Trip from DC to Hong Kong
A few months ago, Jianhua, my good friend from work, set a date for his wedding and invited me to come. Despite really wanting to go, I had to think about it for a bit because the wedding would be held in Shenzhen, China. I ended up finding a good fare on Korean Air and booked a round trip ticket. At the time it looked like a couple of other friends of ours would also be making the trip, but the wedding date didn't work with their schedules. I sketched out a skeleton itinerary which included a couple of days in Hong Kong, several days in mainland China, and an overnight layover in Seoul on the way back. This is the account of my trip from DC to my hotel room in Hong Kong.
Last Thursday I boarded a jet in Washington bound for Seoul. I had never been on a flight longer than eight hours before, and this would be nearly twice that. I had a window seat, and things got off to a turbulent start when I majorly pissed off my neighbor-for-the-flight by politely asking her to vacate my seat. She even pretended she couldn't understand English so that she wouldn't have to move.
I was beyond impressed with Korean Air's service. After sitting down, a flight attendant confirmed with me right away that I had requested a vegetarian meal and asked what I would like to drink. Within a minute of the captain turning off the seat belt sign, my meal was in front of me. It struck me that they are probably wise to take care of the picky eaters first. I relished the fact that the flight attendants made a point of badgering everyone to place their seats in the upright position when food was served, as otherwise, there would have been no room to maneuver.
As you can see, the meal was served with legitimate flatware. I could not imagine any airlines in the US providing all of its passengers with forks and knives that could do real damage, but I just went with it. Maybe it discourages terrorists, knowing that everyone else on the flight is armed as well. Anyway, the food was delicious, and the fruit was surprisingly fresh.
I was done eating before any of the carnivores around me had any food. This made my neighbor even more unhappy, and a barrage of scowls were directed my way. Thankfully, after she dined, she was dead to the world for most of the flight and didn't give me any more trouble. Clearly she didn't need that window seat. To pass the time, I worked on a puzzle, read some Lemony Snicket, and started writing a puzzle. The entertainment system had a solid collection of TV/movies, and re-watching Sherlock Season 3 kept me busy for a stretch. The system provided various ways of visualizing our flight path, and despite understanding Great Circle Routes, it is still tough for me to wrap my head around this being the most efficient route from DC to Seoul. Well, if you ignore the stay-the-hell-out-of-North-Korean-airspace part, I mean.
Somewhere over northeast Russia, I was able to photograph a beautifully desolate landscape.
I was then fed another delicious meal and managed to fall asleep for a couple of hours. Before too long we landed in Seoul, where I had a two-hour layover. Despite being exhausted, I found myself wishing I had more time there. The place is more shopping mall than airport, and they have a serious duty-free operation going on.
There are almost 100 different, sometimes highly specialized, duty-free stores, and when I stumbled upon the center of operations for moving people's purchases throughout the airport, I was impressed to say the least. It is a well-oiled machine. The airport had free showers, which appeared pristine, free massage chairs, movie theaters, an ice rink, and from the looks of it, plenty of scrumptious food. There were even free-to-use computers with internet access.
The airport itself was so well maintained that it could probably double as a clean room. One thing I loved is that the seating was comfortable and lacked dividers between the seats, which resulted in several folks setting up camp while awaiting their morning flight.
The flight to Hong Kong from Seoul was just three hours, and it included yet another meal. I slept for about an hour, and then after landing, this exhausted traveler managed to make it through immigration and customs without too much trouble. I was not in any mood to decipher the way to my hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui using public transit. Despite my taxi driver not speaking Mandarin or English, somehow he got me to the right place. I checked in to the Empire Hotel Kowloon a bit before midnight, and was beyond ready for bed. However, something caught my eye before I passed out. There was a smartphone on the desk called the Handy phone. I was understandably suspicious, so I read over the fine print like five times. There appeared to be no catch of any kind, and I could bring this phone with me all over Hong Kong during my stay at the hotel. The phone had free unlimited 4G internet and phone calls! This included international calls to the United States! I had to try it out, so I rang both my parents and let them know I had arrived safely.
The phone proved consistently useful, as I didn't have to scurry between Wi-Fi hotspots when I needed directions or information about an attraction. In fact, the phone even had recommendations for tourists on its home screen. There were a few advertisements that popped up when you used the phone, but they weren't that invasive, and the phone has to pay for itself somehow. After talking to my parents, I set my alarm for 9 and hit the hay, anxious to explore Hong Kong the following day.