This 14 hour flight over the Pacific features a whole lot of nothing out the airplane window as we cross 5000 miles of ocean. But it also includes interesting airports, aerial photography and a bunch of problems. It finishes with a train ride from Hong Kong to Changping China.
June 19 - Portland - San Francisco - Hong Kong - Dongguan
July 28 - Dongguan - Hong Kong - San Fran - Portland
It's 2 PM Wednesday and I'm about three hours into a 14 hour flight over the Pacific. I closed my window because there's nothing to see except clouds and ocean. On a flight over the U.S. I'm usually glued to the window, taking in the sights and trying to identify cities and landmarks, but on this flight it'll be a waste of time for the next eight hours. I'm guessing that's about how long it'll be before we see the next landfall - Japan. Even still, this flight has been a load of fun.
It didn't start out that way. When I left yesterday I had one of those feelings that this trip wasn't going to be a smooth one - and right away I ran into problems. After spending an hour in the check-in line, I made it to the gate with good time to spare, only to find the flight was delayed. There was too much fog in San Francisco and they didn't want to burn fuel until they knew we could land, so they didn't even start the plane until an hour after our scheduled departure time.
The flight was uneventful, but we arrived at the dock 15 minutes before my next flight was to leave. That left me with five minutes to exit the plane and run to the opposite end of the airport before they close the gate - which I didn't even bother trying. I walked down the hall to the United Airlines customer service booth instead and told them my story. So they booked me on the next flight out, which was the next day.
I got a hotel next to the airport and quickly ran into another problem - my company credit card didn't work. I tried to activate it before the trip, but I couldn't do it from my cell phone, then I forgot about it. I paid with my own credit card, then when I got to the room I tried to activate it again but the activation code was in my luggage, which I left with the airline. This also meant I didn't have spare clothes or my toothbrush. But that's ok - after screwing up my flight United gave me an upgrade to business class seating for all my troubles!
So that's where I am now: in a business class seat on a 777. This is the only way to fly. Those coach seats in the back are torture on a 14 hour flight, but these things are huge. I can poke my legs straight out without hitting the seat in front of me (my legs are four feet long), and the guy next to me is two feet away!
And then they shower you with all kinds of food and drinks. I was sipping champagne while they were still loading up the plane. When the flight attendant took my order he knew my name (that would be Mr Henry). Then the meal started with salmon sashimi and cranberry cheese, then teriaki chicken and noodles, then cheesecake and port wine for dessert (and a bunch of other stuff). They were bringing by the wine and drink cart every ten minutes or so, but I only had three small glasses (so far). Nobody asked for a credit card yet, so I'm thinking they're free. I hate to think what those poor slobs back in steerage are going through. I'm hoping they screw up my flight again, otherwise I'll be back there next month.
After about nine hours or so we ran into some good turbulence. It's a little disorienting trying to type while the plane is shaking. I'm listening to classical music on the head phones. This flight has been mighty boring, there's been nothing but clouds to see out the window this whole trip. I'm hoping they clear up over Japan.
Anyhow, I made a trip to the galley a little bit ago to see what kind of snacks they had. The spare pilot was there stretching his legs, so I asked him, "hey, who's flying this thing?" He said he's the relief pilot and when the first pilot gets tired he'll take over. That's good to know, we don't want any sleepy heads in the cockpit. So then I grabbed me a plate of cheeses and another glass of wine. It's 8 PM and I've been wide awake this whole trip.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
I arrived in Hong Kong about 3:30 (H.K. time). After hanging out at the luggage turnstile for about an hour I found out my luggage wasn't on the plane. It was apparently still in San Francisco, and they didn't know when it would get here. I left them with names of my hotels so they could deliver the luggage when it got there. I checked through customs then met Alan (my China contact) by the front gate. It took a half hour to link up because I was behind him and couldn't see his "mike" sign, and he was looking for someone with a big suitcase and I didn't have one. I called him on my cell phone and he was right next to me.
We drove across Kowloon, through a forest of high rise apartments, to the Royal Park Hotel in Sha Tin on Hong Kong's north side. I got settled in for the night then looked around the neighborhood. One thing interesting about Hong Kong is that they like to put apartments above shopping malls. Across the street from the hotel are five highrise apartments sitting on top of a two story shopping mall with a swimming pool on the roof.
The next morning Alan met me at the hotel, then we walked to the train station and took the express train north to the China border. We jumped off that train, walked a half mile out H.K. customs, through China customs, then jumped on the bullet train from Shenzhen to Changping.
This is an interesting ride, the speedometer on the wall was claiming to go 120 mph but it didn't seem nearly that fast. The semi-rural countryside was a mix of small farms and small towns, and is getting more and more slummy as we got closer to Changping.
After getting off the train we went straight to the plant. I spent the day looking the place over and meeting people. Jim, Joe and Tran are doing ok, but can't wait to get back home. I'm still without my luggage and wearing the same clothes I wore to work on Monday. Today is Friday and I haven't changed clothes in five days and it's a 95 degree sauna outside.
But first things first, instead of checking into the Changping hotel after work we are heading back up to Hong Kong for a weekend of sightseeing. Maybe I'll find my luggage down there.
Dongguan China 2007
The 20 hour plane ride from Portland to Hong Kong.