is still called Nigel (Walters, not Meakin). His assistant has become Simon (Maggs) and Ron has metamorphosed, and lost a stone or two in the process, into Dave (Jewitt). Far from looking fresh, Passepartout Two is grey-eyed and thick-headed, having struck a run of mini-flu since arriving a week ago.

There is hardly time to be introduced before I am led with an ever-increasing entourage into the lift and up to Room 417. The door is opened before me to reveal a small hallway with an antique table on which stands a bottle of every kind of sophisticated refreshment. A bottle of champagne nestles in ice and beside it is an invitation to a black tie party tomorrow night to celebrate the halfway point of my journey. My broken bag is swiftly removed to be repaired, laundry is whisked away and, after some shell-shocked pictures of my reaction are taken for hotel publicity, I'm left alone for fifteen whole minutes!

Then to the Bird Market, a long narrow street devoted exclusively to the sale of birds and their accessories. The only other creatures well represented are grasshoppers - sold by the pound in plastic bags as bird food. Song birds are very popular here, and punters looking to buy one bring with them birds they already have, for the birds won't sing unless there is another to sing to. Not all the birds are bred for choral purposes. Some are for fighting, and one stall has a large number of small angry birds, about the size and beauty of shabby starlings, which are specially bred for this purpose and imported from mainland China. There are also some very fine parrots and macaws if you want conversation, and while I am trying to teach one of them to say 'John Cleese is rubbish' I feel an affectionate tug at my trousers. A beautiful white cockatoo on a lower perch has taken a shine to my faithful cotton trousers and is shaking them at the knee.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 42
  • Date: 5 November
  • Country/sea: Hong Kong
  • Place: Hong Kong
  • Book page no: 133

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