Day 1 – Hong Kong

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Our flight to HK will cause us to gain 14 hours from our home time zone plus one day when traveling from Los Angeles to Hong Kong, crossing the International Date Line. Leave Wednesday, late evening, arrive Hong Kong Friday early morning.

Great Circle route: LAX to Hong Kong

No Wi-Fi on the plane. Just as well; I got more sleep.

Flights like this are very disorienting. We departed at 10:25pm West Coast time. I’ve slept for quite a while off and on, and while it should be 10:30 am on the 16th, it’s pitch black outside. Since we each have our own little cubby, as you walk through the business class cabin, some people are still asleep, others are watching the in-flight entertainment system. The flight tracking system seems to show us with about 3 hours remaining to HK, where it’s 2:48am. We are scheduled to arrive at 5:30 am

One of the things I’m going to look into is buying a data SIM for my phone. My US cellular provider gives 2G coverage for free here. Their options for 4G aren’t very attractive and if you remember what connecting to the Internet at 2G was like, you’ll understand. If not, I’ll limp along until I can connect to Wifi at the hotels.
Exiting the corridor from the plane, we passed a desk where the personnel were on the lookout for people from whom they wanted to take their temperature, and they were wearing face masks.

Hong Kong Airport arrivals hall

I bought a SIM card at a 7-Eleven outside immigration control. I did remember to bring my SIM card tool, so once I get to the hotel, I’ll see what configuration is required. While the config doesn’t look hard at all, it will be interesting to see if my US Google Play Store apps will work once I put in a China Mobile SIM card (since I will then have a Hong Kong telephone number), or if I have to play swappa. The SIM card was cheap, at 68HKD or about $8.75.

The installation of the SIM  card was super simple as long as your phone is SIM unlocked. The few apps I’ve used seem to work fine even now that I have a China Mobile phone number and 4G!.Finding out what your number is, is more difficult since I do not read or speak Cantonese. Send a text message to someone and then you know the number!

We decided to spend a bit of time at one of the arrivals lounges to get our bearings. The OneWorld lounge here is pretty small, so we’re going to check out the Priority Pass Lounge nearby. The Priority Pass Lounge is probably three times the size of the other lounge, so we’ll camp out here a bit as it’s still 7am.

Hong Kong’s airport is on Lantau Island so we’ll either take the airport Express train into Hong Kong, then take the MTR (subway) to the closest stop to our hotel, or a taxi. No Disneyland HK for us though.

With two people, the taxi is breakeven to taking the train and the MTR. Quick notes about the drive from airport- HK is mountainous, down to the bay, towering apartment complexes (20+ stories), huge cranes at the port for loading ships, smoggy as you look towards the city. Cars are right hand drive (HK was a British colony). Lots of road, bridge construction. Taxi driver shows us where a new high speed rail line to Beijing is being built, to be finished in 2018. Right now it’s a 24 hr, 1489 mile train trip; it will be 9 hours.

Taxi into town was probably 30 minutes, with a view of all the mountains, the harbour. Into town, it’s a maze of streets. We recognize some luxury brand stores grouped together and the ubuitous McDonalds, pass by Kowloon park which looks to be a green oasis in the city.

Our hotel room has spectacular views of the bay.

Room with a view

Our hotel thoughtfully provides a cellphone to use free of charge while we are here. Free calls to the US and 4G. Glad I bought that SIM card!

We’re exhausted.

Though it was drizzly and cold in our home city, it’s 75 and clear in HK today. 😄

We’re heading for a Michelin started dim sum restaurant called Tim Ho Wan. We’ll need to buy an Octopus card (150HKD each) for the subway system, but figuring out which direction is always the challenge. Octopus cards work just like London’s Oyster cards- tap in as you go thru the turnstile and tap out when you exit. They even have ‘Mind the Gap’  signs  and British English reminders. Once off the metro, it’s about a kilometer. 

This is the land of superduper apartment buildings. Surprisingly, so far everything is cash (taxi, Octopus, Tim Ho Wan), so we’ll be making more trips to the ATM. 

Everything is super hot (temperature) being just out of the steamer; careful, or you’ll be blowing steam out of your mouth!

Tim Ho Wan

Five dishes, 123 HKD or about $15.85!
The trip back to the hotel seemed twice as long as coming here.We’re on the club floor (23rd) of our hotel looking out over the harbor. Some of the buildings along the harbor are lighted and you can see dimly lit small boats making their way upstream. There’s an ‘illmination’ at 8pm where some of the taller buildings fire off a series of bursts of a green laser up and down the harbor, though it doesn’t last too long. The Chinese New Year fireworks are supposed to be a real event.

Nightime view from room

How did we ever navigate cities and subway systems without smartphones and navigation?

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