Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Surprise Visit to Hong Kong (sort of)

[Wednesday, January 11th, 9:45 pm, Hong Kong Time]

I hadn't anticipated another blog posting before I got back to the States when I could post photos. Instead, here I am in the Business Class Lounge at Hong Kong airport, at a time when I should have been flying east across the Pacific.

The morning began fine. A good breakfast at the Sofitel in Saigon. Fond farewells to other guests. An uneventful cab ride to the Ho Chi Minh airport. Some interesting snacks in the Business Class lounge there.

I should have checked our flight status before going to the gate, but it turns out our plane from Hong Kong was arriving late. An hour late. That pushed our departure back an hour. We only had an hour and 15 minutes to make our connecting flight to Los Angeles, so this was cutting extremely close. I asked the flight attendant after we took off if Cathay Pacific would hold the flight for us, and she told us that 1) they were aware of the problem (after all, it was their flight that was late to begin with), and 2) they would move us up to business class just before landing so we could deplane quickly.

Sure enough, just as they began to make their final approach, they moved about a dozen or so passengers with tight connections to business class. As soon as the business class gate opened, I rushed past everyone making it to the gate agent first. "Los Angeles," I yelled. "We are putting you on a later flight," he calmly replied. "Please sit over there." There were four flights leaving with 20 minutes of our arrival; all connecting passengers on those flights were reticketed. I guess they felt that since our baggage wouldn't make it, we shouldn't either.

I'd been kind of hoping that we wouldn't make our flight so I would have the opportunity to explore Hong Kong. Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way. We've been reticketed on a flight leaving tonight at 11:45 pm, roughly eight hours after our arrival. They gave us a voucher for a hotel room connected to the airport. I asked about meals, so they also gave us two $75 HK vouchers for meals in the airport.

That meant we needed to clear both immigration and customs, and then get set up in the hotel. The "Regal Airport Hotel" looks from the outside like a large car park, though it had a relatively fancy interior. We got our rooms and I took a shower while dad watched the news. I went down to the business center to use their computer terminals, but found that the charge $3 HK per minute for them. They do, however, provide 2 hours free WiFi in the lobby, so I sent emails out about our change of flights. It was around 5:30, and neither of wanted to get money (we're nearly out of cash), find our way into the town without any idea of where to go, and then rush back so as to not miss our flight.

Instead, we walked back to the airport to use our meal vouchers. $75 HK works out to about $10 US. We skipped Burger King in favor of a Chinese fast food place. The name was in Kangi script, though it had a superscripted two, like it was squared, above the name. We ordered the "Maxim's Roast Goose" with rice and the wonton soup with noodles. The goose was beyond awful. The skin was the opposite of soggy: it was as hard and tough as beef jerky. The meat was cold, hard, and rubbery, except for the bones, which were just hard and cold. The soup was insipid.

We went back to the hotel, where dad took a nap and I walked around for a bit. I went outside, but it was night already, somewhat cold, and there was no where to walk to, since the hotel sits on a service road leading to the taxi ramps for the airport. I ended up returning to the room and trying to nap for about an hour.

When we got up at 8, we found the hotel had put some dinner vouchers under our door. If only, if only.... We went down for dessert. They had a pretty decent spread, and the ice cream was excellent, far better than any we had received on the ship. After that we checked out and went back to the airport.

We had no problem with immigration control or security, but some finding the Business Lounge. They had several, and I found one just opposite our gate. We were nearly there when dad insisted on stopping for directions. They told him that this lounge was closed for renovations. "Aren't you glad I asked?" he crowed. We walked the length of one wing of the terminal to get to the other lounge. There we learned that the original lounge isn't closed and would really be best for us since it's so close to our gate. "That way you won't have to rush back." We returned to the original lounge.

So here I am in the Business Class lounge with two hours to go before my flight to LA. I'm going to try to sleep on the flight, but I think I was reticketed to a middle seat. I'm hoping that perhaps these seats will at least recline. Otherwise, it's going to be a very long flight to LA.

No comments: