Day One – Part A
October 29th – Sarasota to New York via JetBlue. Goes off without a hitch. Departure scheduled for 11:31 and arrival scheduled for 2:09. We arrive at 1:50. As I said to the cabin attendants – I couldn’t have asked for a better trip. Left on time, arrived early, and sitting in Row 1 Seat C which would make me the first one to step off the plane at JFK’s Jet Blue Terminal. My checked suitcase hit the carousel rather quickly as well. I guess when the flight only had 78 passengers, things like this are possible. It is now about 230 PM on October 29th. But the day has only just begun.
Next I had to navigate over to Terminal 7. Naturally, or should I say not unexpectedly, I took the JFK Air Train in the wrong direction, so I had to reverse direction or make long loop. I hadn’t planned on seeing JFK by rail as a part of my travels.The whole point was to check in early and shed my suitcase, leaving me with just a computer bag to tote around for the next 11 hours.
My Cathay Pacific flight CX 845 was not scheduled to depart until 01:30 AM on October 30th. As planned, a friend picked me up at Terminal 7 and we shared a good dinner at O’Neill’s, a pub in Maspeth, Queens. We then headed back to his home in College Point, Queens, and another friend met us there for some good talk. Eventually, we drove back to JFK and since I am already checked in for the next leg of the trip, all that remained was going through Security. Despite two cameras, two phones, a computer, headphones, etc – it was a breeze. Boarding began at 12:50 AM and take off about 50 minutes later. Our flight is scheduled to arrive at 5:20 AM on October 31st. Hong Kong here I come
I can say the 15 hours of flying time flew by – but only as a figure of speech. We flew, and the time passed – it just seem to take forever.
I got off the plane at about 5:35 AM (On October 31st) and allowed the moving sidewalk – the people mover, to carry me until we reached a fork in the road – okay, not in the road actually – at a certain juncture, the people in transit turned to the left, and the people arriving in Hong Kong and staying, had to pass through immigration and headed there by turning to the right. Three hundred people on line, and just 3 passport people (a fourth immigration agent would arrive shortly). 43 minutes later I had cleared immigration.
So now it is time to pick up my luggage – fortunately, all the luggage cleared their own checkpoints before we people arrived. My red, canvas, wheeled and locked Kiplinger duffel was going round and round on the carousel. And once I had this bag in my possession, that concluded the airline business.
I had been smart enough to buy the Airport Express Round Trip ticket on the plane and saved some money. The train is the fastest way into town – 24 Minutes to Hong Kong Station in Central. Total cost US$21 for the round trip. Wow. A one-way trip by taxi from JFK to Manhattan might run you about $70 with tax and tip. The Airport Shuttle Bus is $18 (one-way). There are trains from JFK to Manhattan – they’re just not as convenient as JFK has multiple terminals – meaning there is no central arrival hall.
TIP: If you can buy an Airport Express train ticket on the plane, do so. You can pay by credit card or US Dollars. If you don’t need the Airport Express – you may still need an Octopus Card, So you can buy those at the airport as well. HK$ 100 plus HK$50 deposit (which is refundable). The whole point is to exchange as little currency as possible at the airport. The rate at the airport was 7.06 HK for each US dollar. In town in Sheung Wan, or even Tsim Sha Tsui, in those small little hole-in-the wall currency exchange places that you see all over – the rate was infinitely better – buying HK dollars I would get 7.72 HK$ for each US$ dollar. And when I leave, I’d have to hand over HK $7.76 for each US$ dollar.
Next I bought an Octopus Card – the all-purpose travel and more card essential for public transportation in Hong Kong – good on buses, MTR, trams, etc, and also can be used in 7-11 and other convenience stores.
By now it is only 6:40 AM. I had one more thing to buy at the airport – a SIM Card for my unlocked HTC Aria phone. The 1010 Shop would not open until 7:00 AM, so I Had time to kill – so why not another breakfast.
Okay, a nice lady at the 1010 – a Cathy Wong, sold me a neat SIM Card for $88 HK (about US$12) which would allow me to make voice calls, text messages, plus internet on a 3G network. She installed it and activated it. This is how it works in HK – no contract, no minimums – pay as you go.
And off I went on the Airport Express train to Hong Kong Station. Then I took the MTR to Sheung Wan. I knew how to get from the MTR station to Hollywood Road, but finding the building for my apartment turned out to be a bit difficult.
Day One Part B
The building was part of a complex called Curio Court, and did not have a big house number on it. The house number was small, and you could only read it, if you were standing right in front of it. The electronic keypad buzzed me into the building. My apartment was on 2nd floor, and he doorman took me up in the elevator. Many of the apartments in Hong Kong have steel gates in front of the apartment doors. Which is fine – it just meant two keys and two locks to open.
The apartment was neat and tidy, and everything you’d need – including a TV, a decent size refrigerator, a one-burner stovetop, an espresso machine, a balcony, a shower, and of course – Wi-Fi.
I made contact with my friend Yu Ling, and eventually we met for dinner at the Ocean Terminal/Harbor City – which is an actual ocean terminal for cruise ships, as well as a huge mall.
Now remember, I left Sarasota in Florida on the morning of the 29th, and dinner was the evening of the 31st in Hong Kong with little or no sleep on the plane. Exhaustion approached rapidly and I was soon going to crash into my bed.
I had flown halfway around the world, a 15 hour flight and Hong Kong is 12 hours ahead of Sarasota, plus I had an 11 hour layover in New York – so basically 38 hours had simply vanished.