1st December 2005, the day of my AKL
trip, the alarm was set for 6am so I would be fed and awake for my shuttle at 7am to catch NZ85 due to take off at 10:30.
I woke to the sound of birds, squinting at my watch I saw it was 05:30, I briefly considered getting up early and sitting on the deck in the cool morning air but elected to spend these 30 mins snuggled in the warm, golden-brown embrace of Mrs Jafa, a far more appealing prospect than actually doing anything.
The alarm eventually sounded, "what time is it?¨ Mrs J asked, sleepily, "6am¨ "God, cutting it a bit fine for a 07:30 flight aren't you?¨
"No, the flight is 10:30, cab is 7am¨
"I don't know, time doesn't really mean very much to me¨
No Mrs J, time and money...just abstract concepts aren't they?
We breakfasted on the deck, the sea was flat calm, the sun warm and the cab on time, I kissed Mrs J, patted the cats and greeted the shuttle driver.
We had an entertaining discussion about turbo chargers and why the drivers new boat engine was making dreadful noises, I offered a few solutions and gave him a plan of attack as to how he might diagnose and rectify the problem.
Then, all too soon I was dumped at AKL
International, my first trip to China and my first flight on a 767, also my first excursion away from NZ
soil since landing here on May 8th 2003.
The queue was minimal and I was absorbed in watching a group of Hong Kong business men, arguing with the check-in staff about the weight of their checked bags, the machine said 22 kgs and this meant paying excess baggage fees but the gang of 5 weren't having a bar of it, they were referred to the fierce blonde manageress of the desk team, words were had, money changed hands.
I checked in, I was given my previously booked seat of 39D, it being the only aisle seat near the back that was available, most seasoned travellers would run a mile at 39D on an NZ
767 but I have my reasons, being able to go for a walk at will and having less chance of an anti-reclining Nazi behind me. (Row 40 was blocked for crew use only) being the top ones. The rattling of the galley and "squooosh!¨ of the toilets bothers me less than people ever can.
I completed all the necessaries, went up to the viewing area to fill in my pink card and saw the windows filled with B-HXE, a CX
it was just ready to push back, so I watched it depart.
The call came over the PA that my fight was delayed 30 mins and I assumed the 767 that landed whilst I was there was my a/c, it disappeared round the corner to the vicinity of gate 9 (my gate) so the chances were good.
I then ambled through customs, the guy on the desk chatted to me about the Duke of Edinburgh's Award and we shared a joke or two (I was at that point the only one there).
The International departure area has changed heaps since I was last there in 2003, it looked totally different and there are signs of ongoing construction work (either that or there were an awful lot of village people fans wandering around in hard hats!!).
As you can see from the pic, it was its usual busy self!
Lounge 9 was a sleepy little hollow too,
's were reading the paper and idly chilling, I took in the view out to the west.
Checked out our a/c, 767-300 ZK
Found a seat (ooh, the choice!!) and proceeded to read a book about NZ
's top scoring Spitfire pilot in WW2.
Then, as if a switch had been thrown (or "throwen¨ if you want it in a Kiwi accent) the whole place turned into a Zoo!
Everybody seemed to turn up at once! One minute, sylvanian tranquillity and the next, well, it was like Hong Kong in rush hour, a seething gaggle of very animated and very active people. The flight was full and out of that 234 people I was one of only about 10 Pakeha (European descent), I watched amazed at all the running about, random changing of seats (still in the lounge remember) and then there was the hand luggage!! I couldn't work out how they had got this far with it all, maybe it was hidden during check-in?
's it would seem, felt the same way, some Chinese speaking FA
's dispersed through the crowd and words were had, there was a frantic re-packing suddenly in progress, most of it appeared to be booze, sweet in a way that Chinese people love NZ
sooo much they want to take as much of it home as possible, but I ask you, half the stuff for sale in NZ
is made in Hong Kong anyway!!
In the centre of all this activity was the previously harangued gang of 5, their hand luggage totally took the piss! Somehow, someway it all got sorted and things quietened down momentarily (see annoying expressions thread).
