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Midnight Traffic Mayhem on the Road to Beijing

Finding a Hong Kong Haven, or is this Heaven?

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What could have been a relatively enjoyable transit in air-conditioned luxury aboard a ‘sleeper bus’ through the night, became a nightmare of alternating hot and humid and blasting cold air-conditioning as we hit traffic shortly after midnight and crawled our way toward the outskirts of Beijing. Seems the Chinese decided to put a toll just outside the city, and we literally could have walked for the last five hours and made the trip more quickly. As it was, we sat in the bus which would roll 20-50 meters every 30 minutes (with the AC blasting) and then come to a complete and utter halt for the remaining 29 minutes of each half hour, with the bus doors open and the heat, humidity and diesel of the highway wafting into the bus. But at least we had a place to lay down as we drifted in and out of sleep, alternatively dripping with sweat and then freezing hour after hour after hour.

Pulling into the outskirts of Beijing, we passed through beautiful landscape after paying our toll and hitting new land speed records coasting through numerous tunnels in the hilly landscape. I was up at about 0530AM watching Jacqui slumber, and even tried to wake her (in vain) for a glimpse or two as the Great Wall of China came in and out of view numerous times. It wasn’t until that sight that it hit me: We really are in China! Of course, minutes later I was brimming with American pride as a true symbol of western occupation came into view glimmering in the morning sun, as though plucked from a Florida postcard: could it be . . . Disneyland?? What appeared to be the framing of the storybook castle, and an entrance to a soon-to-open park appeared to be a Disney-esque creation, we can’t be certain. But it definitely looked the part, right down to the glass slippers . . . .

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Our bus transit ended with a taxi scramble at a central bus station with groups of us pairing up to see who was going where. Hostels, hotels, train stations and the airport were all intended destinations, and Jacquie and I paired up with a German and French kid, each of whom was traveling at least half as long as us, with twice the luggage! In any event, we made it to the Airport in Beijing, and found ourselves able to relax in quite comfy surroundings of this modern and well equipped facility. But we knew we were in a haven of capitalism when, amongst the numerous duty-free shops selling liquor by the gallon, perfume by the liter and diamonds by the dozen, we came across Starbucks! Hallelujah! A cappuccino, an espresso, and a couple of sandwiches later, and we settled in to await our Dragon Air flight in the plush confines of caffeine central.

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Of course, after enduring plugged systems, due to abhorrent facilities on the road, a trip to a loo with (hopefully) indoor plumbing was in order. Walking into the men’s, I was overwhelmed by a distinct and powerful aroma: Part # 91067 Kimberly-Clark® KIMCARE® Citrus Scented Continuous Air-Freshening System. Along with a happy stomach full of delectable coffee, my olfactory senses finally felt the balance return to an otherwise brutal world. Never thought a bathroom could smell so good!

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(gratuitous plug for my awesome employer!)

Our flight to Hong Kong was quite typical. Our first stop was security, which we figured would be a simple affair after the numerous airports we have cruised through like professionals. After facing gauntlets of x-rays and metal detectors since leaving Africa, we thought we had the system down. And then it happened. Jacquie was pulled aside by a suspicious, and yet very cordial security screener. Her bag was passed through the x-ray a second time, and she was requested to pull to the side for the dreaded “additional screening”. Being in Red China, a slight twinge of fear crept up as we innocently and fully cooperated. To our surprise, the screener asked Jacquie whether she was carrying a knife. A knife?! Multiple flights, numerous screenings, a host of x-rays (like about a half dozen!) and this guy thought Jacquie has a knife?? Of course the response was . . . was . . . no? But wait! Jacquie suddenly recalled a secret little pocket, smartly designed on our day packs to conceal things like wallets, passports, money, spare change . . . . and a pocket-knife and flashlight that some bonehead (read: LLOYD) had slipped into the pocket whilst camping in Botswana. “Just in case” he had said at the time. Of course they were never used, quickly forgotten, and proved to be a simple litmus for security across the globe. And proof that China, beyond being fast and efficient, are actually very, very good at security (beating out Heathrow and Moscow at least in terms of finding concealed contraband). Instead of the short prison sentence we expected, the security screener actually let me open the knife and use it to cut the flashlight off the knife and take that with, while he retained the little contraband, and let us move on to our flight without further delay.

So, “DragonAir” kind of sounds a little gimmicky, and I must admit I initially had a few trepidations about getting to the gate and finding our pilots doing Kung Fu back flips down the jet way to a black and gold painted plane that looked like a Chinese New Year decoration. However, the flight turned out to be quite good. Nice plane (A330), friendly (non-Kung Fu practicing) multi-lingual staff, and even little menus for dinner(when was the last time you saw THAT in economy?). And then Haagen-Dazs for dessert. What a way to fly! Seems American airlines could learn a thing or two from these operations.

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Arriving in Hong-Kong was to set a precedent for speed, efficiency and amazing service as we cleared passport control, collected our bags, and then met our hotel transfer (we rightly figured that after two days of travel we’d have little patience for finding our way around) where we were offered a drink, a smile and a Sony Playstation loaded with the features of our hotel to watch as we drove in the back of the Mercedes-Benz limo 30 minutes to the Langham Place hotel. Feel free to insert the word “HEAVEN” anywhere you see “Langham Place Hotel” written. That’s right; it’s that nice . . . !

Check it out here, and if you're ever in Hong Kong, this is the BEST place to stay:

http://hongkong.langhamplacehotels.com/

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g294217-d305813-Reviews-Langham_Place_Hotel_Hong_Kong-Hong_Kong.html

Posted by lloydthyen 12:21 Archived in China Tagged round_the_world

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