Kathy swept me off to the airport in San Francisco so that I could depart the homeland for the big adventure. It was an easy check in. But oddly, the lady at Cathay Pacific looked at my Ping Rolling carry on and said it was too heavy to go on the plain. She asked if I could move some of the items over to the tow other checked bags. But I told her I feared they would burst if one more item were put inside them. She said it was not going in the cabin and began to check it. I asked her what cost that would be to which she replied “I will do it for a courtesy.” I thanked her and thought to myself that was nicer because now I wouldn’t have to worry about it while I was in Hong Kong.
I went to the gate and before you know it, I was settling in to my seat: 44A. That meant I was on the bulkhead and would have oodles of legroom. The down side was the constant stream of people to the bathroom within 5 feet of me. But so far so good and the big leg of the flight was shaping up good. My row mates were Dawn and Steve Gregory. They are a fine couple that runs a café in Pasa Robles, California. They were on their way to china for a several day trek themselves. Steve has climbed Whitney a couple of times before as well. It was a great set up there in the 44th row of the Boeing 747. Now I just had to get some rest over the 14-hour flight that was ahead. I have to say that I was impressed with the flight in general. Though there were over 400 people on the plane, the kids were doing well and despite non-stop use of the bulkhead restroom, the air quality remained tolerable.
I did manage to get a good amount of sleep and soon found myself grabbing my bag and heading for customs to venture out to the streets of Hong King to meet up with my cousin, Leonard Nichols at the Holiday Inn. I paid my $90.00 Hong Kong Dollars for a ticket for the train to Kowloon and settled in. We passed the Port of Hong Kong where there were literally THOUSANDS of trucking containers in various stages of loading and unloading. It reminded me of Dad driving container trucks to the port to be shipped overseas. As we hit the Kowloon Station, I quickly scoped out the taxi stand and headed for there, jumped into a little Toyota cab and called out HOLIDAY INN! And off we went…on the wrong side of the Road…ahhh the Brits and their crazy idea that one should drive on the left! We went on a wild ride though the streets of the city and came to a very sudden
stop in front of the Holiday in. Which is not so far from Shakey’s Pizza….yes, the same Shakey’s company that owned the pizza parlor all of us used to go to after Games at Glacier High School.
I fired up the Spot Connect so that I could check in….no bueno. It seemed to try hard for 15 minutes, but to no avail. I had been able to get free wireless at the airport so checked in with family and facebook, but Hong Kong was having none of the coolest piece of gear I got for this trip.
At last I was going to see Leo and we were to make a day of it. He called me and met me in the lobby but because he had indulged in Yak Steak the night before to honor me and because the Yak meat he ate had some sort of malady, he had spent the entire night praying to the porcelain gods and was not entirely done with that pilgrimage upon my arrival. None the less, we set out for the tram to the top of Hong Kong, taking a ferry across the harbor and beginning an uphill walk to the tram. But it did him in, poor guy. So we turned back, stopping for rests and for him to get some liquids. Then back to his hotel and the hotel doctor! I went out for a short walk while he treated with the doctor and got to encounter the hawkers trying to get me to buy hand bags and quality tailored goods.
After the doc left and Leo had gotten a shot and some other medicine, we went out again and ran some errands for him after which we had a coffee (he had a gator aid for the electrolytes) at Starbucks!
I had arrived at about 8:00 AM local time and it was now approaching 2. We decided to go our separate ways, Leo back to Mainland China and me back to the airport. It was so nice to see him. Sort of like a pilgrimage of Nichols visit…first his parents, (my God Parents) back in Fremont California a few days ago and now him in Hong Kong. My efforts to travel there to see him have catapulted me into the favorite cousin position. I just know it!
