Flying to Hong Kong

posted Aug 17, 2010, 12:14 AM by Charles Boling   [ updated Aug 17, 2010, 4:33 AM ]

Wednesday 2010-08-11

As is typical of air travel, thus far, our flights have all been delayed. The first an hour and the second two hours. That left us leaving Vancouver BC for the trans-Pacific flight at 4:00 a.m.

The flight, except for the waiting time at the Portland Airport, to BC was uneventful. Evening is definitely a great time to fly. The airport was quite empty – and so from the time we were dropped off at PDX to the time we found the gate we needed (including checking two bags) was less than 20 minutes. Combined with the fact that they tell you to be there 3 hours early and the flight was an hour late, we had a LONG wait before we could leave. So we took the time to stroll the entire airport and grab some dinner. It was nice being together – it's been a long time when just the two of us have had that much “alone” time!

The wait in Vancouver B.C. was more annoying, just because of the time of night. We ended up having a 4 hour layover during the wee hours of the morning. For those of you who have never been to the Vancouver International Airport – you are missing something! Wow – it looked more like the Forest Learning Center up on Mount Saint Helens than an airport. The area we went through to change planes, so that we didn't have to go through customs and security again, looked like it was originally a visitor's center. It was decorated and designed to look like you were walking through the woods! We were the only people going through that section at all – it was upstairs and kind of it's “own thing”. The guard there that checked us through looked really bored :-). We got a picture of Michele on one of the bridges there.

Then later as we were strolling through the airport we came across a 12' wide, 40' long “river” flowing, complete with river rocks and fake fish, through the middle of the airport. It was like a fountain, but designed to look like you were outside in the woods instead of inside a large building. There were plants and trees all around, and not too far from there was a giant aquarium with fish over a foot long!

We rested and ate during our wait and finally were able to board the plane. It took almost 45 minutes before we finally taxied down the runway. We slept on and off during the flight. We cruised at about 31500 feet at speeds ranging from 550 to 600 miles per hour. And at that height it's great to have a pressurized, environmentalized cabin. The temperature outside was a negative 56 degrees! And how did we know all that? This airplane, a 777, is equipped for making long flights more bearable. On the back of each seat is a computerized display that tells you all of your flight information as well as having movies to watch, music to listen to and games to play. It's quite nice. Charles' display didn't work well, and my A/C plug and his headphone jack didn't work well either. But, it was still fun to have a few different things to do while we waited. Sleeping on a plane isn't the greatest – especially for Charles – he's so big compared to the seats that there aren't too many different ways he can sit comfortably.

Charles is fairly used to traveling. For Michele this was a totally different experience. She hadn't flown on a plane in 10 ½ years (and that flight was just to and from Salt Lake City, UT. Michele felt like a little kid with her nose pressed against the window during the first flight. She also felt the heartache at leaving her children for two and a half weeks. While she knows that the families she has entrusted them with will love them and take care of them well, she still misses them terribly. Each baby or child she saw would evoke smiles or tears. She was amazed at the number of babies she saw being carried in front packs – including a seven month old on the BC to Hong Kong flight.

We were seated during this flight in a row of three. Charles had the window, Michele in the middle and an Asian young man in the aisle. He was kind enough (and humored at the prospect) to show Michele how to use chopsticks. Charles enjoyed watching that :-).

Our flight took us along the coast of British Columbia, up over Anchorage Alaska and we crossed the international date line about at the point that Alaska and Russia are the closest. Then we continued down in an arc from there and went over Fukuoka Japan. We turned east and headed straight to Hong Kong.

The landing was uneventful really, as was the disembarking. But the Hong Kong airport is truly amazing. While Charles and I could easily walk the entire Portland airport in our leisure time, that wasn't even a choice in the Hong Kong airport. After getting off the plane, all three hundred plus of us went down a really long hallway and down escalators and down more long hallways and more escalators (which by the way, we rode on more escalators in 2 days than in the last 10 years...). Until finally we got to a subway – all still in the airport. We all got on the subway (it was huge) along with lots of other people. Then we rode that for several minutes (it went quickly too) before finally getting off and riding even more escalators and walking down more hallways. We finally got to the immigration office and stood in line. We were only in line 15 minutes or so – so that wasn't bad.

We could already tell the difference in climate – large parts of the airport weren't air conditioned, or at least not very well. After going through immigration we were able to claim our checked baggage (and were dismayed to find that they broke a handle on one of our bags that had previously been in good shape!). But they didn't lose any of it, so we weren't complaining too much. Then we found a place to sit and figure out what we were doing next.