April 21st, 2009


LAX to HKG - The Adventure Begins

Monday Morning, 05:00, Hong Kong
Sunday, 14:00, Pacific Daylight Time
Hotel Intercontinental Hong Kong, Room 720
Third Day in Hong Kong

Retracing the events while they still are straight in my mind…. We left home by Van for LAX at 09:00 and were in the Admiral’s Club of American Airlines by about 10:40, drinking coffee and eating crackers and cookies. I changed some dollars for HK Dollars and Thai currency, with no Viet Nam currency available. We were aboard easily in 10A & 10B, Business Class, on AA169, due to arrive at 16:00 on Friday at Tokyo Narita, after leaving LAX at 12:30 on the previous day. The International Date Line explains this long lapse in what was probably an eleven and a half hour flight. Service was excellent and I had plum wine after a mimosa, and then salmon, while Lin had some traditional Japanese food including tofu and eel. Business class certainly has its perks, and Lin watched movie after movie, Valkyrie, Four Christmases, and finally Slum Dog Millionaire. I watched Valkyrie and then read in my Hong Kong phase the story of Christopher Patten, the last Governor of Hong Kong before the 1997 return of the territory as a Special Administrative Region of China, and got some feeling for the resentment and instability of this period, the role of Martin Lee, as a dissident, and the fears that Tianemin Square awakened. I made great progress in Tom Brokaw’s, “Boom” about the 60’s generation. I caught about an hour’s sleep in the seat which goes pretty horizontal and enjoyed classical music. Lin watched movie after movie, and got no sleep, due to the excitement, she says, in retrospect. We had great snacks of cheese and then Lin had cold scallops in a chili sauce and I had a deep dish tomato pizza.

We landed in Narita to overcast skies threatening rain, and Lin was wheeled a long distance to a far section of the terminal to Cathay Airlines, by a young man in a suit, wearing a surgical mask, who said that he had visited Los Angeles, San Francisco and had blown $10,000 in Las Vegas. Hmmm! Tales of the Far East? Narita was beautiful, efficient, and the toilets were so clean that they looked like we were the first ones to use them.

At 18:30 we took off in our Boeing 747-400, in tourist with 11 rows across, but adequate room and individual TV sets that were the best I’ve seen. I watched most of “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas”, but, just as the most exciting part was about to unfold, the TV shut down for departure instructions, and by 22:05, we were on the ground in the new Hong Kong airport that is west of Kowloon where we were headed. This was a source of much controversy about financing, but it seemed to be functioning very well. We were met by a young woman who pushed Lin’s wheelchair at a high rate of speed to the customs area where some snag caused her to go into a little room no fewer than 3 times with different forms and unclear instructions about what was missing. Finally, whatever it was, was corrected to the satisfaction of a customs officer, and we were very politely escorted through the gates, to the luggage carousel, where a New York like wait seemed to stretch out too long, while the same few pieces of a previous flight from Cambodia seemed to circle eternally, like it belonged to the Man Without a Country. Our wheelchair escort was eager to find our luggage, and, in no time, I suppose because of our previous priority tags from Business Class, and because Lin is traveling with her red, pink and polka dot luggage, we had it in no time. As is so different in the US, the airport supplied a trolley at no charge and we wheeled this through customs without difficulty, and into a large space filled with many, many Asians. Some were carrying signs. We looked furtively for the Intercontinental Desk, but I saw the fateful sign, “Dr. and Mrs. L. Lewin,” carried by an official looking gentleman in white livery, who took complete and utter control. We were whisked off by what seemed to be a private route, private elevator, and suddenly the outside, through a private-looking doorway. There was a stretch black Mercedes S class sedan, and our luggage disappeared into the trunk, except for the polkadot piece riding shotgun with the driver.

Tuesday Morning, April 21st 11:30
South China Sea, off of Hainan, at about the latitude of Hanoi, en route to Chan May, Da Nang and Hue, Viet Nam


Wednesday Morning, April 22nd 08:00
Good Morning, Viet Nam…. Quayside… Chan May, near Da Nang, China Beach, Hoi An

….I didn’t get very far yesterday, and I got in trouble, because, after Lin’s stretching class, I was not in the Lido Cafeteria, as promised, and she worried that I was bathing in the China Sea, or something like that. I thought that she would be back down in our cabin to get her pills. She was fuming on the 11th deck. I can’t do this again, so, I’ll publish this incomplete account of the events that ended 3 days ago when we boarded our ship. A story in progress! Forgive me.