TUESDAY-THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 15-17 – FLYING TO HONG KONG!!!
So, today I depart to Hong Kong with the Charlie Daniels Band. Didn’t I JUST get back from Greece? Too much travel!
We are routing through LAX and then on to Hong Kong, arriving at 5:30 am on the 17th. Seems like a much longer trip because we depart so late for LAX and Hong Kong.
I met Roger at Customs but as is with most of the CDB crew, he arrived at 3 pm instead of the scheduled time of 3:30 pm. Fortunately, I figured this would happen and arrived at 3:15 pm. J Bebe drove up just as we were ready to leave. Got to the airport and their computer system kept going down. It took more than an hour to check in our 16 people. I was waiting until the very last to make sure everything got checked and somewhere in the process one of my bags was checked through. Since I couldn’t be sure it was even checked with our group, the skycap had to go retrieve it and re-check it under my name. There was a bit of an argument between the skycaps. One of them has my cell phone number and always calls to see what time we are coming so he can help us. Evidently he isn’t supposed to work for all the Airlines and the skycap for American had already planned to assist. We took care of both of them since they both worked on getting us checked in.
Didn’t have much time by the time we finally got to the gate. Boarded our nonstop flight to LA and I was sitting next to a guy I know from Vector Management. He was on his way to LA to cover events with Skynyrd and Kid Rock. We landed in LA and had to leave the terminal and go outside to the International Terminal. The line going through security was extremely long and it took about 45 minutes for all of our group to get through. We then went to the “One World” Lounge where Cathay Pacific had arranged for all our group to have access. The business class passengers didn’t have any problem but the women working the door would not accept the email from the corporate official at Cathay Pacific in Hong Kong stating that our group was to be allowed access. They said, “anybody can print an email”. It clearly showed the man’s name and title and where the email came from. They were very rude and kept the group waiting almost an hour before finally allowing them access. At one point, Charlie told me to ask if he could just pay for a one day pass but the “nice” lady informed me that they do not offer one day passes. By the time they finally got in the Lounge, they didn’t have a lot of time left before they had to go to the gate. Also, it was full and had very few places to sit. A flight for Sydney was called and the Lounge cleared out a lot at that point. I spent my time on the phone and internet.
While we were in the Lounge, Bebe learned that Charlie and Hazel were not sitting together. The airplane has a really strange configuration and when we got on board, we figured out the problem. There are no two seats together. It’s individual little “cubicles”. I’m upstairs and there is one cubicle on each side of the plane. It’s really, really nice because of the privacy. And the seats lay completely flat just like first class on United. I thought they might even have wireless internet connection, but no such luck. The meal was good but not a great selection. Still the flight attendants are so much nicer than on U.S. flights. And they gave each passenger a bottle of water! Imagine that???
The seats required that you wear the lap belt but ALSO a shoulder harness. That was a first. Took me several minutes to figure out where everything was located, especially the power outlet. It is so “compact” that it’s a little hard to navigate once you sit down. The seat can’t be more than about 2 feet wide and as I said, you’re totally “enclosed”.
There were over 120 movies to pick from but I had seen most of the current hits due to my intense travel schedule this summer. I did watch Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts in Charlie Wilson’s War which I had not seen. I loved it because of all the time I have spent in Afghanistan. Then I slept for 4 hours.
We are due to land at 5:30 am in Hong Kong, go to the Grand Hyatt and have breakfast and “rest” for a few hours. Then we have a “scheduled” sightseeing tour. I could GIVE the tour as many times as I’ve been there but will go along anyway to help with the group. My friend Anders and his wife Loretta live there and I am really looking forward to seeing them. I’ve known him since the late 80’s!
We landed early and our “hosts” were waiting for us. They had everything organized and picked up our luggage for us. They had given us special “tags” for identification. They provided a really nice bus and the drive from the airport to Hong Kong was spectacular, as usual. I didn’t realize that Bebe and David had not been with us on previous visits here. They are blown away with Hong Kong. J Check in was painless. Only concern is they did not put us all on one floor as we assumed. We are spread out over several floors and there are no rooms available to move us.
We went to the Executive Club Level and had breakfast and I’ve been working since that time. Going to try and work out now, then shower and get ready for our afternoon of sightseeing. Hazel wants to go to the night market, so I’ll escort the group for that this afternoon. It’s really, really hot and humid here because of the typhoon that just came through.
Will finish the rest of this report tonight.
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 17TH – HONG KONG:
The hotel is the Grand Hyatt and it is beautiful. We all have harbor view rooms and the view is spectacular. The bed has a down comforter and there is a shower stall and coffee maker. Internet is high speed wireless. We have access to the Executive Lounge where there is a great breakfast buffet. So I spent several hours answering the hundreds of emails that came in while I was flying. Took a break and went to the hotel gym to work out. Very nice gym for a hotel. Really felt better after that. Took a shower in that big shower stall and got dressed for our trip up to Victoria’s Peak. I have been up there numerous times but it has changed a lot since I was here. Lots of new shops. Some clouds had rolled in so the view wasn’t totally unobstructed but still spectacular. We went down to a temple but it was unimpressive only because it was under renovation. Walked around for while and then went to dinner at a nice restaurant. Had lots of traditional Chinese food. Charlie’s group really enjoyed it. Got back to the hotel at around 7:30 pm and left for the Night Market. Now that has changed significantly in 3 years! Walked around for about an hour there just looking. We were back at the hotel by 10:30 and by 11 pm, I had passed out. Talk about tired, all the travel finally caught up with me.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 18TH – HONG KONG:
Woke up at 4 am and decided to get up, do my stretches and go jogging. I was ready to go at 5 am but when I opened the curtains, it was still dark outside. Changed into my workout clothes and decided to just work out in the gym instead. When I got on the elevator, the floor for the gym wasn’t accessible because it doesn’t open until 6 am! By then, it was light enough to jog outside so I went back to my room and changed BACK into my jogging clothes. It was unbearably hot and humid even at 6 am but what a beautiful run. I’ve run many times on the Kowloon side where I usually stay but rarely over here on the Hong Kong side. I had a beautiful 5 mile run along the harbor – past the Convention Center, then the Yacht club and finally around Victoria Park and back. I was DRIPPING with sweat after the first 5 minutes.
