Central Plaza

Hong Kong Journal

Friday, April 18th, 1997 - Somewhere Over Alaska

Another year, and I am off on another trip. Another chance to take a long, deep breath and enjoy a new situation, and in this case, a completely different culture. This trip has been quite a long time in planning but now it is just beginning.

July 1st, 1997 is not very far off, I believe right now we are less than 100 days away. This is an interesting time for Hong Kong, both politically and culturally. Many people have left the country but many more are staying to see what the new government will bring to their lives.

Similarly, my life is undergoing change, as radical as those that leave HK. Yesterday, I had my house put up for sale. The house has always been a bit of a chain taking a great deal of my money and time. It will be a lot easier to live again in an apartment. The whole logic behind moving is that I have a 25 year mortgage, I am the only one paying for the house, so it is very difficult financially to have work done on the house that needs to be done, like the roof.

I am still very young so I feel I can try something a bit different, this time I am going to attempt to go to London (England) to live for about half a year. The paperwork is already under-way and I am looking forward to it. I have applied for my work visa which was fairly simple as my grandmother came from a city just outside of London so I qualify for United Kingdom ancestry, which is a bit easier to get then just trying to get a visa without any ties to the United Kingdom. But, this is all in the future, next September. Before then, lies Hong Kong.

I have always wanted to visit this country, I don't know why, perhaps the initial attraction was its hectic nature and the appeal of buying computer equipment at very good prices. But now, that has changed. The political situation is very interesting and I wish to experience the country before it changes. For sure something will change, there are sure signs of this already with the Chinese government revoking some human rights clauses added to the small countries constitution. True, these clauses are only very recent, before which the citizens had little or no rights, however, the Chinese do not seem to be willing to give them a chance to work…

This morning, I was up to catch the plane after only about four or five hours of sleep. I have been very busy over the last four or five weeks preparing to sell the house, painting most of the interior, removing and replacing carpet, waxing floors and the like. It has been very hard work but it should pay off when the house is finally sold. I hope that when I return in two weeks this is the case. It should be interesting communicating across the distances with my real estate agent.

I really decided to take this trip just before Christmas of last year, before which it was really just an idea. The timing of July 1st really, I suppose, forced the issue and made me decide to come. In the meantime, I have been able to contact and arrange accommodations with a friend from university, Raymond, who now lives in Hong Kong with his wife which affords the delightful opportunity of experiencing this vastly different culture from the inside – a citizens home.

I have a friend, Johnny, back home in Winnipeg who is initially from Hong Kong who returned to work there a few years ago and who has recently returned to Winnipeg with his wife, who he met and married in Hong Kong, Catherine. They own a very nice new house in the south end of the city, a tribute, I should think to the amount of money possible to earn in Hong Kong for computer professionals. Catherine has a sister, Fiona, and mother that live in Hong Kong who I will be visiting to deliver best wishes and a gift. I have also been promised a meal, which makes the endeavor even more appealing.

I have been attempting to somehow pick non-tourist things to do in Hong Kong, I feel we should experience the culture rather than the shopping. I am hoping to see a lot of the various outlying areas of Hong Kong, including some of the outlying islands. It promises to be very busy, as a matter of fact, Johnny has indicated that two weeks is not enough, three weeks would be better, however, I have to work so I can eat, so two weeks it is.

You may have noticed I said “we”. I am actually travelling with a friend this time. This is very different for me but I am hoping that he will see and point out things that I miss, as well as come out with a different perspective on the trip. I have known Mike for quite some time now, my company had a contracting job at his workplace about three years ago which I worked at. Since then, every Friday about 6-7 of us from his work place, myself and others have gathered for lunch, trying various different places scattered across the city.

He is concerned (as he just expressed to me) that his luggage has been sent on to Manila, which would be a bit inconvenient, our tickets were purchased by our travel agent to go to Manila, with a stop over in Hong Kong, due to their being cheaper. The airline people in Vancouver, our first and last stop before Hong Kong forwarded the luggage on to Manila thinking a mistake had been made in Winnipeg when he indicated it should be delivered to HK. A bit of a mess. They did not do that for my luggage.

The Vancouver stop-over was very short, only about two hours, initially, it was supposed to be for a few hours, but they moved our departure from Winnipeg a few hours ahead. It is unfortunate, the airport there is very nice and there is a lot to see. It was quite nice sitting having a drink waiting for the plane and seeing the mountains in the distance through their big glass windows.

I did not really think about the distances involved in this trip, or the incredible nature of the flight. They have been giving us a bit of an update on our flight on the television screens, showing us where we are, how far we are into the trip, how much time is remaining, etc. The entire trip is about 10,000 Km (6,000 miles) from Vancouver which will take about 13 and a bit hours to travel, of course, we had three hours of flight from Winnipeg before that. Currently, we have about 7000 Km to go, we are flying at 10,700 meters (10 Km), it is -65 Celsius outside the plane (a bit cold even for Winnipeg standards).

The time differential is very confusing, we left Winnipeg at 10 am on Friday, we will arrive in Hong Kong at about 4:30 pm on Saturday. Coming back, we arrive back in Winnipeg about 5 hours after we left. VERY confusing. I have a feeling we will have a severe case of jet lag. Never mind the fact that I am wearing a sweater (the only one I have with me) as the weather in Winnipeg was fairly cold, about 2 Celsius. This time of year Hong Kong averages about 21 - 23 Celsius. I did bring a lot of short sleeve t-shirts and my swim suit.

I have a few people who have given me lists of things to buy in Hong Kong, most likely, I will worry about picking things up only if we happen to be in the area as part of our daily activities.

It turns out I have been doing a lot of the planning for where to visit and when as Mike has not had much experience travelling. I have been pouring over maps and books to determine what would be the best to do and when to do it. He seems perfectly content just to sit back and enjoy. I am sure that he will, as he already has, made a number of recommendations as to what we should be doing. Together we will most likely be able to notice more and make the trip even better. We both also have cameras so I am sure many photos will also result.

There are about nine more hours to go on the flight. So far, the trip has been pretty good, we had a few nice dinner which included sushi, which is a favourite of mine. Currently a movie is playing and we have two more meals ahead. The plane is a very big one, a 747 with about 10 seats across, I am beside Mike who has what is supposed to be a window seat, however, there is no window, he has to lean back to see out. I always like a window seat, less people bother you if they have to go to the wash room or get up for any other reason. Just sit in the corner and sleep or read the flight away. With such a long flight the options become pretty limited. We have two newspapers to also keep us entertained, including one from Hong Kong, which I found particularly useful as it has local entertainment listings, I hope to visit perhaps a show or two of cultural significance while we are there.

⇒ Continue to Saturday, April 19th, 1997 - Kowloon, Hong Kong