Plenty of preparation went into this trip to China. I am traveling for work so I had to get a Chinese work visa and line up all the requirements needed for the job. There are 6 of us travelling together. I know these guys, but at a co-worker level. I think it will be fun getting it know everyone better.
The first leg of our trip began as we left our home airport and headed to Chicago. We had lunch at Chili's and afterwards, we boarded our flight for Hong Kong! It was the biggest plane I have ever been on. It was nine seats across with nice wide aisles. I was stuck in the middle seat, but at least I was between two of my travel companions. All the seat backs had TVs in them that would stream movies and music. We settled in and after about 30 minutes the plane was still on the ground. I knew where this was going, airlines are terrible these days and if they don’t get off the ground on time it doesn't look good.
This experience was no different, the Captain came on the intercom and said they have a valve problem with the air conditioner and we had to wait for maintenance to fix it. After almost two hours on that plane they cancelled the flight and we all had to deplane and get rebooked. The usual airline confusion ensues, nobody knows where we are supposed to go and then the angry passengers start piping up. After 6 line changes we found one that could get us rescheduled. At this point we are all tired, mad, and disappointed. We will have to spend the night in Chicago and fly out early in the morning.
I often refer to “road characters”, these are people you run across in your travels that add a little something to the story or enhance the experience somehow. In our rebooking line we got our first road character. He was a big guy with a voice that carries. In spite of all the crowds and noise, this guy is heard by everyone and he is letting the profanity fly! (If only our plane flew as easily as his mouth.) He is towering over me with a beer in his hand, and I don't think its his first beer.
You know how drunk strangers will get up in your personal space? Yeah, he was all up in our personal space. I had my backpack sitting in the floor near me with my neck pillow attached. I kept watching that beer tip over further and further, finally he spilled some and I watched it drop in what seemed like slow motion. It barely missed my pillow! We had to deal with this guy for about three hours until we could get through the line.
After rebooking it was supper time. Where did we go? Back to Chili’s of course. After supper we were in for our next surprise. Our planned destination was Hong Kong and tropical weather. Chicago is far from tropical and did I mention that the airline was not giving our luggage back? When we exited the airport we were welcomed to Chicago with rain and temperatures in the mid-40’s and we were dressed for temperatures in the low 90’s and high humidity. It got uncomfortable and cold in a matter of minutes. To add to our travel struggles the hotel was about 30 minutes from the airport and the shuttle took two hours to arrive.
We stayed at a Howard Johnson and that place was a dive. The rooms were surprisingly clean, but this hotel would not be winning any awards. The best thing about this hotel was its elevator. It was gloriously tacky with layers of mirror on the walls and that dark green faux marble. Looking back, it may not have been an elevator at all; maybe its true purpose was a time machine back to 1970.
Our flight leaves at 8:00 AM and we had to take the 5:00 AM shuttle so it was a very short night before we were packing 13 people in a 10 passenger van and heading back. We got through security quickly and now it was time for breakfast. Can you guess where? Yep, Chili’s! Three meals in a row at the airport Chili's.
This time the plane was ready to go and we left on time. We had a 16 hour plane flight in front of us and I was not looking forward to it after such a long day of travel the day before. I took two hydrocodones, slept a few hours, watched 6 movies, and a few games of Plants vs Zombies and we were landing in Hong Kong! I am literally as far away from home as I can get.
The airport experience was really smooth in Hong Kong and we made our way to the GoGo Bus. Luckily, we had enough people to fill up a GoGo Bus so we just packed in and headed for Houjie in the Guangdong province. The ride to Houjie was great. The weather was nice and it was almost like island hopping in a car. The first thing you notice is how many skyscrapers there are. China seems like one big sprawling city and the population density is truly something to see.
30 minutes later we reached the Hong Kong border. The first step is going through customs to exit Hong Kong. The next stop a few yards away was customs to enter the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
As we finished our drive to Houjie I happened to notice that there were a lot of very tall buildings with bars over the windows. That got me thinking, why have bars that high on a building that would be very challenging to climb even if you wanted to. I think I know why, it’s to keep the ninjas out. Ninja deterrent is the only explanation that makes sense. If you know anything about ninjas, you know that you never see them coming. Now imagine, you live high up in a ninja proof building. Late one night you decide you want to see the city lights and maybe even try to spot a few careless ninjas. You open your curtains and BAM! There’s a ninja hanging on your window bars! Obviously, you could only see his eyes, but I bet they would be as big as throwing stars! I wonder who would be more surprised, you or the ninja.
We finally arrived in Houjie, but not at our hotel. It was the weirdest thing, the GoGo bus dropped us off at the Hyatt, but they wouldn’t go to the Sheraton. We were about to walk a couple of blocks to the Sheraton when a Hyatt employee offered us a welcomed ride. It was a very long trip but we made it!
Keep checking back and I’ll tell you some more about my trek to China.