Picking Up The Cabs – A Visit To MRN In Hong Kong

29 Dec

I had two nice Cabs waiting for me in Hong Kong and if that was not incentive enough for a trip there, my friend Javi was also flying there for a quick business trip ….

Javi and I have shared a few trips to Havana and the fun they entail so what better than having fun together in Hong Kong ?

I contacted MRN and he graciously arranged my hotel and Airport pick-up.

Javi and I coordinated our flights to arrive the same day and start the fun right away.

Additionally I had contacted some local cigar smoking friends and they were kind enough to meet us the first evening after arrival for beers, cigars and a conversation about the current situation in HK.

The flight was very good – happy to be back inside a company B-747 and I truly enjoy the new 747-8 that only Lufthansa flies in passenger version.

Very spacious, quiet and extremely comfortable.

I arrived well rested after a short 10h15 overnight flight and after smoking half a RASCC outside the airport I was swiftly picked up and brought to the Sheraton.

This would be the only change to previous visits to MRN in HK as he advised me not to stay at the Shatin Hyatt due to the unrest close by and the vandalized train station there.

While I prefer the Shatin Hyatt for its quiet and peace over the bustling and crowded TST area, the Sheraton on Nathan Road is very familiar to me as it was our crew hotel for more than 20 years.
So that particular area in Tsim Tsa Tshui full of shops, pubs and places that I know was well-known turf to me.

Javi, Alan and Eric were waiting in the hotel lobby for me after unpacking and taking a shower and we went around the corner for some beers and good cigars – generously invited by Alan & Eric. Thank you guys !!

We would enjoy Alan’s company in later days and he took good care that Javi made it quickly to his flight last day … 🙂

We were offered the new Punch 898 RE PCC release as well as a 2011 Punch RE PCC – while we reciprocated with equally nice cigars.

After saying good bye to our friends Javi and I took a stroll around TST and I invited him to my former “home pub away from home” Ned Kelly’s Last Stand.

This is where I would go with my crew after a flight for beers, cigars and good Jazz music.
And when things got rowdy and the Lufthansa crew would win on the dart board the other crews would try to piss us off ordering “Snoopy and the Red Baron” from the band … boy do I miss that 🙂

Sadly the place is non-smoking now ….

We discovered a Bar named Castros just opposite Ned Kelly’s that made us curious. Castros … might this be Cuban by any chance ??

We climbed the stairs and lo and behold – it was jam-packed with a happy crowd smoking away directly besides, under and next to big No Smoking signs … Our kind of place !

Great service, room was made for us, more beers and we had the best Cuban Sandwich around – much better than in Cuba.

We would go back there every day and it was always a pleasant experience, good local crowd, great service, perfect spot for a cigar.

The next day Javi came over to have breakfast with me and we then took a pot of coffee to the roof-top pool area for morning cigars.

Then it was out for shopping, a visit to my optical shop for new glasses, a long stroll around TST to show Javi around.

That afternoon MRN picked us up and we went up the hill to his home and I introduced Javi to him while having a few bottles of … no, not 1996 this time, but a first for me, excellent 1988 Clicquot if I remember correctly.

Also exchanged were some presents I had brought both personally and from my TW friends.
He was happy enough to converse by phone with my TW friend in Mandarin and then we called Frank to rub it in – the poor guy could not make it with us this time.

We smoked Diplomatic Lanceros and had a good conversation before walking over to the dining room for a delicious seafood dinner of crab, lobster, and all kinds of delicacies including a fantastic seafood fried rice.

Our host switched to 1996 Pol Roger for dinner and we continued with this vintage after dinner and back to the living room for more cigars – this time 1998 Partagas # 4 that were extremely dark and oily.

A perfect first evening with MRN and the traditional great hospitality enjoyed in his home.

I slept like a rock – no issues with jet lag and got up early the next day to pick up the new glasses.

Lunch was a very good Burger at Castros and then I took the Star Ferry over to Central and the Mandarin Cigar Divan.

Simon was on vacation but Howard took perfect care of me and I left with some Punch 898 PCC RE’s after enjoying a cigar and iced tea in the divan.

After a short nap it was pick up time again by MRN and his lovely wife and off to Lei Yue Mun,  the local fishing village cum seafood market full of narrow lanes and the best and most fresh seafood – not a single tourist in sight, this is exclusive local territory.

We selected our seafood from the same stall as always, the purchase included the best lobster and a giant Abalone among other sea products and then took the private dining room inside the restaurant.

MRN’s good driver then proceeded to unpack the 9 bottles of 1996 champagne that we had for the dinner…. one incredible sight !

Javi who was across the border in Shenzen had messaged asking for the address and promising to make it on time – but then he got delayed two hours at HK border control due to him carrying a … let’s say a not very convenient passport 🙂

We could not care less about his border worries when the food arrived and started eating away after giving him a grace period of one hour.

