Thursday, January 31, 2013

Get Out of China!!!

We are in Malaysia for our winter holiday.  At present, I can’t think of a nicer place on the planet to be.
We began our journey the usual way, the bus to Hong Kong.  It picks up its first passengers down by the waterfront about a 25 minute walk from our place.  It had rained most of the night, a rather Oregon like 55 degree, steady downpour, but stopped about an hour before we left the apartment.
I was glad.  The weather prior to the previous day had given us a   long spell of pleasant days, with daytime temperatures reaching the mid seventies.  One of the reasons I wanted to go to the tropics was to escape dismal winter weather.  Our previous couple of winters qualified well within those parameters, often with fog and winds from the northwest that made mock of the term “sub tropic”.  Leaving a balmy spring like clime to go swelter in the steamy jungle did not completely sit well with me.
Anyway, we left home around 7:30 am on a Sunday, which is a very pleasant time to be out, since most folks are still at home sleeping or breathing second hand smoke.  We did not even need to walk all the way, since an early taxi came by.  Was this to be a good omen?
The bus trip was uneventful, with a surprisingly small number of passengers on board.  I thought with the Chinese New Year would have resulted in a packed bus, but apparently massive exodus of people returning home to be with their families does not include Hong Kong residents working in Zhanjiang.
We stayed at a different hotel than usual, since our favorite hotel was engaged in some serious holiday price gouging.  The place we stayed in provided a slightly smaller room with a smaller bathroom for half the price of our other hotel.   Some Hong Kong accommodations have a different layout, with rooms scattered about a building on different floors, interspersed among offices and such.  This is one of those kinds of places.  No lobby, just an office up on the 15th floor.  To get to our room, you unlocked a door, and walked down a down a short hallway with 3 other rooms attached.  There were several of these pods scattered about, I think.
In Hong Kong space is at a premium, and there are many such places calling themselves hotels.  They are in a sense, I guess.  Sort of like a family is still a family even though its members are living all over the country.
The next morning we went to the travel agent to book our return bus tickets to Zhanjiang, and were told that there were no buses running the two days after our return flight to Hong Kong due to the fact that the buses would be busy hauling people back to Hong Kong.  Apparently the exodus for the holiday is more away from Hong Kong to stay with family, rather than to Hong Kong.  The only people going to Hong Kong must be tourists, which is why there is hotel price gouging.
I reserved two more nights at the cheapo “hotel”, and figured that our holiday would just have to involve some Hong Kong tourism.
We caught the bus to the airport and got to experience the joys of checking in at a budget airline.  The budget airline check in counters are in another terminal.  So we had a pleasant stroll through the massive Hong Kong airport to the boondocks check in counters.  We were greeted with two long lines going to two check in clerks.  Good thing we arrived two hours early.
I have never flown out of China or Hong Kong without having at least one large group or family ahead of us in line who have absolutely no clue as to what they are doing.  The have mass quantities of luggage, often what appears to be their entire household possessions, and there are always irregularities in their paperwork, either tickets or passports.  It takes what seems like 15 or 20 minutes to get them squared away, and you wonder if the flight may leave with most of its passengers still waiting for their boarding passes.  We had at least 2 groups of these types of travelers in front of the two lines.  Eventually they got sorted out, then things moved along OK.  We found out that our departure gate was in the main terminal, so we got to hike back, wondering if we would make it through departure customs and security.  Security didn’t take long at all since this is Hong Kong and they have an ample number of security stations and don’t require you to remove your shoes and keep invasive searches to a minimum.  Customs was quick and we hiked to one of the farthest departure gates.  We arrived just in time to queue up for boarding. 
Waiting for takeoff.  Smoggy day at the airport.
Our budget airline was Jetstar, and wasn’t too bad.  We had paid extra for our meal and drinks when we booked our flight, and it was OK airplane food.  The Airbus didn’t malfunction and we arrived in Singapore more or less on time.

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