Then there was a call over the PA announcing that there were fire alarms sounding elsewhere in the terminal and advising that Passenger processing might be delayed, none of the non-European pax took the slightest notice, in fact they all seemed to talk louder so they could be heard over the announcement.
Now, don't go getting the impression I have the down on Chinese people, I am just reporting the facts but I have to say, their behaviour, en masse, in airports is worth observing, not only that but I will rip the piss out of anyone, including Kiwis and Poms.
I found my way to the back of ZK
-NCG and found it to be very clean and tidy, much bigger than my oft-travelled 737 or A320's on domestic routes, it was a bit like a 747 without the steroids. No PTV or anything but there were TV
's and loos and a galley, what more could you want?
The Human Zoo followed me in and vast amounts of hand luggage (mostly booze) was stowed away, those from the middle were scouring the rear bins looking for a place to stash polystyrene boxes of what appeared to be fish, the label said "San Yuk Seafood corp¨ or something very similar.
Eventually it was all made to fit and we sat there getting quieter for a bit, then the purser announced that we were waiting for one pax, remember this is a flight that was delayed for 30 mins and was now 10 mins late on top of that and still one pax as not turned up!! Good grief! Where do these people go???
Finally we got pushed back and bumbled along past one of the new 777's and out onto the runway for a take off the west, bugger, them 767's aren't slow, the acceleration was pretty impressive!!!!!
I love the long climb out on international flights; feels like you are really going somewhere, not hurried like 737 domestic, just a long settling in period as wings are flexed and the big bird settles in for the long haul ahead.
The seat belt lights went out and I went to check the plumbing and then got settled in to wait for lunch, in the mean time I watched "Bewitched¨ on the overhead TV
, with Chinese subtitles, whilst listening to the music on channel 9 and starting to write this TR
, no wonder Mrs J thinks I am OCD or ADHD!
There was a choice of fish on rice or chicken with mashed spuds, I took the chicken option as I reckoned that a week in Macau would give me all the rice and noodles I could handle.
All washed down with a very nice Pinot Noir....marvellous.
I haven't included a pic of my food, if this causes you anxiety or "disturbances in the force" and makes you throw down your mouse in disgust and declare:
"Call this a Trip Report??"
You have a couple of options, you can go to part 2 of this report, where, due to being off my face on Chinese "Flu Treatment" I let my guard down and photographed my breakfast or, you can stop reading for a while and reflect on why exactly it is that you have this need to see other peoples dinner.
After lunch I did my walkabout, my anti-DVT
exercises and then a nap.
I slept for a few minutes with the headphones on, listening to music, there came a turbulence warning and everybody sat down, the turbulence wasn't the worst I have ever encountered but it wasn't too flash, the wings were bouncing about with wild abandon and from the galley behind me came a very "Hollywood" rattling of glasses, which made it all seem like a bad disaster movie for a while.
Presently the lumps passed and I fell asleep again, wrapped in a blanket and wishing the nice Chinese lady next to me would let me cuddle up to her the way she was cuddled up to her hubby, she looked so comfortable I had to look away!
Sleep came, an hour later I awoke to a glass of orange juice and a fiendish headache, so I headed on up to the middle lavs and set about straightening out my cramped body. The shoulders rolls started to relieve the tension and I moaned like a cheap porn star with the pleasure of it all, I hoped fervently that no-one was listening at the door.
I performed a range of exercises, one of which involved putting my leg behind me, catching my toes on the sink and stretching my leg muscles until they hurt, 10 mins in this precious cubicle of personal space, culminating in a wash, I held my hands under the red-hot water for ages, just for the sake of having a new experience, as after all, long haul isn't a massively stimulating event, in fact the best bit about Long-haul is a: Telling people you are going to somewhere far away and exotic and b: Telling people you have just come back from somewhere far away and exotic. The reality is somewhat more tedious.
The exercises left me feeling wonderful, the TV
was showing a movie about soccer, the usual rubbish, kid from the sticks does good despite the odds being against him and ends up the hero....yawn, never much of a soccer fan anyway.
So I fired up the trusty laptop again and continued to write this TR
, or as much as the battery would allow.
's brought round Ice Cream!!!! Yay!
Feeling utterly content and comfortable again I settled down with my book about the Spitfire Pilot and noted from the screen that we were over Port Moresby and almost halfway there.
The Ice Cream seemed to jolly everybody up, people started wandering about, using the lav and visiting their homies and ho's..
At last! After nearly 5 hours of sea, we sighted land below us PNG I believe, all cloud wreathed, mysterious and junglyfied, choice! Necks were craned and a variety of contortions implemented to grab a brief glimpse of something that wasn't blue and wet.
A prolonged reading session coincided with more turbulence and things outside clouded over to the extent that it looked more like the last few minutes of a bad WLG
landing than a cruise over Indonesia, the lumps in the sky were pretty similar too, I was trying to drink an Orange Juice that had been handed out just before things got marginally silly, as I tried to take a sip my hand suddenly went from a few millimetres above the tray table to just above head height as we lurched into a hole in the sky.
Row 40, behind me, was for crew use and I had a fascinating half-hour listening to the purser helping his FA
's with their homework, they evidently had an exam coming up and there was much to learn about seat belts, various valves and door types, he seemed to be a very kindly man, probably 50 something and South African, I believe he runs a happy ship.
I snuck a peek at the book he was reading from, it was the 777 crew manual!
One of the great things about being a Pom in NZ
is you get to hear Kiwi spoken in a way that passes by the average NZer, for example, I heard two male FA
's having a yarn by the galley, one said:
"Oh man, yeah, no, the roster was the beast ivver!"
I love accents, listening to my fellow travellers conversing in Chinese, Mandarin probably, was epic, although I know a fair few Chinese Kiwis, this was the first chance I have had to listen to a group of them talking to each other as if they were at home, absolutely fascinating, to the western ear some the sounds are far out, I began to wonder what English sounds like to Chinese people, I have it on good authority that they think Europeans smell like cheese, but what does English sound like to the Asian ear, something fluid? Or a noise akin to dogs vomiting? My! how the mind wanders after 6.5 hours at 33,000 ft!
Another half hour or so with my nose stuck in my book and joy of joys!! Food was announced, it was a choice between chicken with rice or beef in ginger with noodles. No contest, I went for the beef and as with the earlier meal it was bloody lovely, well up to the standards I expect from Air New Zealand, the Kiwi Fruit cheesecake was yum too!
Once the to-ing and fro-ing that eventuates at mealtimes was over I wandered up to the mid section lavs again to do my secret exercises, as I passed by one of the few windows that didn¡¦t have the blind down I noticed¡K.Land!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!..no idea exactly where we were but it was a large island somewhere a couple of hours SE
of Hong Kong, I have no objections to flying over sea but the change was good and hinted at the imminent arrival of journeys end.
To celebrate I took a pic of myself being subversive in the lav.
The entertainment was timed to perfection, no sooner had Inspector Barnaby solved a the murder than the announcement that we were preparing to descend came over the PA, the screen showed us to be 42 mins from landing, the cabin erupted into that scurry of business that marks the final minutes of a long-haul flight, much re-packing of hand luggage (mostly booze), location of shoes, kids, aged rellies etc.
I love watching the numbers changing as the screen scrolls round the various maps and stuff, as the altitude came down, the temp went up, our beloved ZK
-NCG, the efficient function of which all our lives depended on was hurtling earthwards with the bump, sway and rattle that you only seem to experience when coming down out of the skies after an inordinately long time up amongst the gods.
We swung into short finals but HKG
was swathed in fog or cloud or whatever (pollution, as I found out later), so bugger all could be seen, I watched the numbers, 400m, 390m, the screen flickered to another set of stats...237 k/ph...."Crunch" it was so much of a landing, more of a collision with the planet, but hey! Visibility was shite and if ZX
-NCG needed a wee as much as I did, then it was in a hurry!!
