“OFF! Okay, everybody, off the plane. Security problem. Security problem.”
Which is the compressed version of what came over the loudspeaker, right after I had gotten all settled into my seat.
“And take your bags and baggage with you.” Almost like “get out and stay out.”
Not good. Not an auspicious start for a trip half way around the world.
At that moment, I was not alone. Everyone on EVERY plane in the Vancouver international terminal had to get off their planes. And about 4,000 of us were sheep-marched back through security again. Everything checked. Again.
Three hours later me and 3999 of my closest friends were back on our planes, ready to go again.
Chung, the purser for the trip, explained as he handed me my third cup of wine. “Seems that two guys ran right through the security screening point. One of ‘em holding a bottle of cream, the other…” [I SWEAR I am not making this up.] …”the other carrying a large jar of peanut butter.”
And this was just the first few hours of the first day of my two-week trip to China on a fireworks buying expedition.
Chung was flustered. Here he was 4 hours into what was supposed to be a 14-hour ride to Hong Kong. No, I didn’t bother to ask him what kind of peanut butter. And, yes, they did catch ‘em AND the peanut butter.
But the trip got more interesting almost immediately. My neighbor in the seat right behind me immediately began to use up the entire supply of those little white bags that are in the pocket of every airplane in the world. RIGHT behind me. It was unnerving. They tried to convince him to leave the plane. I am furiously nodding to the affirmative as they gently try and persuade him to leave. He doesn’t budge. So they just keep bringing bags. Before, during (DON’T’ give this many any more FOOD!), and after lunch. Arghhh.
Chung sees my pain and plies me with more chardonnay. I finally drift off.
I wake up over China and it’s dark. City lights here and there, twinkling. No. Not twinkling, but flashing. Flashing….like…fireworks!
I’ll be damned. 35,000 feet up and fireworks are going off all over the place down below. They musta knowed I was coming.
We land in Hong Kong and I take the shuttle bus into Kowloon. Hong Kong is a place, a territory formerly a British colony. It’s also the name of a city, and an island in that city. I stay on “Kowloon side” where I can look across and watch one of the world’s great city skylines and lights. City lights like they don’t got in America. (Click the pic for a larger image. The green building on the left changes colors up and down.)
Sure enough, the guy on the desk says, “Mr. Gillow, we don’t have da room you leserved…” Damn, 10:00 at night, 30 hours of traveling, and my room has gone missing. All I wanna do is crash, comfortably; somewhere well away from the big, well-fed Chinese roaches that I know are watching TV in the basement room I’m about consigned to.
…”Bot.” he says. We will put you in a suite instead. That’s okay with you?”
Unbelievable. A freebie upgrade to a suite has only happened to me twice in my life. Both times in Hong Kong. So I woke up this morning in this palatial set of rooms, with an incredible view of the harbor.
Absolutely perfect. Yin and yang. Makes up for all the fear and loathing in Vancouver. Velly auspicious.
Chief Cook & Bottle Washer.