Friday, October 8, 2010

Up in the air

             In honor of China's birthday, we have almost a week off to celebrate this special holiday. With the chance to actually travel for the first time,  I set off for a trip with my roommates Mike and  Francesca and fellow classmates and friends Kirsti and Rob, to Hong Kong and then Singapore. The original plan was that I would take a flight with Mike and Francesca, and Rob and Kirsti would take a later flight and meet up with us at the airport. 
             While it sounds so easy on paper, in reality it was far from it. Upon arrival at the airport, after waiting about 45 minutes to check in and in crunchtime  mode to board the plane, as we got to the counter, it came to our attention that I was the only one with a ticket. Mike and Francesca had booked separately from me and for some reason they got booked twice and had 4 tickets for them. Rather than removing the charges, on one set, the travel agent  completely removed all their tickets by mistake. Francesca had taken my phone to call the website to inquire about the tickets but with less than 20 minutes before my plane was suppose to take off and my ticket in hand  I was put in a dilemma, do I wait for them? or  go without them.  I decided to to just go and hope for the best.Without my phone, I took Mike's phone so that we could keep in contact, but, with just my luck his phone was low on minutes and he forgot to top up before he left. with less than 10 minutes before take off, I sprinted to security and across the airport in a mad dash to catch my plane. I was  that guy with a duffel bag around my neck and running like a bat out of hell trying to catch my flight. Dodging people left and right I finally made it to the gate only to see a long line of people. I ran to the front of the line trying to board, only to be stopped by security. The person said something in Chinese and pointed me away. With jitters that I might have missed my flight, I waited eagerly at the front of the line. After waiting for a few minutes I pieced together that the plane was delayed and they had yet  to board the plane.  As I sat down in my seat, I received a text saying that Mike and Francesca would be on the next flight with Rob and Kirsti and I should wait for them at the airport.
           Unlike the states, on the Asian airlines they continue to provide a meal and a snack along with beverages which was a nice surprise. Like always, I took a nap to make the trip go by faster.When the plane landed I  was amazed at how fast the flight was, sitting in the second row of economy, I was able to get off the plane pretty fast. walking through the terminal,I passed the transit room, a big room with lot of chairs for passengers to sit while waiting to board their plane. I continued to the exit and went down the stairs past baggage claim. As I approached the exit, I had this sudden gut feeling that it would have been more comfortable to  sit in the boarding room with all the chair rather than outside in the arrival exit. I turned around went back to the transit area and showed the staff my ticket, I waited a few minutes and I received a special boarding card. Once in, I set up camp and waited for all my friends to arrive. Looking at the clock I had about 2 hours to wait. I busted out the Lonely Planet Hong Kong to read up on it.  20 minutes later, a mob of about 10 people ran screaming at me "Hurry lets go" startled, I grabbed my stuff and ran with them. it turns out that this airport was only a pit stop and that it was not my final destination. Boarding the plane, I was the last person on it, all the overhead bins were shut and they were  all waiting on me. To my surprise,I had delayed the plane for almost an hour.I was so grateful that they came and got me and didn't let the plane leave without me because I would have had no clue what to do.
                 I arrived at Shengen, a town right outside of Hong Kong an hour later than expected. Luckily for me I only had to wait 20 minutes for the rest of the gang to arrive. Finally Rob, Francesca and Mike came but there was no Kirsti.She had missed the flight and  had to catch one in the morning. We all hopped on a bus that brought us to the border of mainland China and Hong Kong. After walking around on a bunch of sketchy streets we  arrived at the customs area. Once through customs, it was so surreal to see Hong Kong since everything was in English and Cantonese . We got on the metro and  about an hour later we arrived at our hostel. We decided to explore the town and went to this place called the central district which was a loop of streets that were  bars/clubs. The area was filled with a bunch of young people from all over the world and was a hip crowd. The city reminded me alot of myself. Coming from a Chinese heritage, the city was ruled for  many years by the British and was very Western. It had the best of both worlds all tied together in one. Although in China,it felt a world apart.And with that, I  really see myself living here in the future at some point.

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