I flew into the foreign city as the dawn silhouetted the mountains that stretched along the width of the sea. As we sifted below the clouds, the industrial boats, which were floating on the waves, became larger in perspective. The excitement of my 17-hour flight finally ending and the anxiousness of being in a new country suddenly began to settle. I was entering China. As I exited the airplane, I could immediately feel the difference in temperature from where the tunnel connected to the plane: humid. However, there was much more to the environment then the weather. The language barrier, for one, was interesting. There were a variety of different languages being spoken by the hundreds of people I had just gotten off the plane with. I waited for my friends, Reilly and Jamie, and instantly notified my family of my arrival.
It was now 6am in Hong Kong and there was a full day of exploration ahead of us. My layover was 8 hours and 30 minutes long until my departure for Chiang Mai and I wanted to see the most I could before then. I had slept many hours on the plane flight, so my jet lag was minimal. My friend, Reilly, had gotten a hotel for the 8-hour layover so we decided to head there for a quick pit stop before heading to the city. It took a bit of time to navigate through the massive international airport, which seemed to have troubled us throughout the rest of the layover. Eventually, we reached the hotel room that had a cozy bed with white comforters that was complimented by a blush red couch. The charging ports are different than those in America however, there were plugs with USB attachments for your cord. We charged our phones, rinsed off and decided to head to the city.
Buying a ticket for only $15 USD, we had a 20-minute transportation ride to and from the city. As the tram took us into the main city, we passed by many industrial cargo boats, which transport products internationally. When we arrived in the city of Hong Kong, we entered a mall that had stores such as Brandy Melville, Gucci and STARBUCKS. Yes, the first thing we grabbed in China was Starbucks. But we were starving and didn’t want the jet lag to settle. We then walked up to an open deck on the top floor of the mall where you could overlook the entire city of Hong Kong. Gorgeous. There were boats everywhere, cars commuting, and a ferris wheel that silhouetted in the suns rays. We wanted to walk towards the ferris wheel and so we headed to the city.
When we exited the mall, it felt like New York, the hint of sewer lines and cigarettes scented the air. The sounds of buses driving and cars honking echoed on the tall, skyscraper buildings. Hong Kong is quite an industrialized city, local citizens in business casual clothing, dressed to fashion. I actually felt very underdressed. The traffic was busy and crossing the street was a mission. We actually waited for one of the locals to cross before we decided to run through moving traffic and then we started our journey to the pier.
Once we made it to the other side, we walked about a mile more to get to our destination. My backpack began to become heavy and the humidity started to make us sweat. But we kept pushing and eventually were overlooking the ocean. It smelled like fish and salt water. Boats engines rumbled on the waves. There was a 7 Eleven on the pier and many cute shops, but since it was still so early in the morning, nothing was open. There wasn’t much to site see in walking distance, other than the pier. The stickiness of the weather was starting to get to us, so we headed back to the mall where we took the tram back to the airport.
Once back, we relaxed in the hotel for about an hour and then decided to do an early trip through customs so that we could grab food and drinks before our flight to Chiang Mai. Once through customs, we explored the different stores of Hong Kong International Airport. It had everything you needed, including interactive maps with touchscreen scrolling and categories. It was actually quite difficult to navigate this airport, so these maps were very helpful. The signs all read the same things: transfer, immigration, gates. We got lost multiple times. There was four levels of floors that stretched for miles and consisted of many different obstacles. Sometimes there was a tram or a bus we had to take to the other side of the airport.
We waited a few more hours for our flight to Chiang Mai and eventually the boarding time had come. It was a remarkable experience being in Hong Kong, China for 8 hours. Quite an experience. China was very welcoming and it was relieving to enter a country where most people understood English. If you ever have a layover in Hong Kong, try to make the most of your adventure by exploring the city outside of the airport.
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