I craned my neck to catch a glimpse of something Chinese, four mini-buses and a construction site.....hmmm, pretty much a HKG
Disembarking was a very ordered affair, the non-European pax were clearly more settled now they were home, I can dig that, I'll be scrambling onto the return flight with indecent haste no doubt.
Up the airbridge and we emerged into a truly bizarre sight, now, those who have been to AKL
will be familiar with the airports corporate logo, the first symbols I saw in HKIA were identical as for some strange reason AKL
and the Royal Bank of Scotland (who seem to be major sponsors of HKIA) have the exact same logo.
All similarities ended there though, there are only two words in the English language that even come close to describing HKIA......F***ing and Huge! OMG! It's a beast of a place, acres and acres and acres of space and shops and policemen with machine guns and very helpful airport hosts, the roof was a vaulted arch of spars and panels, like a 21sy century Mongol pleasure-dome, jeeezus! Its big! The pics don't do it justice.
In the loos I found a sign bearing what to me is very good advice to men in strange and unfamiliar toilets, it had me in stitches!
I was transiting to Macau so I needed to skip immigration and take the terminally fast train to E1 transfer area, the instructions I had been given made the process seem more complicated than it was, in reality you can't go anywhere other than E1 and just before HKG
immigration one peels off left to the ferry desk.
I didn't have to go to baggage claim as they forward your baggage to Macau on the same ferry and you do customs in Macau.
I had 3 hours to kill, and I was dazed and a trifle seedy but the airport is very chilled and relaxing, no hustle and bustle, plenty of room and rampantly efficient.
The ferry desk had said to be at level 4 gate 10 by 20:30 HK
time, in the mean time he said I was to:
"Go up, go up and enjoy yourself shopping and eating"
Hmmmm, sounds like a plan.
Once I had found out how to "go up" I minced my way through shops selling all the things Mrs Jafa pretends not to need but would be stoked if I bought them for her and through to the food gallery, I was faced with a choice of many different Asian dishes but I craved (unusually for me?) salty junk food, I discounted Burger King as I felt that would be an insult to the Chinese but I couldn't resist following the signs round the corner to "Popeyes Chicken and Biscuits"..WTF???
It was very nice actually, good meaty lumps of chicken, spicy chips and one of those funny doughy little buns that the Chinese (and me) really love, it had honey to pour over it too!!
But as for the biscuit connection¡K..dunno..I think the translator was pissed-up on unleaded when they wrote out the signage, not a biscuit to be seen, on my tray or on the menu.
After munching away like a jet-lagged goat for a while, I spied some very comfy chairs, next to a weird square thing that advertised corporate banking and played soothing classical music (the European variety), so I nestled down, took my shoes off, had a last anti-jet-lag pill and wafted back into my book.
My alarm went off and several text messages from family and friends came through, I dealt to all this and made my way to gate 10 level 4 as required, not much happening down here apart from a few tired looking locals, the doors were open and I began to feel the hot sticky night air soaking into my clothes.
A couple of Australians turned up and started looking through a file, I caught a glimpse of an identical airport map to mine, I shambled over.
"You going to the Hotel Royal?"
"D of E bods?"
Introductions were made and I heard how this intrepid pair from the northern territories had been on the go since midnight, although Darwin is halfway to HKG
, they still had to fly Darwin-SYD
to get here.....seems a bit of a mission to me.
The gate opened and we boarded the bus to the ferry, a couple more D of E bods turned up, I knew one of them from e-mails we had had between us.
The bus left us at the ferry terminal which was partly finished and had strips of coloured Perspex hanging down from the ceiling for no apparent reason, well not apparent to me but no doubt it was cool and groovy to someone. A large TV
blared out a Chinese soap which appeared to be in Cantonese with Mandarin subtitles and was like a serious version of "Monkey".
