Ian and Janice go to Hong Kong
Getting to Hong Kong island
- British Airways Heathrow to Hong Kong in Economy (12 1/2 hours)
- Transit train to HK island (30 minutes)
- Taxi to accommodation
I am in my bivvie at a carp lake in South West France, it's raining and I have just landed a great fish. Normally it would make me very happy but today I am actually "as one" with my iPad mini (bought cheap in Hong Kong) and trying to capture all my memories of our trip there.
I decide to not cast back in and possibly be rudely interrupted in mid flow by my quarry. Am I sad?
Why am I writing this? Well, firstly I don't fully trust Tripadvisor any more and secondly many existing travel bloggers tend to be younger and more financially challenged. I want to impart our experiences to Mr and Mrs average who, like us, want a little comfort.
After a previous episode of flying from Jamaica sat next to a massive Mr T lookalike with a cold, I swore never to fly ecomomy class again, and if I could not afford the upgrade I would not go, but in this instance the flight was kindly paid for by someone else so I could not complain. I will also add that after flying economy from Singapore to London on the new A380 with Quantas, I found it far more comfortable for my 6 foot frame than the BA Premium Economy.
So we did our homework on flight seat review sites and discovered that on our particular model of 747, the last 3 rows of seats are only 2, rather than 3, wide and that there is a gap between the window seat and the cabin wall of around a foot. Just big enough to deposit a carry on next to it and use as a foot rest.
On that basis we paid the extra and pre booked the seats, row 52.
As we were flying into Gatwick from a previous assignment, we took the National Express transfer coach from Gatwick to Heathrow which proved effortless. A great service and one we have used since.
The Yotel London Heathrow Airport in Terminal 4
We also booked the Yotel Heathrow for 4 hours which meant we could store the bags and have a shower. Although there were 2 of us we booked a single and took it in turns to use the facilities. The Yotel is a collection of "sleep modules" in Terminal 4 (next to the Windsor Castle Bar & Restaurant), that you book by the hour. You get a modular bed, flat screen tv and a bathroom with a great shower. An excellent way to start a long haul as you are refreshed and not hot and sweaty. In the cost, you have access to complimentary tea and coffee and a very strong wifi signal.
The room had a tiny work area with multiple power points.
We have since used the Yotel Heathrow for a 24 hour stop over. The beauty is that you can stipulate your arrival and departure times and save having to book possibly two days in a conventional hotel. It cost us around £95 for the period. Its easy to then travel into central London, without your baggage, using the Piccadilly Line tube and takes around 40 minutes.
Transferring terminals to get to your check in point is simple enough and free of charge using the trains.
We opted to fly on a Tuesday as this is the quietest day of the week for travelling and this paid dividends. No sooner had the 747's doors closed when the steward told us it was a quiet flight and that the middle row of 4 seats was empty and that we should use them. The minute the seat belt signs went off, Janice commandeered the row. Out came the Hello and OK magazines, her G and T arrived and the headphones went on .....Goodnight Janice.
The flight was event free. The first 2 hours you eat and consume bottles of wine, you then channel hop and watch a movie, you sleep and when you wake up there are still 5 hours to go. It's dark, you are surrounded by your belongings and blankets, you have back ache and remain wired into the media system to try and drown the noise. You go to the Galley for an orange juice, you constantly watch the flight map and you try to sleep again. My ongoing problem is always where to keep my spectacles, they are constantly on and off my face. If you have a solution let me know.
The economy section in a BA 747-400
2 hours to go! Passengers start moving around and breakfast is served which will hopefully not only pass an extra 30 minutes but will also help to remove the bad taste in your mouth after drinking in the departure lounge and also onboard. Who turns down freebies?
It's exhilarating when the captain wakes up and announces that we are on the descent - 40 minutes to go!
Landing at Hong Kong is a scenic affair and if you are fortunate you will overly Hong Kong island, your destination.
At this point you realise what a mess your seats in with plastic cups, litter, blankets, pillows, that thick copy of Top Gear that you never opened and of course the headphones which by now are tangled around your arm and neck. You are aware that you probably look like death warmed up, so you disengage yourself from the seat and head for the galley.
At this point I usually realise that my pants are still undone, my shirt is up my back and my hair is stood on end. A look in the toilet mirror confirms it all. By now the galley is in a right state and you loath touching anything. I don't know why, but the mirrors and lighting in plane toilets seem to show up every blemish, or is it just me that has that mortuary look?
Note to Janice - please bring me a pair of Marigolds on our next flight.
[Note: for future trips we used Cathay Pacific and Quantas - both are superior to BA]
Hong Kong airport is very good but you will queue at immigration so best to get off the flight sharpish and fast walk the 50 miles to immigration. I think next time I will claim to be an invalid and get an airport assistance car.
The transfer train, Airport Express, is clearly marked and runs every few minutes. Unlike the London tube it's spacious, quiet and clean. After 12 hours in a metal cigar tube it smells glorious!
The Airport Express - every 10 or 12 minutes
You can get your ticket at a vending machine which offers a slightly discounted price from the ticket office. Don't be worried, all trains go to the same destination just board it and take in the mixed bag of scenery as you glide effortless to Kowloon and under the harbour to Hong kong island, your final destination. No more stale cabin air for a while!
Hong Kong island .... You made it! Get off the train and the exit is right in front of you. In my case I have to reboard the train several times to off load all Janice's luggage. Why do women need so many shoes and clothes and that's not to mention the vanity case full of potions and lotions. Second argument happens here as I comment on the fact we have 4 suitcases. The first was in the baggage hall as I complain all our suitcases look like everyone else's.
Since that trip, I have bought 5 red Samsonites, all matching. However Janice does not like them.
By the way, when you leave Hong Kong, you can check in your baggage at the Hong Kong Terminal.
Outside the heat and the noise hits you but unlike many other destinations you are not looking over your shoulder. Hong Kong has a reassuring atmosphere and you can feel there is no danger of pickpockets and beggars.
Hong Kong Station - the airport train arrives just to the right of this photo and taxis are right outside
Taxis are all queued up outside but beware, many do not speak any English. Aware of this, Janice has learned parrot fashion, the address we we going to and it worked first time! She does have her uses occasionally.
Given that there is a 6 hour time difference and the 10pm flight took going on for 13 hours plus a couple of hours clearing the airport and travelling, it's now sunset same as when you left London. Be prepared to be overawed by the neon light buildings surrounding the harbour, a fantastic experience.
Part 2: arriving on Hong Kong Island