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Tales of a travelling salesman

Tales of a travelling salesman

landing in Hong Kong, Part 1 . (and then off to Christchurch, New Zealand.)

Hong Kong at night

Hong Kong at night

It’s been a long time coming … I do recall telling our new client about 14 years ago, when they placed their first order for about three or four pallets of Hapsburg Absinthe, that if / when their sales build up, and they place an order for a full 20’ container, I shall book tickets to fly over and meet them.
Fortunately Glengarry Hancocks, (now Hancocks), did continue buying, but in exactly the same way; en groupage with other UK imports, and several times a year, so I never felt obliged to honour my promise made back in the late 1990’s , to make the 28 + hour journey from London to Auckland, NZ.

Recently we got news that the Company Glengarry Hancock had split into two, and our contact would be with Hancocks Wine & Beer Merchants, so with this change in Company set- up announced, perhaps it was the right time after over a decade of reliable trading with Partners I had never met , to make a visit, and see what we could do, to improve Trade perhaps.

I travel quite a lot … over the past 8 weeks, I have been to Hong Kong, New Zealand ,Dubai, Israel, Spain, Wales, New York; and over the coming 8 weeks, I’ll go to Denmark, France and Mexico, with possibility of Dubai again in December … Used to sitting still in cramped airline ? Yes ;  however sitting still for 25 hours + is NOT something I relish, so I decided to lay over in Hong Kong for the day, to rest up and make the 2nd leg of the journey.

I booked an airport hotel, which is something I’m usually reluctant to do, as they tend to be wildly overpriced conveyor belts for airline crews and one night stopover visitors (just like me), however my choice of hotel for Hong Kong was inspired as it was lovely and clean and large rooms, and VERY reasonable, free Wifi, and MOST importantly for me with two large 23kg bags + carry on case… you could stack the cases on a no-charge luggage trolley (note that Luton Airport !!), and wheel the luggage along a 100 metre walkway, straight into the Hotel, so no carrying three heavy cases. The hotel ? Hong Kong Regal Airport Hotel approx. £81 for the night … only downside, was breakfast was NOT included, which I always feel is ‘disappointing’ if downright annoying.  A free continental breakfast of coffee, OJ and croissant costs a few cents, and doubtless many people would upgrade when actually sitting at the table, to order some scrambled eggs etc etc.

Two weeks ago I flew Virgin Atlantic to New York in ‘premium economy’, and it was quite nice… not great, but quite nice.However flying ‘Upper Class’ on Virgin Atlantic, is better than quite nice and much as I like BA Business Class, Virgin make it so easy to upgrade using mileage points, whereas BA make a very big deal offering and selling extra mileage points, but when you go to use them, invariably “… there are no seats available sir, to take mileage points, unless you book 11 months away…”  which doesn’t really suit most business travellers. So although I tried to use BA, it was Richard Branson that got the business.

Having checked into to my room I took a badly needed shower and shave and resolved NOT to try to figure out what time it REALLY was back in London . I decided to see if I could make a commercial visit. With virtually no notice, I got lucky, with a local importer, whom I was in touch with about 6 months ago, who said, sure he’ll see me. Not wanting to leave the security of the Hotel, I invited him to join me at the hotel for lunch, but he was too busy, and said “ Jump in the Airport Express Train… it’ll only take you 24 minutes ….”
Well, it was a surprise how cheap, quick and easy it was to get from the airport (hotel) into Central Hong Kong, using the Airport Express Railway.   (After a week in New York using their subway, I had pretty much lost my confidence to use ANY subway system apart from London’s Underground.) However the hotel told me vehemently NOT to take a taxi but to use the Express Train which takes 24 minutes (not 23, or 25, but 24 … and it ALWAYS does take 24 minutes), is very much quicker than driving, and takes you after just 4 stops directly into downtown Hong Kong, with inexpensive taxis queued up outside the station.

By the way fellow travellers, you might like to know it costs the same price for same-day return, as for single fare.  The Carriage was super clean, no graffiti, no diamond-scratched gang tags / initials on the windows… announcements at each station were made in English and Chinese about where we are and how to proceed… we have so much to learn from them… Can you imagine announcements in mandarin at London’s Charing Cross station…?

Hong Kong's sparking subway makes London's underground look terrible

Hong Kong’s sparking subway makes London’s underground look terrible

My visit to the HK spirits importer taught me some quick important lessons, which explained why I had found it so hard to get started there.Scotch and Cognac may be the must-have spirits in mainland China, but when he sells a bottle of Cognac in HK, a fiesta is declared … and I thought selling the cognac from our new found friends at Tiffon, was going to be easy…! Absinthe Hapsburg was going to be even more difficult, but that’s the challenge.
I was informed about how few spirits importers there are, compared with the thousands of wine importers. Wine pays ZERO tax, whereas spirits pay tax based on 100% of the invoice value. You can see the attraction to sell wine …

On to New Zealand next day (12 hours to Auckland), and then quick switch to Christchurch… I’d heard from business travellers that when you land at Hong Kong, you set your watch 7 hours forward , but when you land in New Zealand, you set your watch back 40 years !

Updates from New Zealand soon!