day 1

The Flight to Hong Kong


Waking to a 7 AM alarm, after finally climbing in bed a mere three hours earlier, is somewhat disconcerting. Even so, after weeks of planning for this trip, my level of excitement and anticipation is so high, I have no trouble waking up. I remind myself that I'll have 15 hours of flight time, plus a 2-hour layover in Tokyo, to catch up on my sleep.

Checking my email one last time, I dash off the needed replies and print out the one I'd been anxiously awaiting -- a reply back from a Mr. Wilson Lee from Hong Kong's Food & Environmental Hygiene Department, the organization in charge of keeping the streets of Hong Kong clean. Its last-second arrival seems like a good omen.

on plane

I begin the first leg of my trip with an hour-and-a-half ride in an Airporter shuttle bus, which will take me to the Seattle-Tacoma airport to catch a 1 PM flight to Tokyo. It's a relief to slide into my seat and finally be on my way. It's about 55 degrees in Seattle when we leave -- a sharp contrast to the 90+ degree weather Hong Kong has had the past few days.

The plane I'll be boarding is a wide-body, Boeing 747, my first flight in one of these huge, double-decker jetliners. As I gaze sleepily at the plane from the inside the airport terminal, I'm struck by the thought that you could easily drive a street sweeper into one of its engines with plenty of room to spare. This somewhat bizarre thought serves as a reminder of how sleep- deprived my brain actually is.

Once inside the 747, it's easy to collapse into my seat and leave the driving to them for the 9+ hours of going over the top of the world to Tokyo, where I'll have a two-hour layover before heading on to Hong Kong. The United flight is excellent and uneventful. I manage to nap for a few hours, and take the opportunity to do some personal reading, a luxury I always enjoy.

The Tokyo airport is remarkably similar to most others I've visited, and the English language signage makes navigation easy. I check out the prices at some of the shops. Everything seems quite expensive, as is always the case in airport stores. I'm looking forward to my first 'real' visit to Tokyo when I return here on the 11th for a 6 day stay.

When we arrive in Hong Kong, the last of the light has faded from the world-class sunset we enjoyed from the air. It's just after 8 PM, local time, but it's also now May 3rd, the day after I left Seattle. In the 14 hours I spent in the air, beginning at 1 PM Pacific Time, I've added a day. What a world we live in!

Although the line is long at Immigration and Passport Control, the official glances only briefly at my passport and checks his computer screen before bidding me to continue in his clear, resonant, English-speaking voice. I head toward the baggage claim and am delighted to find that my suitcase has arrived with me. The real surprise, however, is to discover that there's no further customs check whatsoever. Seemingly, no one is concerned about what visitors might be bringing into Hong Kong.

I find the correct shuttle for my trip to the Hong Kong Sheraton and, after a brief wait, we begin the half-hour trip to the Kowloon side of the harbor where the hotel is located. The air is sticky hot with heat and humidity, even though it's now past 10 PM. As we cross a bridge over Hong Kong harbor, I get my first real look at the congested, high-rise skyline of Hong Kong itself. We wind through a downtown area that's still brightly lit and packed with shoppers, more so than any U.S. city I've visited, including New Orleans. Although I'm tempted to hop out for a quick look, I realize I'm completely exhausted. After all, it's now about 9 in the morning, Pacific Time, and I haven't had any sleep -- aside from a less-than-refreshing jet-nap -- for more than 24 hours.

I open my hotel room door and find, to my delight, that the window faces Hong Kong harbor! I then spend half an hour surfing through television programming I can't understand, looking for commercial advertisements. They are greatly entertaining to watch, even though it's hard to figure out what, exactly, is for sale.

By now, it's about midnight. Tomorrow, with luck, Mr. Lee will show me how sweeping is done in this country.


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