Encouragingly billed as “The Most Sensational Event in Local History”, the appearance in Hong Kong of The Royal Balinese Dancers, in March 1935, was a great success. Among many VIPs in the opening-night audience at the Queen’s Theatre, in Central, an effusive Phyllis Juby of The China Mail recommended that “the beauty of these dancers, gentle as a shadow on the earth, or warm as the blood of human passions, must be seen by all who love the sunshine and the tenderness of jungles”. Less than a month later, the Central Theatre, in Sheung Wan, screened Legong: Dance of the Virgins (1935), promoted in the local press as “an all-technicolour South Sea romance […] filmed in Bali with an all-native cast”. Hongkongers thus inspired to visit the Island of the Gods could travel south with the Java-China-Japan Lijn (JCJL), which advertised regular steamship connections to Bali and Java, which it called “the Isles of Romance and Beauty”. The trip took just over a week each way, with “excellent accommodation for passengers, a European Doctor and Wireless telegraphy”, and cost from HK$300 for a round trip. Those lacking the time or funds to visit Bali could instead attend popular amateur lectures given by those who had recently returned. Armchair travellers could find occasional articles in the local press, or put their feet up with books such as Bali and Angkor (1936), by Geoffrey Gorer, who visited the island around the time that the Royal Balinese Dancers were in Hong Kong. “I went there half unwillingly,” he confessed, “for I expected an uninteresting piece of bali-hoo, picturesque and faked to a Hollywood standard; I left wholly unwillingly, convinced that I had seen the nearest approach to Utopia that I am ever likely to see.” Bestselling Austrian novelist Vicki Baum ( Grand Hotel , 1929, Shanghai ’37 , 1939) visited Hong Kong in April 1935, and from here took a JCJL ship – the MS Tjisadane – down to the island, where she wrote Love and Death in Bali (1937). Mexican artist and writer Miguel Covarrubias’ definitive study, Island of Bali , also appeared in 1937 – soon after one of his Bali portraits was named Vanity Fair cover of the year for 1936. While it is, of course, currently impossible to follow in the footsteps of Bali’s early Western visitors, you can still take the seats of those 1930s armchair travellers with Kindle editions of both Love and Death in Bali and Island of Bali . Opening chapters are free to download from Amazon. Hong Kong’s first airport hotel used as Covid-19 holding centre Hong Kong residents of a certain age might feel a twinge of déjà vu after being tested for Covid-19 on arrival at Chek Lap Kok and bused over to Kai Tak for a complimentary one-night stay at the Regal Oriental Hotel . For this, of course, was Hong Kong’s first airport hotel. Opened in 1982 as the Regal Meridien Airport Hotel, and conveniently connected to Kai Tak airport’s car park by an air-conditioned walkway with luggage conveyor, it was a joint venture between Hong Kong’s fledgling Regal Hotels International and Air France’s Le Meridien. Renamed the Regal Kai Tak Hotel in the 1990s, it became the Regal Oriental Hotel in 2002, and has somehow lived on without the airport. Although sister property the Regal Airport Hotel, at Chek Lap Kok, might have been a more sensible choice as a holding centre for potentially infected arrivals (perhaps someone got their wires crossed?), there are probably worse places to while away an evening. After a couple of drinks from the minibar (likely not included in the government package), “guests” with west-facing rooms on a high floor might even imagine themselves on one of those famously hair-raising Runway 13 approaches, as they survey the rooftops of the run-down tenements on neighbouring Sa Po and Kai Tak roads. Could new-look economy cabins add cargo into the mix? Airline flight crews have long referred to their passengers as “self-loading freight” – a moniker that could seem more apt than ever if plans by Haeco Cabin Solutions ever get off the ground. Several timely and economical methods of carrying cargo in the passenger cabin were recently drawn up by the North Carolina-based company, “optimising passenger and cargo yield [and] using packages to distance passengers” from each other. If the name sounds familiar, Haeco Cabin Solutions is a subsidiary of the Swire Group ’s Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company, which was founded in 1950. An interesting oral history of the company, and its days at Kai Tak, featuring interviews with past employees and many old airport photos, can be found at hkmemory.org.