A trip to the Asia 5 December 2019 to 23 December 2019
Day 5 of my trip to Asia and a busy few days it has been with a start in Dundee last Thursday boarding the airport shuttle outside the Malmaison hotel at 8.30 in the morning. Great service which drops you right outside the departures’ door at Edinburgh Airport , Effortless passage through check in and security with a few hours to pass in the airport lounge together with breakfast.
Flight on time and effortless boarding procedure, I was flying British Airways on this trip, which meant a flight to Heathrow to catch another flight direct to Hong Kong. When British airways opened terminal 5 at Heathrow they had huge problems with luggage transfer and being in the transport industry with regular airport pick ups ,it was a standing joke that when you looked at the flight number a saw it was BA you know that it would be an easy pick up because there would be no luggage to load on to the coach. Of all the trips I have done , I think I have only had lost luggage about three times and it was always with British airways, so that was a thought I carried with me as I boarded the flight to Hong Kong , was my luggage on the same flight?
The flight was on the A380 Airbus, a comfortable aircraft with decent seats and plenty of legroom ( not that I need much legroom) so I settled down for the long flight which was 11 hours. There was a good selection of movies available once I worked out how to use the selection process, which required a degree in quantum physics to navigate the process. Watched a couple of films had dinner which was average to say the least and actually managed to get a reasonable sleep before touching down at Hong Kong international Airport half an hour early.
The airport experience was a delight, extremely well organized in every way, well signposted with everything in both English and Chinese and I found the same everywhere I went in Hong Kong. Hong Kong has the densest population on the planet, with a population of over 7.5 million in an area of something like 450 square miles, that is approximately half the area of Angus therefore you can see the need to keep people moving efficiently. From leaving the plane clearing immigration, collecting luggage ( yes it was there ), customs, and sitting in the taxi it was half an hour flat. I couldn’t help but compare it to the other communist country I visited a few years ago ,Cuba, which took hours to get through a tiny airport in comparison to Hong Kong , before then discovering that I did not have a form ( that no one had given me) so had to do the whole process again. Once in the taxi and on the 40 KM trip to the hotel the driver gave me the nearest to a formula one experience I have ever had, covering the distance ( in heavy traffic) in 40 minutes.
My hotel was the Harbour Plaza on Hong Kong Island and once again the check in was completed within minutes, again I couldn’t help but compare this with the normal experience checking into the Pennsylvania Hotel in new York which usually takes at least three quarters of an hour. So a shower and change and out to explore the area.
Hong Kong sits at the mouth of the Pearl river and is made up of several islands, in the main, Hong Kong island, Kowloon and the added on territories of Macaw and the new Territories. There is a long and complicated history surrounding Hong Kong and it centers round the British empire together with its appendage , the east India company., Now the east India Company was a government sponsored trading company similar to the Hudson bay company in Canada. These were companies set up for the specific propose of stripping the assets from countries ceded to the British Empire by force. The east India company played a big part in the events which lead up to the two opium wars with China.
The Scots played a big part in these early days in Hong Kong’s history with people like Mathison and Jardin moving from their positions in the east India company to be entrepreneurs in the Opium industry and facilitating the Opium wars. They also started one of the earliest Banks in Hong Kong . Many of the Banks now still in existence were managed by Scots, Banks like HSBC ( Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation )
It was because of these Scots that China finally came to an agreement with Britain that Hong Kong would be leased to Britain for 99 years ending the opium wars. China took back control of Hong Kong in 1997.
So, a wander around the area and a very nice chicken curry at one of the many restaurants. Hong Kong has a very good public transport system and indeed the independence movement in Scotland has a very close association with this very same public transport.
In 2014 during the campaign for Scottish independence my family decided to donate the usage of a double deck bus to the cause. Dundee is known as a very diverse City political wise, So we decided to allow the use of the bus free of charge to any grass roots group, to campaign in their own particular way, in and around Dundee. This bus was built in Scotland by Alexander Denis for the Chinese market in Hong Kong. The type designation given was the Dragon , a dragon being an important creature in Chinese mythology. So the dragon went to Hong Kong and plied the streets for several years before going to Kenya to do the same, then going to England, working on the streets of Manchester, before we bought it to service a contract for the High School of Dundee ( the forerunner of which was where William Wallace was educated in his early years in Dundee). So here was the Dragon on the streets of Dundee fighting for the independence of Scotland after servicing two countries both of which gained their independence from Britain, I often said that this was the dragon who would defeat St George.
Unfortunately that was not to be the case on that occasion, but we will come again. The Dragon was widely used by many grass roots groups from women for independence ( who had several cheese and wine parties on board it) to the SNP and mostly by the Yes Bus team who naturally formed around the dragon.
I digress, so back to the trip. After having a couple of beers at the hotel I decided to look for a bar with music and set off into Hong Kong , I must have waked a couple of miles without finding a single bar open after 11.30, so decided to return to the hotel to catch up with the Jet Lag.
Day 3 and from the hotel I could see the ship I was to join across the straight between Hong Kong island and Kowloon. The day before, I had investigated the possibility of taking a ferry which seemed to terminate in the vicinity of where the cruise ship was berthed then walking to the ship. It is just as well I did not take this option as it turned out the ferry terminal ( although near the Cruise dock) would have meant a convoluted rout to the cruise ship taking several hours to walk. Thankfully I chose to take a taxi.
Before I left for the Cruise terminal I went to a McDonalds for breakfast ( good Coffee and always good Wi-Fi) . A Chinese Gentleman sat down at my table and started up a conversation, One of the most illuminating I have had. We talked about Scottish independence, the history of Hong Kong and more importantly the demonstrations going on at the moment. It opened my eyes. I had brought my saltire with me and had considered perhaps joining in one of the demonstrations as an act of solidarity with the young people demonstrating for more democracy. That guy changed my mind, he posed the question , what would they achieve with more democracy, they were in no way oppressed, they had every freedom, had I seen many police on the streets? ( I had not seen a single policemen since I arrived) What would change with corrupt politicians in charge? We spoke about the events in Tiananmen Square and how things had changed since then. He changed my mind.
I think I will leave it at that for today before everyone falls asleep and will continue with days 4 and five tomorrow , As of now the ship is heading for Vietnam.