"Fly normal," said Roger, as we sank beers in Hong Kong's China Club. "Fly normal every bloody day in China." The phrase has become the ex-pat's way of expressing dismay at China's occasionally shambolic infra-structure, a modern-day version of SNAFU (Situation Normal All F***** Up).
Sitting on the terrace of the China Club is as good a place as any to watch Hong Kong cope with the credit crunch. In fact, for a lot of ex-pats, Hong Kong is a good place to sit out the economic downturn. You wouldn't know there is a recession from the look of the women hoovering up handbags in Milan Station, or the number of Maseratis outside. And while they have culled 10 per cent of their staff, from the rooftop offices of Goldman Sachs opposite, it's still possible to feel like a Master of the Universe.
Espresso martinis keep them awake, foot massages at Happy Feet calm them down, and when they're feeling flush, helicopters take them to Macau for a dirty weekend. The government has done such a good job turning Macau into Las Vegas's bigger, uglier cousin, that they're now trying to limit the number of Chinese who visit by only offering one-day visas once every six months. They'd rather people spent their money on the mainland, thank you very much. Which is what everyone else appears to do, as HK isn't interested in entertaining the global recession (not with so many Chinese tourists). The vibrancy is extraordinary; skyscrapers shoot up like fireworks on reclaimed land.
Since the Chinese took it back, crime, even among the triads, has shrunk so much that gweilos (or caucasians) never worry about wandering the streets at night. The island is like Switzerland, and street crime is as rare as graffiti; it's also one of the few places in the world still unencumbered by Russian minigarchs. Hong Kong is Manhattan, Nice and LA all at once – and if you can tear yourself away from the restaurants, galleries and malls, it's a secret jungle too, with some of the most beautiful walks on Earth.
Hong Kong is not an easy place to leave, but luckily I was flying Air New Zealand rather than flying normal.
Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'