We were all starting to sag by this time and the heat and humidity was very unreal, AKL
is hot and humid but it is between two coasts and the wind keeps it real, HKG
is by the sea but the whole deal was exactly as you would imagine it, hot, sticky and full of mystery......choice!
The Turbo Jet ferry is very fast looking piece of kit, the seats are like an a/c but the safety demo was in Chinese, we got the jist of it though.
"In case of emergency collision, the life jacket is so hard to find you might be better to just drown quietly please".
We backed out off the jetty, the gorgeous roar of the insanely powerful engines filled the cabin and we shot off like a scalded cat, dead smooth, dead fast and into an inky black unknown.
I fell asleep instantly and woke up just as the captain throttled back to head into Macau harbour, the scene before me was everything an entry into China should be, huge swooping bridges crossed the harbour, teetering on sodium lit columns staunchly braving the smooth warm sea, as we swung round, a barrage of massive and very brightly neon-lit casinos hove into view, all blinking lights and whirly neon, the Macau sky tower lurked on the skyline like a giant sex-toy.
I was beginning wonder if the captain was asleep, our ingress into the dock seemed a trifle speedy but I needn't have worried, he could have done it in his sleep anyway, it was smooth, precise and marked the end (bar a cab ride) of our collective epic journeys.
We followed signs written in Chinese, Portuguese and English, the entry into the customs area necessitated our marching through a device to detect excess temperature, in case any of us had been inappropriate in our actions with chickens and thereby carrying bird flu.
Immigration was a breeze, baggage claim was shaping up to be a zoo, I noticed other pax coming along they started to do "German Queuing".
"Hey, let's get to the counter before the rest turn up, this may not be an orderly affair"
We bunched up and as soon as the bags appeared on the trolleys we sussed out the technique.
Locate your bag visually, thrust out your arm with bag tag in hand, point at the bag and attempt to make eye contact with the handlers by any means possible, this includes walking behind the counter and just grabbing it!!
We were outta there in a flash, congratulating each other on our rapid assimilation of foreign protocols!
As we stumbled out through the exit we noticed an assortment of "greeters" like you see at airports, holding up signs on A4
One guy was too random for words, I found the prospect of being met at the gate by a Portuguese speaking, Chinese guy, wearing a kilt far too disturbing for words.
But worse was to come, we joined to rapidly moving queue at the taxi-rank, we needed three cabs, I was second, I hopped in, in the dark humid night, the language barrier was insurmountable so I pointed ahead and shouted
"Follow that cab!"
Yes!!! Another ambition achieved!!!!!!
The cab ride made me feel like a foreign correspondent or diplomat on a desperate mission, we weaved through the neon-lit, never-sleeps, throng of Macau, there were mopeds everywhere but clearly they have an invisibility device fitted so that Macau cabbies can't see them and there fore don't lose sleep as to how many they nearly (or actually) kill.
I gripped the grippy handle by the window, humid air wafted in and I breathed deeply, every country has it smell. From the tangy sheep poo niff of Wales to the scented air of Aotearoa and everything in between, Macau smelt..Chinese! slightly sharp and spicy with a bottom note of industrial activity, I drew it down deep, like the reefer Bill Clinton never inhaled, goddammit, I'm in Macau!! Wicked!
Something else was wafting in through the window and it made me feel even more like a foreign correspondent, a faint smell of welding and the unmistakable screech of metal to metal contact, the brakes on the cab were shot to hell!!!
It all added spice to the occasion and I sat back, loving every minute of it.
The Hotel was everything it should have been, all marble and gold, bustling, busy and I was immediately denuded of my baggage by a bell boy in an immaculate white uniform.
I was greeted by our Regional Officer, filled in forms and told to piss off and not come back until breakfast the following morning.
I took the lift to the 16th floor, threw open the door and nearly fell over in surprise, the room was way flash, totally the best hotel room I have ever stayed in.
I threw open the curtains, took in the night-time city-scape, unpacked, showered and fell into a deep, deep sleep.
More in part 2........
We, the undersigned, do hereby consent.....