First of all... WOW. Thank you all for your support and sweet well wishes after my last post. I was overwhelmed, and I can't thank you enough. I've received so many emails and nice comments and I promise to reply shortly, but first... on to a new post!
While this job comes with many travel perks, the majority of my layovers are no more than 24 hours. Within those 24 hours we must disembark our passengers, make our way through airports, customs, ride a bus to our hotel, check in to our hotel, get a good night's sleep, get ready for the return flight and ride the bus back to the airport. It's really not that much time when you think about it. As you can imagine, I was thrilled when I discovered a 48 hour layover in Hong Kong on my roster this month. 48 hours?! Whatever would I do with all of my free time??
I was in a great mood as I headed to the briefing room. It was the 2nd last time that I'd leave Dubai as a crew member.
The flight over was a breeze. In our massive economy cabin, we had only 140 passengers. I thought it was a joke at first, as such numbers are unheard of in our normally full airplane. We have the capacity for 427 in economy, just to give you an idea of how empty it really was. Needless to say, it was one of the easiest flights that I've ever worked, and I had the privilege of working with some really great crew members. We made plans for our layover, as I repeatedly insisted that it had to be amazing as it was one of my last trips.
After landing and checking in, myself and a few others agreed to meet in the morning for breakfast, after which we'd head to Macau! I headed to my room and straight into bed, exhausted after a long day of flying.
I was extremely tired when I woke up early in the morning, forcing myself out of bed despite my desire to stay there all day. There were adventures to be had, and I was not going to miss out!
One of my favourite things about Hong Kong is the breakfast buffet. I've mentioned it before, but I feel the need to bring it up again. I filled up on enough food to last me through until lunch time, and best of all, it was free! What could possibly be better than free food?
Cameras, passports and train tickets in hand, I headed to the station with Simone from Australia, Stephanie from Germany, and Jerome from France. Despite a recent string of miserable crew putting a damper on my layovers, these 3 were happy, optimistic and excited for our day. I couldn't have chosen better people to spend the day with! We rode the train to Hong Kong island, caught a taxi to the ferry terminal, and bought tickets to Macau. What we hadn't considered was how busy it would be. It was only 10:30 and the next available tickets weren't until 12:45. Disappointed, we splurged and bought overpriced tickets for the 11:15 boat from a man selling a handful off to the side of the ticket line.
We headed towards the gates, feeling as though we were about to board a plane. We passed through customs, got stamps on our passports, and set off in search of our boarding gate. Once there, we waited until it was time to board the ferry. In typical cabin crew style, we read the safety card and joked about pressing the call bell. The journey to Macau was an hour long, cruising through the sparkling green water as we passed small islands and ships.
When we docked at the ferry terminal we were excited to head out and explore. We had no idea that hundreds of others would be just as eager as us. The lines for the immigration counters were ridiculous. There was no organization, people pushed for a spot hoping to get through quickly. We spent over an hour standing there, witnessing strange things such as a mother pulling down her child's pants and holding a plastic bag as he urinated inside of it. She then tied the pee filled bag and casually tossed it in a garbage bin. The 4 of us were greatly disturbed by this, but nobody else seemed to notice. Chinese cities always win top spot on my list of places with the most culture shock. We finally reached the immigration officer, got our passports stamped and we were free!
We'd agreed to find a tour guide to drive us around for the day, as we had limited time and wanted to see as much as we could. Our tour guide found us instead, introducing himself as Tony and convincing us that he was the best person to show us around Macau. We bargained for a better price, and once we all agreed, he led us to his car and passed us paper fans from the MGM Grand to keep cool in the summer heat. We stopped a few times outside of casinos and hotels for photos. It was oddly similar to Las Vegas, with fake volcanos, Greek ruins, and flashy lights. Formerly a Portuguese colony, all of the street signs were written in both Chinese and Portuguese, making it a very strange place indeed. We took all of the necessary tourist photos and headed onwards to the Macau Tower. We hadn't planned to go to the top, but an over eager Tony purchased our tickets and handed them to us, informing us that we needed to pay him afterwards. This was a bit annoying, but we figured we may as well go check out the view. At the top, we took in the stunning views of the islands and the casinos all built on reclaimed land. The Macau Tower is also home to the world's tallest bungee jump. Before that day I'd considered jumping myself, but once we saw a girl fall from the nauseating height my mind was changed. Walking on the glass floors was enough of a rush for me. For somebody who is an adventure seeker (not to mention working in the sky) I sure don't do well with heights!
