Getting to Hong Kong

Getting to Hong Kong involves flying from Heathrow. I hate Heathrow (god knows what it will be like when Terminal 5 opens). It’s always busy, you have to queue for ages to check in, to get through security, to get on the flight etc. This time though, Heathrow excelled itself by having yet another queue – a secondary security check after the normal security (shoes off, laptop out, x-ray one). However, it would be too much to expect to be told that this was happening. As per usual, everyone gets through the security check and heads to either a bar, cafe, or shop. It will not surprise to you learn I went for the bar – figuring I had about an hour and half before the flight was due to leave.

One hour later I’m making my walk to the departure gate which has been advertised for about 10 minutes already. Following the signs for the departure gate suddenly leads to a huge queue of people, not all of whom are heading to Hong Kong. There’s about 3 flights worth of people queueing up at this stage all wondering what exactly is going on. The Heathrow staff member is only able to provide the following useful information ‘You should have got here earlier’ in between telling panicked holiday makers, who have walked up the empty corridor that leads to the South African airways premium lounge, to get to the back of queue. All said in the usual friendly manner I’ve come to expect from Heathrow staff… give a man a fluorescent yellow jacket and a walkie talkie and he thinks he’s god.

When we do finally snake round and through a set of double doors there’s a couple of X-Ray machines and the metal detectors again. Shoes remain on, although laptop out again, and it’s a similar but less throrough process than the normal security check. Utterly pointless in my mind. I dread to think what terrorist weapons of mass destruction have possibly been acquired in the departure lounge that this security check will help uncover. The BA groundstaff at the gate seem totally perplexed as to why their passengers are taking so long to show up – nice co-ordinated effort there!

The flight itself is uneventful – although unfortunately the beef stir fry is all gone by the time I get offered food which means I’m on the prawn somethingorother. I didn’t quite catch what it was called, and wasn’t able to identify it from it’s taste or contents. Now, seafood is a struggle for me at the best of times, and inflight food can definitely not fall into the best of times category. However, Hong Kong does a lot of seafood, so I figured I may as well start eating it now, added to which I was pretty hungry by that stage. For the record: I managed 4 out of 5 of the prawns in the dish.

So, I’ve just left Heathrow, and now arrive in it’s absolute opposite – Chep Lap Kok airport on Lantau island in Hong Kong. Where Heathrow is hot, chaotic, and slow, Hong Kong is cool, organised, and efficient. Walking through arrivals was quick and easy, with all passengers separated into individual rows so that they could pass through heat sensors. I’m told later this is for early detection of SARS and/or bird flu. Passport control was an absolute breeze as well. For all the merits of the EU passport system it does mean you get nearly everyone queueing in the ‘fast’ EU+Switzerland queue whilst it seems everyone else has shorter and faster queues. In Hong Kong everyone just queues in the same queue which moves quickly as there are loads of Passport Control booths set up. Who knows, they might even open more booths when they know they have a lot of flights or busy flights coming in. Which I suspect is in stark contrast to whatever ‘system’ Heathrow follows. I’m a little tired, but I’ve arrived in Hong Kong!

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