1992 Round World

A couple of European colonies

11 April 1992 Cathay Pacific 509 Tokyo Narita to Hong Kong, Business

Having travelled on the Narita Express one way, we decided that an airport coach was called for. Particularly attractive was the news that one company collected from our hotel, and so we emerged early in the morning to catch it. It did mean that our Japan rail pass hadn't been used as much as we expected, but travelling by coach from door to door was much better.

Even so, it is a long distance just to get to the airport, so we spent the ninety minutes relaxing. At some points I struggled to spot any passengers outside my own family who showed signs of being awake. Just outside Narita itself, the coach stopped and we were required to get off, show some hand baggage to security officials and get back on. Why? Nobody seemed sure. Apparently it happens all the time, but nobody knows why. Is it security? Surely not, for any doubtful packages would be either in suitcases stowed in the bottom of the coach or in hand baggage conveniently left on the coach. Is it job creation? Surely not, for Japan doesn't need to do that. Is it public relations? If it is, it isn't a success.

A few minutes later, we arrived at the terminal and joined the lengthy queue for Business Class to Hong Kong, after clearing our checked baggage through security, a feature which seems to be becoming more common. Cathay Pacific has a different approach to service than most other carriers. Business Class passengers are not treated so well if they are only occasional travellers. First Class passengers are the only ones offered automatic access to the lounges. Business Class passengers have to travel 40,000 km in six sectors to qualify. This means that they are able to offer a much higher standard of service to a smaller group of people. I see advantages in both styles of club, speaking for the airlines. Speaking as a frequent traveller who supports more than one airline, I struggle to justify it.

Japanese departure tax is JPY2000 for adults, and is payable by vending machine. Is vending machine the right term here? Probably, for you do get something in return: a receipt. After that, it was soon time to climb aboard.

I wasn't so taken with Cathay Pacific as I might have been. I can't put my finger on the reason, but there it is. The flight was comfortable, the food acceptable, the entertainment likewise, but something wasn't right. It seems unfair to pick on a carrier in this manner. The flight was an hour late, but this is not unusual.

Immigration into Hong Kong is not quick. We were there for another hour, without there being any problem.

My travel agent had arranged a package with our hotel which included meet/greet services. I hesitate to mention this because of my policy of only mentioning recommendations, but feel you should know to avoid Qantas Jetabout meet/greet services. We found them without too much trouble, and were introduced with the news that she had been waiting an hour for us. It wasn't our fault. She put us in a very nice limousine and took us to the hotel, but was talking banalities the whole time. We didn't need this. Nor did we need some stickers reading Qantas Jetabout which we should be sure to wear when being picked up for the return journey, of which more later.

I can't say a lot about the hotel in Hong Kong. Precisely, it was in Kowloon, not far from the China Ferry Terminal and the ex-BCCI building. Also within easy walking distance was the Star Ferry terminal, leading to Hong Kong island and the tourist attractions there, such as the Peak, the trams, the hotels, banks and restaurants. My son had recovered sufficiently for us to let him loose at the Golden Arches. I have never seen a hamburger disappear so quickly. As it did not reappear, we were most encouraged.

13 April 1992 Hong Kong to Macau, Hovercraft
13 April 1992 Macau to Hong Kong, Hovercraft

I now offer some advice which will be considered offensive by those who love Hong Kong. On arrival, one should go straight to a ferry terminal and climb on a boat, hovercraft, hydrofoil or equivalent to Macau, and remain there until it is time to catch the onward flight from Hong Kong. Obviously this is not possible if you are trying to transact business in Hong Kong, but worth considering otherwise.

The only drawback to the above is that it means four more immigration queues: leaving Hong Kong, entering and leaving Macau and re-entering Hong Kong. These queues tend to be long and slow moving, as I mentioned earlier.

From Hong Kong, or more precisely Kowloon, the hovercraft journey is about seventy minutes. The cost of the journey varies inversely to the speed. A helicopter journey costs HKD 800 and takes twenty minutes; the hovercraft costs HKD 80 and takes seventy minutes; a boat is much cheaper but takes up to four hours. Once in Macau, immigration doesn't seem too bad. What isn't good is the nature of the taxi drivers, who seem to want to take everybody on a one hour trip of Macau for HKD 100. As we didn't want this, we tried to get a taxi to take us simply to a nearby hotel. Unfortunately, this cost us HKD 100 anyway. Presumably his justification would have been that by the time he got back to the terminal, it would be too late to rip off any other tourists. Anyway, we found little of any use there anyway. The place we had in mind for lunch proved to be closed and the area around the hotel looked more like a building site. We went up a street and found various shops including a McDonalds hamburger emporium. My reluctance to eat there everywhere we went in Asia was considerable, but with a son who would eat there and who had been sick earlier in the week, it was a better choice than none.

All through Macau, Hong Kong dollars are accepted at a par rate with the pataca. This is reasonably good for all concerned. The differential in favour of the Macau traders is small, and the convenience of not changing small amounts of money makes it worthwhile. McDonalds staff all spoke English. It was convenient in that way too. All through Macau, signs are displayed in Chinese. For those of you who do not speak Chinese, the signs are also in Portuguese. No doubt this is a great advantage to all.

After lunch, it was time to see some sights. The main sight to see in Macau is the ruined church of St Paul. Los Ruinas de Sao Paolo now feature just the front wall of the church, but is as much an icon of Macau as, for example, the Eiffel Tower is of Paris.

Before long, the rain started. Soon after that, it was time to get back to the ferry terminal for the journey back to Hong Kong. We waited for quite some time and then our flight was called. Hovercraft journeys are technically flights. I understand that in the United Kingdom, hovercraft come under the jurisdiction of the Civil Aviation Authority rather than anybody else. Anyway, on this occasion, we were allocated seats, whereas it had been open seating on the journey to Macau.

Back in Hong Kong, after an uneventful trip, we wandered back past the hotel to a shopping mall. This one contained Pizza Hut, a more interesting fast food chain, and one I remember fondly from times gone by.

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