After we'd seen the sights we headed back to a lower altitude, met again by Tony. He drove us around, pointing out buildings and statues and explaining their significance. We took photos out the windows like the tourists that we were.
Next stop was the Sao Paulo Cathedral. In 1835 it was destroyed in a fire during a typhoon, and today all that remains is one wall. On a distinctly Chinese street, the European-looking Catholic cathedral seemed very out of place. As we tried to take photos, we found ourselves as the tourist attraction. 3 girls, clearly not of Asian descent. People posed next to us and took photos, ignoring the historic building behind us. As flight attendants, we are accustomed to this, but as tourists it struck us as a bit odd. We walked down the street, picking up the essential fridge magnet (I have on from nearly every country that I've visited!) and losing our appetite at the sight and smell of the street food. It was extremely hot and humid, and we were ready to seek refuge inside an air conditioned building. We returned to our car, where Tony said goodbye and introduced us to our new driver. We told him to take us to the Venetian hotel, a replica of the same one in Vegas. We wandered the busy casino and the halls lined with designer shops. Having been to Vegas it was all very strange to me. They even had a Grand Canel, complete with gondola rides. It had been hours since breakfast and we were starving, so we set out in search of the food court and dined on Americanized food.
We refrained from gambling and instead went back to find our driver. We'd booked our ferry ticket for 5:45 and it was time to return to the terminal.
Fortunately, passing customs was much easier this time around. We were a bit early and decided to try getting on the earlier ferry. We were let on and boarded immediately, saving us from having to wait an extra half hour! Exhausted from an early morning and a day in the sun, the 4 of us slept on the journey back to Hong Kong.
Once we were back, we went our separate ways.... Simone and Jerome headed to the hotel to nap in preparation for a big night out, while Stephanie and myself decided to hang around the city for awhile longer. We caught a ferry across the harbour to Kowloon, where we stood anxiously awaiting the light show over the Hong Kong skyline. We waited, and we waited, but all that ever happened were a few beams of light from some of the buildings. It was uneventful, but I still managed to take many, many photos. The colourful buildings were beautifully lit up across the water. It was another moment to add to my long list of "Wow, this is my job" moments.
Content with our fun filled day, we returned to the train station and caught the train back to the hotel. I honestly don't know how I managed to stay up so long, but I was quick to fall asleep once I'd changed into my pyjamas and crawled into bed.
The next morning I woke up and headed downstairs for breakfast again. I still had an entire day in Hong Kong! Since I'd already seen the majority of the attractions that I'd hoped to and since I'd spent the majority of my money the previous day, I opted for a low key day. I bought a train ticket and headed for the city, deciding to wander it on foot.
I really love Hong Kong for its fast pace and mix of nationalities living together. It's like what Dubai strives to be, but Hong Kong pulls it off so much better. After a short walk around the busy downtown, I headed across the water once again to Kowloon. I strolled along the Avenue of Stars... like the Chinese version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The only names that I recognized were Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee, but I'm assuming that in culture with more than a billion people some of the handprints on the path must have been from mega stars.
The clouds looked threatening but the rain held off as I continued wandering along the water, enjoying what may have been my last day ever in Hong Kong. Seeking air conditioning, I ventured inside of a huge mall. I wandered the many shops, fascinated with the useless yet adorable quirky items for sale. If it weren't for my extreme lack of suitcase space I would have pulled out my credit card right then and there... who doesn't need a rubber duck that doubles as a shower radio, or a pedometer that translates steps walked into how much chocolate you've earned? I was rather impressed with how well I resisted making any purchases, and treated myself to a green tea frappucino from Starbucks as a reward.
I knew that I had to return to the hotel shortly to get some sleep before the flight. On the way over I'd struggled to stay awake in my jumpseat during take off and landing, and this time I was going to be a bit more conscious. I reluctantly returned to the hotel, procrastinated sleep by spending some time online, and then finally gave in and took a nap.
I'm glad that I did, because the flight back seemed to last an eternity! It was quiet once again, with all of our passengers sleeping and the crew too tired for conversation. We eventually landed in Dubai, where I sadly said goodbye to my friend Cathy, who was in my original training batch. She was traveling as a passenger and it would be the last time I'd see her before moving home. More hugs, goodbyes, and well wishes followed as I parted ways with the crew after my suitcase showed up on the belt. If every crew was as great as these ones had been, leaving would be a lot more difficult. I'd had a great trip and made more great memories.
Just one more trip and I'm officially unemployed. I plan to make the next one the best, ever!