He was fortunate there was still some left when he finally arrived 🙂

But the champagne and cigars – Cohiba Siglo VI from POS 2006 – made up for his troubles and we had another great dining and smoking experience with our host MRN.

We should have left it at that but he convinced us to try his Dry Martini – I had brought him a few bottles of his favourite Noilly-Prat Dry White.

I had never had a Dry Martini in my life and we had three stiff ones each – lovely stuff but not my flavour of the month. I’d rather drink the Vermouth neat – no gin.

Needless to say it was 2 am when we got back to the hotel and another good rock-like sleep – no problems with jet-lag … 🙂

Next day Javi invited me for Brunch at Spasso, a nice open air restaurant near his hotel in TST and we enjoyed a sunny, warm day, blue skies and good fun.

The digestive stroll was up Nathan Road to Yue Hwa, the Chinese products store and back down again and then iced tea and a cigar at the Sheraton LCDH. Wonderful ….

That night Javi and I went separate ways – he to Central and Wanchai, me staying in the neighbourhood, having a relaxing hourlong foot massage and a nap before going back to … Castros for a light dinner, cigars and good talks with the friendly locals and their insights on the current unrest and riots dominating the city.

HK truly suffers and comes frequently to a standstill although I only saw riot police once in the week I was there.

The economy has been badly damaged and tourism has dropped by half.

The next day was Javi’s last day in HK and the plan was to have dinner at MRN’s before he left to the airport from there.

We first met Alan and Patrick for coffee and cigars around noon and then walked over to Spasso for lunch with them – long, relaxed nice lunch, good guys, extremely friendly and generous.

When I called MRN to ask what time he wanted us, he asked what time Javi was leaving for the airport. He had told us he was leaving at midnight and needed to be at the airport around 9 pm …

I asked Javi and he checked again … and let out a scream of F####ck me – my plane leaves in 2 hrs … it was past 4 pm and his plane left at 6:30 pm.

Luckily he had all packed and good man Alan organized a cab to Kowloon St. and saw that he took the next Airport Express to Chep La Kok where he arrived just at boarding time … Lucky escape 🙂

Well, he not only missed a book – he missed some good champagne and some more Siglo VI’s although it was a short visit and after 2 hrs I returned to TST for a last beer and a cigar to clear up my fried brains.

Next day was my flight – and it was leaving at midnight, double checked and already having my boarding pass in my mobile, the organized German in me.

So a ton of time to spend after the noon check-out from the hotel…

I had a small cigar and iced tea at the LCDH while waiting for MRN to pick me up, his wife driving that day, and we went back up the hill for me to spend some six hours before leaving for the airport.

It was a nicely used waiting time as we talked, smoked  and drank champagne. I was shown the counterfeited/un-authorized Mandarin Version of the First Edition sold in the mainland.

MRN was so gracious as to offer me 1972 Hoyo de Monterey Chateau Yquem – the predecessor of the famed Cuban Davidoff Chateau series.

I have never seen such an oily cigar in my life. Incredible after all these years, even the box was permeated with oils.

A second pristine box in wax paper was taken out to compare. Never opened before. Amazing stuff.

My Cabs were waiting and, after signing them, MRN handed them over to me.

A little Snack of cows intestines and pigs bladders, another Siglo VI and it was time to leave – It meant I would have another 3 hrs at the airport but with the current unrest and it being a Sunday, the preferred day for riots, it seemed the safest bet.

I bid farewell to my hosts, arrived at the airport in no time, checked in and was at the gate within 10 minutes of my arrival there.

So another small cigar at the Observation deck with some nice Indonesians trying out my Bahasa and having Sanuk before finally boarding a half-full flight back home.

Happy to sleep some 5 hours and Wham – back in Frankfurt again.

Great trip !

Nino

PS :
As I am sure I will get a truckload of enquiries again about this question, here is the information I received from MRN and can confidently pass on :
1) He will be publishing a small, abridged cigar book of ca. 700 pages next year.
2) There is no release date yet for the second edition.

 

 

 

 

 

2 Responses to “Picking Up The Cabs – A Visit To MRN In Hong Kong”

  1. joe akers 03/01/2020 at 03:15 #

    Your Hong Kong visit brings back memories of when I traveled to Hong Kong on business.

    I used to travel several times a year to Hong Kong from my home in Dallas. Usually stayed at the Grand Hyatt (Wan Chi) next to the convention center as this was next to my companies HK office.

    I frequented the cigar shop inside the Mandarin hotel in Central, the Davidoff shop in the Peninsula hotel, Cigarro, and a few others that I can’t remember (all inside hotels). On one visit, Ravi took me to his duty free warehouse which was really impressive.

    Is the night market on Nathan street still going strong? That is an interesting thing to experience. And it was literally next to your hotel 🙂

    • Nino Munoz 03/01/2020 at 12:21 #

      Joe,

      all good places to visit.

      And yes, the Night/Ladies Market up on Nathan Rd is still going strong.

      Nino

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