Saturday, 18 April 2015
Out of Thailand and into the Hustle of Hong Kong
I didn’t get to play tour guide for anyone, but Inga, this trip as life, got in the way of the plans for some to jet to South East Asia. I guess that worked out ok as it did allow me to really relax and decompress even further than I thought I could. Things make me laugh more than piss me off anymore. Actions and activities that in the past would have me thinking WTF now just makes me shake my head and think; “leaves fall from trees, why worry.” Not that I have adopted a Buddhist or Zen lifestyle but I have really honed my own attitude towards life. Something that is impossible to do I think unless you get out of your comfort zone and take a hard look in the mirror over several months.
Inga and I got to enjoy Song Kran before we had to focus on leaving. Song Kran is Thai New Year and proves some cultures still allow human sacrifices in religious ceremonies. Now I am not talking about the heart ripping kind of sacrifice made popular by the Incas but death none the less. Many people die each year in this three-day water fight. Sometimes fueled by alcohol sometimes just by misadventure but suffice to say if 10 percent of the numbers happened in one of Canada’s big cities it would be canceled and the people that organized it would be imprisoned. In Thailand, it is a three day free for all and we witnessed nothing but happy fun. We got soaked and had a blast. The owner of Weatherspoons café ordered a truck for his best clients and set us off with a stern warning to be careful. We weren’t but we didn’t get killed either.
We started making plans to leave Chiang Mai and I wanted to fly back for a pair of birthdays that happen around the middle of April. The best flight out of Chiang Mai to Vancouver, Canada operates through Hong Kong. It is a Cathay Pacific flight and I wanted to book it direct but noticed it was a code share. My experiences with code shared flights have been less than positive. Alaska Air and Horizon leap to mind immediately. Alaska Air is a good airline, but Horizon is shit. They have stranded me in Bellingham, more times than they have actually managed to get me to my connecting flight in Seattle. Then they give a voucher for a free flight next time and take three weeks to reimburse the flight they stranded you on acting like they are doing you a favor and showing great customer service. I never use them anymore and will not take an Alaska Air flight with them involved. But I digress. This Cathay Pacific flight left Chiang Mai to Hong Kong and then forty-five minutes later took off to Vancouver, Canada. One of the problems you encounter traveling are cultural differences I have discussed these in depth in many blogs, but let's be Thai specific. So does the checked luggage check all the way through to Vancouver or do I have to collect it in Hong Kong. Yes, yes no worry no worry. Sorry, Cathay Pacific you need to a little work on this end. Nothing on the website or response to email inquiries to ensure this was the case as I can’t be certain that the eighteen-year-old agent for Lion Air that has never been outside of Thailand looks and says should be fine. I wanted to see Hong Kong anyway. So I booked the flight with three days in Hong Kong. So as an agent when a client has discussed the luggage in detail, you’d think that you might say something important like if you break the travel you only get one 20KG bag instead of 2!! Nope this is Thailand Man Piin RYE (Relax it all ok)
So it was very lucky we had a great gate attendant who understood the issue and made some calls to let the huge overage onto the code share flight without charge. It wasn’t that the booking agent didn’t care. The country just rolls with the cultural expectation it will work out. Sometimes it does. Just to give credit when due Cathay does meet that flight from CNX and fast tracks the connecting passengers for the onward flight. So book it without worrying about the connection, and luggage transfers, it is all-good.
I booked an industrial conversion hotel in Hong Kong. I had done some research and decided that this place would be cool to stay at and provided the best value. Not cheap but value! It had the distinction of not being in the photograph my father had from 1938 as well. My Dad had this stack of old photographs from the war and I remembered going through them when he died. In that stack was a picture taken from Deep Water Bay and another from Victoria Harbor looking up the peak. No skyscrapers in that old photograph. So I booked a beautiful view suite so I could look towards the past into Deep Water Bay. Saying a silent toast to my Father for his sacrifice so I could have the life I enjoy now.
So enjoying Hong Kong. Hong Kong is a very organized and ordered place. People wait for light signals, the chaos of scooters and general devil may care attitude of life and death gone. We arrived and navigated our pile of bags out to the cab and arrived for the free Happy Hour. Yes, the Ovolo serves drinks and tasty treats to all, no charge. Relaxed Inga and I enjoyed a glass of wine. We decided to stay in and eat at the hotel and I am glad we did as the food was incredible. Savoy London incredible at about a fifth the price. I had beef cheeks, as I had never eaten those before and Inga had a special salad. WOW! I am not sure if it is being in Chiang Mai and dealing with all gone or…? Don’t get me wrong the food in Chiang Mai is great. But it is different and not quite in that same, same kind of way. Often things are “all gone” or “no have today” and that’s ok as it means they keep things fresh. But even at sit down dining style restaurants service standards have to be adapted to a ‘village’ kind of expectation. So it was with incredible shock when they had everything and it arrived in stages hot and not altogether with dessert. Perhaps it was the culture shock seasoning the food but it was better than my dinner at the Savoy a few months ago!
We spent the day doing the walk thing and probably walked twenty miles yesterday. Seeing the sights and savoring the cultural flavor of this hub of Asia. The buildings are impressive and vast; skyscrapers compete with the clouds and again with the stars at night, dressed in neon and spotlights. The feel of the city is very safe and the police are quick to chastise simply parking infractions. Very orderly and diligent yet polite, at least in tone. English is spoken in most places and people are keen to practice. We used the transit system as much as we could and even spent some time on the old Double Decker narrow trolley busses. Designed for the tight streets these pass oncoming busses with inches to spare. The markets had tons of fresh seafood, many in tanks swimming as we wandered by. In the city, you see loads of exotics. Exotic cars are everywhere, Lamborghinis, Ferraris, and Astons compete with other one of a kind rarities. In the couple of hours, I’ve been sitting and writing I’ve seen ten and I am not counting Porsches as they are as common as BMW’s.
So tomorrow we do the 12-hour flight home. Home to Canada, although to be honest Anapa Russia, is feeling like home too. But fair warning I am back in town!