Had breakfast of yogurt and fruit and then showered and answered email until time to depart. Today we are going to Stanley Market to shop. It is a tourist’s shopping paradise. Everyone loved it and I think they all made the purchases they were hoping to find. Lots of changes on the ride up to Stanley as well. Many of the older hotels have been torn down and high rise condos and apartments have replaced them. Think of the price of the most expensive real estate in New York City and double that. BUT, the personal taxes here are only 15% across the board and corporate is like 17%. Health care is free and very good physicians and hospitals. Almost everyone has a “live-in” maid/nanny for their families because the people come from other countries and are only paid about $450 U.S. per month for their services plus housing and meals. There are 7 million permanent residents of Hong Kong and that number goes as high as 10 million because of all the tourists!!!
On the drive out of the area in back of our hotel, we passed the “food streets”. They have fresh meat hanging outside and just lying on counters outside. Lots of it was “dog”, too! I couldn’t look at that.
There is one huge apartment complex at a beautiful resort area called Repulse Bay on the way to Stanley Market. Right in the middle of the apartments is a huge “HOLE”. The Chinese are big believers in Feng Shui. They have a Feng Shui expert come in and check out their homes and offices before they move in. This expert told them that a dragon lives in the hill behind the apartment building and must come down to the beach to drink water or he will become very angry. So, they left a huge hole for the dragon to exit and re-enter! Probably could have at least 20 apartments where that hole is! Feng means Wind and Shui means water and they must complement each other.
It was hot and humid at Stanley Market but oh so much fun. We could have spent another two hours there if we had the time. We left and went to “Jumbo” the floating restaurant for a dim sum lunch. “Jumbo” is where I took Charlie Daniels 3 years ago for his 70th birthday. Fun memories of that visit.
Came back to the hotel and I answered another 100 or so emails before taking a shower and getting dressed for a cocktail party and dinner with the Foreign Correspondents Club and their sponsors. The FCC is hosting the Gala tomorrow night and it is a fund-raising event for an orphanage here. We are going to visit the orphanage tomorrow. Years ago I visited a home for unwed mothers and wanted to adopt every child I met.
The cocktail party and dinner was really nice and I met some wonderful people. Almost everyone here is an American man married to an Asian female. Some very wealthy folks at the event tonight. They all love living in Hong Kong and I can certainly see why! Maybe I’ll retire here…or maybe not with the price of real estate!
As I said, Hong Kong is my favorite city in the entire world. If you never go anywhere else, come to Hong Kong. It is everything you see in travel brochures only better. Beautiful sites, wonderful shopping, and incredible food of every type…you name it!
My friend Anders has been busy buying cell phones for David and Charlie. Even though their office got them a “global” phone before they left, it doesn’t work. Of course, it’s Verizon which rarely works overseas!!! Anders was sweet enough to go shopping for my guys.
It’s after midnight and I am TOAST. Going to bed RIGHT now.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 19TH – SHOW DAY IN HONG KONG:
For two nights I’ve tried to find a light switch beside my bed. The only switches are all the way across the room by the door. There were 3 little round bulbs on the wood shelf by my bed but I couldn’t find any way to turn them on. I finally asked Bebe and the guys if they had a switch by their bed. Turns out the three little bulbs “pull” out and turn the lights on and off. Now who would have figured that out without assistance? Certainly not me.
Went to the gym and worked out this morning and then had breakfast with the guys. Showered, answered more emails, and left for the Orphanage. Visiting it was the highlight of my visit this time. This is the charity that the gala tonight raises money for. They actually only support one program there which is the Language Course. We got to meet one small group of children aged 3-6. They were adorable. Hazel and Charlie had one child sitting in their laps the entire time we visited with them. They sang us songs – both in English and Chinese. They seemed to be so happy and well-adjusted. Spent about an hour there.
Came back to the hotel and walked over to the venue to see how the musicians were doing. They were having lunch and hadn’t started loading in at that point. The room is decorated in a “western” atmosphere with boots, cowboy hats, etc. They are sold out which is really good news. Had lunch with Bebe at the hotel restaurant and then got to work trying to catch up on all the things for “business” that I haven’t been able to get to these last 3 days.
Anders and his wife Loretta met me at the hotel for dinner and will be walking over with us to the performance. Charlie doesn’t go on until almost 10 pm and will perform for 90 minutes. Going to be a really short night because I have to get up at 4:30 am tomorrow.
Dinner with Anders and Loretta was fun as usual. Bebe joined us before we finished and then we all walked over to the Convention Center together for Charlie’s performance. I was worried because we were told everyone was wearing tuxedos and ball gowns. I didn’t want to have to carry a gown around Korea with me, so I brought black silk pants and a sparkly black one-shouldered top to wear. Thankfully, I was “over-dressed” compare to some of the attendees! It looked like the event was sold out, which is a good thing. Charlie performed for 90 minutes and we were out of there by midnight. It’s almost 1 am here now and I need to sleep 3 ½ hours. J Long travel day tomorrow although the actual flight to Korea is less than 4 hours.
My biggest regret is I didn’t have any “free time” to go over to the Kowloon side. For the first time since I’ve been coming to Hong Kong, I didn’t ride the Star Ferry….a disgrace! Means I need to come back SOON!!!