Over two weeks ago we stopped in Hong Kong for a day before getting a flight to Vietnam. We had about nine hours to kill and managed to see a bit of HK and Kowloon islands.
Watching Soho district come alive at 7am in Hong Kong was fantastic. So many sights to behold – lanterns, seafood,chinese medicine and trinkets stalls and their owners juggling for space in the hilly streets of the island.
Kowloon was the same but with big brand names. I took some photos of the massive spaces occupied by this world of shopping! In a way, I was glad to have left Kowloon at the end of the day - it made me feel a little nauseaus with it’s one track (money) mind.
As the time approached to pack up the bags and leave South America for the distant shores of Asia, I felt a sense of trepidation at the two day journey which included four countries and three continents (if I can call North and South America separate continents ).
Lima – Los Angeles – Hong Kong – Hanoi
You couldn’t get to any place further away but the scariest thing was to lose an entire day without noticing it (under the spell of an unprescribed Diazepam I picked up in Ollantaytambo in rural Peru). However Asia beckoned and we packed to ensure we had everything we needed in our hand luggage and prayed that our checked in luggage would survive the numerous transits and arrive (hopefully in one piece) at our final destination.
I sit at Hong Kong airport as I write this so the final leg of the journey is yet to be experienced and the anxiety around the checked in luggage sits uncomfortably at the top of my larynx making it difficult to swallow large gulps of the Chenin Blanc I am drinking in the waiting lounge.
Perhaps it’s the lack of sleep, or maybe the airline food, or the jet lag which is beginning to settle onto the right hemishphere of my brian – but I can’t help feeling that flying should be more comfortable than it has been for us in the past couple of days.
We booked our entire flight with Cathay Pacific, who are ranked in the top five of all airlines by pretty much every website I looked at, so I didn’t mind coughing up the ridiculous sum of money it cost for a single ticket from Lima to Hanoi. However having now checked n for the final leg of the journey and been passed on to the operating partners of Cathay Pacific for two of the three legs of the journey I feel slightly swindled. Lima to Los Angeles was with LAN – the Peruvian flag carrier. I don’t have any particular complaints about the journey or the service though the food could have been more representative of their country. The biggest disappointment has to be the 15 hour flight with Cathay Pacific. For reasons given above for my state of mind currently I probably am being unfair but I didn’t find anything in Cathay’s boarding, service, food or inflight entertainment which I would say was above our own flag carrier – BA. BA is not even in the top 20 of the airlines own top list (and for good reason too!).
Let’s start my rant with what happened as soon as we walked up to check in at Lima airport. Craig was told he had about twenty minutes to find internet and apply for an American visa waiver (I already had it from travelling the previous year). We explained that we will be in Los Angeles for approximately 4 hours as transit passengers and had no intention to leave the airport, but rules are rules so we had to run around like headless chickens to get that sorted and check in just in time.
We ran through Customs and Immigration where an official asked us for some slips of paper which we had never received. He lowered his eyes and looked over at another official at a desk and escorted us to a corner at the end of the Immigration checkpoint and asked us to give him $10 for it. He didn’t gave us a receipt or asked us to fill a form and very visibly put the dollar note in his wallet. It wasn’t a lot of money but it was rather conspicuous!
LAN had kindly offered to have our baggage transferred automatically until Hong Kong but when we arrived in Los Angeles we had to pick it up from the carousel, carry it to a transit station, go through the usual friendly short queues of Immigration and customs (I am unusually sarcastic today) and then still arrive at a check in desk for Cathay Pacific to get our boarding passes for the next leg. The Cathay check in guy said we may have a problem if we don’t produce an onward travel ticket from Vietnam. He then went away to confer with his colleagues and came back several minutes later to say it was ok and we didn’t need it – phew!
Relieved, we went looking for something to eat and found that Los Angeles airport is not only drab and badly designed but also has terrible facilities. There are half a dozen restaurants (in the loose sense of the word) made up of a McDonald’s, a Hot Dog bar, a Dunkin Donuts (or similar) and couple of others. The seating areas were strip lit and had inadequate and uncomfortable seating. Is this the same airport used by Hollywood celebrities?
Rant over! Arrived in Hong Kong this morning and managed to visit both Hong Kong and Kowloon and now looking forward to the two hour flight to go see Lisa and Jamie in Hanoi!