We (or rather the ship) found its way to Hong Kong. I chose the cruise because of the chance to visit Vietnam, but also for the chance to arrive in Hong Kong by ship. I have visited this city countless times over the past years, but always by airplane. The arrival used to be interesting (and, for some, scary), because pilots were forced to fly at mountain and then turn at the last minute for a sharp descent onto a runway built onto the harbor. Passengers with a window seat could check on life in apartments on the approach path. Oblivious passengers were unaware of the the risk or the glimpse of local color. Now, planes approach on a long, straight, boring approach to a huge runway and modern airport.
The English called India the Jewel in the Crown (perhaps because they plundered so much), but I consider Hong Kong to be the crowning glory of the former Empire. I have not desire to visit India (although I do enjoy reading the history and viewing television programs), but I would have liked to live in Hong Kong and and pleased to visit it often. I never tire of spending time here.
Arriving by ship is exciting...and slow, which allows one to enjoy the trip. An airplane approaches lasts minutes; by water, one needs almost an hour from the outer islands. The weather was not great (not sunrise, which was lost in fog), but low-hanging clouds made the trip into the harbor more interesting.
My first impression (which has been my first impression on every visit to this city) is that much has been built, former “highest” building has been eclipsed, and the harbor is shrinking. The former runway/airport is now under development and is sprouting new high-rise buildings. I’m surprised that it has taken so long.
Disembarkation from this ship and in this port was much easier and more pleasant than in Ft. Lauderdale. The authorities here as less paranoid. We filled out the immigration form in out cabin two days ago and received a stamped passport on the way off the ship. We never had glimpse the bored face of an immigration official or endure a US style grilling. It was a breeze. Out bags were waiting on the dock, and we quickly entered a taxi to the hotel. The entire experience was pleasant and a fitting close to the cruise.
Assumption is the mother of all screw-ups, as you all well know. I assumed that hotel cars and private limos would linger outside the passenger terminal, as they at the airport. I should have ordered a hotel car, which would have spared us the ordeal of a taxi. I forgot that only certain taxis are permitted to drive to Hong Kong Island, where our hotel is located, so we had to ride in a Kowloon taxi to a point where we could transfer to another. After the luxury of a cruise ship, Hong Kong taxis are a bit of reduction in comfort. And, we were forced to endure rush hour traffic through the tunnel.
But, as my Dutch friend always said, Einde gutd alles gud. We made it safely to the oasis know as the Grand Hyatt at 9:30. The hour was a bit early for check-in, but they rushed the preparation of our room (good hotels in Asia are nice that way). We roughed it in the Club floor lounge on the 30th floor and stared at the ship we had just left docked across the most-magnificent harbor in the world. At that moment, I could not imagine a place I would rather be.
NB. I slipped this bit in ahead of posts about our last stops in Vietnam and ensuing impressions. I will recap over the next days and weeks. I have a bunch on which to comment and show with photos. As always, time flew (despite being on a slow boat to China), but my head is filled with enough stuff to bore the pants off the most avid reader (there must be one!). Stay tuned...
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.