Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Rome Wasn't Built In A Day

Neither did I get to Sri Lanka in a day lol...

Discounting the epic tales of set backs and rescheduling turmoil that I have experienced (and thanks to everyone who supported me and stayed positive with me through that) the trip to Sri Lanka is pretty long.

I embarked upon my journey at 1.30 am on Tuesday July 27th (thankfully discovering only hours earlier that my flight was a.m and not p.m). The first leg of this journey was a 16 hr non-stop flight to Hong Kong.

OMG...16 hours is a ridiculous amount of time to be confined inside of a plane. The flight itself was not bad though and I really enjoyed the service on Air Cathay (if anyone of influence is reading this you should totally examine adding Barbados to your destinations). I arrived in Hong Kong some 16 hrs later but thanks to having traversed a gajillion (yes, that is the technical term) time zones it was 5.00 am here -the view as we flew over mainland China was breathtaking.

I had an 11-hr layover in Hong Kong to look forward to at this point. Thus after confirming that I could leave the airport I set about planning how I would take the city by storm - some four hours later, at least, because nothing is open at 5 in the morning (and my eyes shouldn't be either but that's a different story).

Fortunately, unlike Pearson, Hong Kong International (HKIA) has free wireless internet -which is actually where I'm blogging from right now - and I settled in for some updates to back home and a little time wastage until I was ready to take on Hong Kong. As I prepared to head for Hong Kong city centre and packed away my laptop etc I was approached by two gentlemen sporting identification badges.

They identified themselves as customs officers and showed me their badges (only their names were in English so the badges may as well have said "Smile, you're on candid camera"). They asked to see my passport and what my business was. To which I responded in my most pleasant voice that I was in transit en route to Colombo. After being completely dumbfounded by the blue book that I presented as my passport (pretty sure, they'd never heard of Barbados far less seen a Bajan passprt) and the exchange of a few more pleasantries they wished me a good day and handed back over my documents. Though these were the most chill customs officers I had ever met (one of them was dressed in camo shorts with a back pack on his back) the experience was still unnerving - but to be fair, as the only black person in the airport right then, I've only seen two others in all the time I've been here, I must've really stood out.

I packed my belongings and headed for immigration, I had been sitting in the area for transferring passengers up to this point. The immigrations officer too was confused by the blue book and was unsure of what to do - I knew that I was entitled to 90 days in the country without a visa but I let her look it up on her system. She stamped my passport and welcomed me to Hong Kong.

Now to get rid of the super heavy hand luggage - I asked for directions to storage lockers and either I'm really slow or people in Hong Kong are just as bad as Bajans at giving directions in addition to HKIA to being a maze. After wandering for a while I stored one of my carry-on pieces, the other was my hand-bag and I purchased for $100 HKD a round-trip ticket to Hong Kong city centre.

I boarded the express train which promised to deliver its passengers in Hong Kong within 24 mins. The train moved quickly and yet surprisingly quietly through the countryside offering views of mountains and beautiful architecture which gave way to and industrial area before reaching its ultimate destination.

The Hong Kong station is located in the lower levels of the International Financial Centre (IFC) Mall. The sights and smells of Hong Kong are everywhere upon entering the mall. The smell of ginger in particular struck me and within this mall there were a multiplicity of food stores and they all had somewhere to sit and eat even Godiva (Read Golden Arches East).

This was a bustling city, droves of people bustling in and out of the mall, the trains and the ferries which adjoined this mall and yet it was somehow different to the daily jostle of Toronto. Determined to find an authentic restaurant in which to have breakfast I made my way out of the mall and towards Exchange Square where a Jollibee caught my eye but the restaurant was crowded and I moved on. The smell of food and various spices hung thickly in the humid air in Hong Kong such that one believed that gastronomic delight awaited on every corner but alas each hope was met with a clothing or electronic store rather than the sight of food.

Eventually I found a small restaurant and after reviewing the menu decided upon the soy sauce chicken and rice. It was an interesting experience. The meal was served with a glass of warm water and some type of garlic preserve on the side. This garlic preserve it should be noted came to very good use as the seasonings in the food are far less than accustomed to and the garlic preserve aided significantly in the palatibility of the ordered dish.

As would be my luck, once I had finished the meal I was greeted by a torrential downpour - did I mention my umbrella was in the bag at the storage locker back at the airport? - I scurried through the rain back to the IFC. I figured that no sight seeing could get done in this weather so I might as well explore the mall. After some aimless wandering and window shopping, I realized I should be shopping in Asia - all the clothes are my size. I headed back to the airport as it seemed large enough to keep me occupied. So around 12.30 I boarded the airport express and headed back to the mall collected by bag from the locker and began to look around.

Remembering that this airport made no boarding calls I decided that the closer I made myself to the departure area the better off I would be and after clearing immigration I began to look around inside the departure lounge. HKIA is not an airport - it is an epic mall with planes. It is an endless expanse of high end stores and even more food options and it is ridiculous the ease with which one can walk in circles and not even realize what has happened until you are back at your point of origin.

I`ve given up by this time on exploring I have been travelling for eons and missed a whole day I want to head to my gate and wait out the rest of my time in Hong Kong. After staring at the information board and waiting for the English to appear I discover I am boarding at gate 43 and start to make my way there.

So I walk in circles for a bit...before making it to the escalators that lead to gates 33-80. At the end of these two long flights of escalators must be the gates right? Wrong. These escalators lead to the train that takes you to the escalators that take you to the gates. And that is where am now sitting on the floor writing my blog. The bright flashes of lightning and the roll of thunder mingled with the bustle of people conversing in a variety of languages form the soundtrack to this scene.

I left Toronto 26hrs ago (38 if you count the twelve lost to changing time zones) and I still have another 9 hrs before I arrive in Colombo (weather permitting). Jet lag is starting to kick in and I would kill for a shower.

Rome wasn't built in a day but I kind of wish this journey had been made in one.


1 comment:

  1. Glad to hear you've made it to Stage 1 in Asia safely! You're probably arriving in Colombo as I type this -good luck chica!