I woke up at 4:45 and checked out, walking through the alleys past the Tibetan Buddha shrine and up the stopped escalators to the ferry station. I was hoping they would open the gates early, no dice. The ferry, a TurboJet, left at 6AM and the gates did not open until 5:45 AM so I sat on my bags till they opened. I did get to talk to some tourists from Morocco which was very interesting and good. I love talking to people from different places, oh yes I have mentioned that before. The man I talked to helped me with information about the ferry station in Hong Kong we would be arriving at.
The ferry ride was an hour long and I got to see the sun rise over the bay, just like old times. Many fishing vessels were still out pulling in there nets and a slight mist covered the many islands as the red sun slowly climbed in the sky reveling the distinct Chinese style roofs over shrines and temples on island peaks. Again there was paperwork to fill out and this time I appropriated the hotel room’s pen to help me out. Immigration was a snap but I got lost in the ferry station and eventually found the ground level and a taxi cab. At this time the taxi was the only option I had left as time was running out to make the airport on time. As I saw the airport approaching I noticed the fare meter, it was pretty high, more expensive then the taxis in any other place in China I had been so far. I was able to negotiate a suitable exchange in Chinese yuao for the absent 50 HKD I was short.
The airport was chaos at the United terminal. I was on the early flight to O’Hare and thought it would be mostly empty… nope it was packed and it turns out the only flight of the day from HK to Chicago! Luckily enough they opened a special line for the coach passengers and I got my ticket and checked my bags (one was too heavy but in order to save time they waived the $200 over weight fee). Immigration was not as easy here as elsewhere, it was slow and they checked things rather thoroughly, but I got to keep my shoes on! I had to make a quick nature call then run from one end of the HK airport to the other, all the way to gate 65! I made it just before final boarding call.
The flight was packed but I was upgraded to an exit seat because of my height and build, that goodness… I need the leg room and few places in coach offer me enough room to stretch out. During taxing down the runway we were instructed the plane was too heavy on our section and we all had to move. I was one of the first to chose a seat so I picked one between coach and coach plus. On the 747 it is where the wall is on the middle sections, behind the bathrooms. There are 4 seats across and the 3 on the left hand side were empty. There was a man on the far right seat who seemed perturbed at my arrival but seeing I took the opposite seat it was ok, then two Africans came up and took the two middle seats, that did not go over well. I have not seen a person get so upset over something like that in over 20 years, and that was in the deep woods of Alabama, not Hong Kong. The white man on the end was moved after causing a scene and the 3 of us got to enjoy an extra seat to place all out things in!
The flight took off around 9:20 after we got the load rebalanced and settled (20 minutes). I tried to stay up, which was hard, for the next 5 to 6 hours to adjust back to Chicago time (the flight touched down at O’Hare at 9:35 AM the same day! After watching some lame in flight movies and listening to my MP3 CD-ROM with my noise canceling head phones I could not stay awake anymore. I tried to find a comfortable position, impossible to do on an airliner. I did manage to get some sleep before Chicago 7:30 AM when I decided to just stay awake. We were all given customs forms to fill out, I needed two, and then decided that I could not pass up a duty free purchase opportunity. The flight touched down without incident and taxied to the gate.
American immigration was barely staffed upon our arrival and as I made my declarations I went to pickup my luggage and proceed through customs. I then was directed to the x-ray machines along with a personal check of my carryon bag. No big issues, no baggage to be opened or rifled through, which was good. Then to the rude awakening of the cold Chicago morning made sure I was fully awake. I turned on my cell phone and was surprised to see two messages from my lovely Coco waiting for me, I replied, called the car lot for a pickup and then made my way north. I called my friend in the Navy and he was able to cut off work early so we had lunch, I delivered some souvenirs, called my mom and friends and then made my way home for a good nights sleep.
After unpacking I enjoyed a good glass of red wine and reviewed my mail while my PC booted up. I emailed my gracious hostess and let her know I was missing her, thinking about her, and made it home ok. All in all I had a wonderful adventure, learned some new customs, a few Chinese words, ate some excellent food, took some great pictures, left my digital camera with my hostess (I always leave things behind, been doing it for years), talked to many interesting people along the way, and made some new friends I truly intend to meet again, soon. That is all for my China adventure and it was more then I could have dreamed and I am already looking at making another trip next year.