So onward I went, heading to check in and try to get another one of those swell seats like on the last flight. I walked up with my big smile and was excited for the next leg. But remember that really nice gesture back in San Francisco? The one where the lady put that rolling carry on in with my other checked baggage? That as about to come back and slap me right in the face. The lad y said in pretty good English “You have three bags checked and ticket only for 2.” So, I tried to explain what happened in San Francisco. But that was not relevant to her. For her, all that mattered was I had a ticket for two checked bags, but three had been checked and the math did not add up. Her solution? The first one was for me to pay 120 US dollars for the bag for each leg of my flight. I Told her that didn’t seem fair since they had checked it through in San Francisco and had never said that it WOULD have cost that kind of money. Her second solution? Take the bag number three from under the plane and put it in the overhead with me. Well, that seemed reasonable. Not what I expected but better than shelling out hundreds of dollars for what WAS supposed to be a carry on in the first place. So they sent me to Terminal 1, Section H, Isle
H19 to get the bag. The problem was, they had no clue. Now they wanted me to go get the bag since there was a problem with it….I told them there was no problem. At least not one they didn’t create all on their own. So the young man helping the woman advised me to take a seat and when the bag was available in the Customs Hall, they would take me there. That sounded ok, though there were no seats. I walked a few paces away and simply stood. And waited. And waited. And got hungry. And waited.
I went back to T1, H, H19 and asked how long it would be. The lady (same one) told me that since I had lost my bag…WAIT! I never lost my bag! Now I could feel some anger roiling up inside me. I kept telling myself in my quiet, inside voice…NO INTERNATIONAL INCIDENTS! Especially when you haven’t even started the activities that have brought you over 6,000 miles from home so far. After stern words of urgency to the young lady that I had a plane to catch and the bag she was trying to take off it had to be back on it with me PDQ! An hour and a half had already passed. She brought another young man out and told me to go with him. So off we went. And went. And went. Into the bowels of the Hong Kong
airport. He kept showing different ID’s of his and waiving me on with him. Then we came to an official looking chap with a stamp. You know there could be trouble when they have a stamp and an ink pad at the ready. Was I to be Locked Up Abroad? He asked me for my boarding pass……SERENITY NOW I yelled inside! SHUT THE FRONT DOOR you guys never GAVE me a boarding pass. Then I stared straight into his eyes with my best Robo-Cop impression and no joy to detect on my face. Thought of my father at Chosin reservoir all surrounded by the Chinese. I knew how he felt now. I was sure I did. I was not about to walk the 250 miles back to T1, H, H19 to get the boarding pass. I broke eyes with stamp-man and burned a whole through the young man’s eyes and he slinked off. I stayed put and did not move. Not an inch either way. Just stood and robo-copped the stamp man. About 15 minutes later young guys shows up with a freshly minted boarding pass and we pass thought a gauntlet of flailing, ink lathered rubber stamps and gates and now we are in front of a baggage claim carousel.
Each bag that passed, the young man asked if that was it. No. It wasn’t. Time was now speeding passed. I ask young man where all these bags on the carousel came from. He said they are lost from their owners…..MINE IS NOT LOST! He gets nervous again…or maybe afraid that my big round blue eyes have now turned red and laser like. He moves off to a coworker and they speak. He comes back and says “Your Bags should be coming now.” BAGS??? I told him that the all the bags were checked through and for whatever reason they decided the third bag could no longer be under the plane and had to be in it but what was he doing with my other two bags! He said they all had to come off. And it happened.
At last, it happened. They had broken me. All at once I realized that in 20 minutes my plane was leaving. I had not gone through security or customs. And now all three of my bags had been exorcized from the plane….the one about to leave….with or without me or them. I looked at the man and said “I spent thousands of dollars on this trip and now it is about to be ruined if me and those bags do not make it to Katmandu tonight. And with that big tears rolled down my cheeks and I was through, I took the rebel bag that had been the source of all the trouble, they took the other two and we went our separate ways. I headed for customs. I got through customs after a thorough tear down of THE BAG and hurried through security and then scurried for the gate. I got there just as final boarding was being called.
So here I sit, in Dragon Air’s plane…in Seat 22A, a bulkhead seat with no isle mates, at 38,000 feet in the air, eating Indian rice and writing this blog entry. I do not know if my gear is on the plane with me. I will not know for another 3 hours. Adventure, it’s what’s for dinner.