Saturday, October 5, 2013

In the land of Pagodas - Part II

"We will be landing shortly in Hong Kong." I heard as I woke up suddenly from my sleep. I still don't know what or who had waken me up. I pushed my seat back and sat in the seat. According to the instructions, I drew up the window blinds. The sight I saw as I looked down cannot be explained in words!!! It was like heaven! White sunlight streaming down to blue waters which gleamed silver.
And there were islands, mountains and clouds!!! I could barely believe what I was seeing!

We were nearing Hong Kong. "The local time is 8am." I looked at my watch. It was 5.30 on it!! "Oh the time zone has changed" I thought. I had slept only for 5 hours! I adjusted my watch to match the local timing. Suddenly I skipped two and a half hours!

 The flight landed at the Hong Kong airport. It is a beautiful airport, with the ocean around it. :)
We got out of the flight and started. Again those long walks in the airport. And I saw the sign for passengers with boarding passes asking them to go one way. But we didn't have boarding passes. That meant we had to check in.

Somebody told (I actually don't remember the correct sequence of events now!!) that we have to take the train to go out! Train? In the airport!! At first we all got confused. Now all I remember well is this. We walked upto somewhere and one of us parted to inquire something and disappeared in the crowd! Three of us went ahead and found another inquiry counter. There started our tryst with "no English" or different English! I went up to a counter and told her that I couldn't find our companion. She didn't understand anything at first because I spoke too fast for her (nobody can be blamed because I myself have my Indian accent!) and then I had to repeat three to four time, by the times she had started looking frustrated. Luckily for us, our companion appeared out of nowhere (love you DJ :) ) and we started the inquiry for the immigration. Another official helped us find the forms and directed though there was barely any language spoken! :) But all the people were helpful. :) And we found the counter and got the temporary sanction to get out the airport to collect our luggage and check back in!

I think we caught the train after that. We went and took the subway (beginning of the subway story :) ) to the terminal and found staff who directed us to baggage belts. We found our luggage went to Terminal 1. In between I had seen a board saying "to ferries". A slight wish to travel in a ferry crossed my mind.

Then at terminal 1 we went in for check in. Till then Palam had been big. Hong Kong was bigger now! :) For the first time, I switched my mobile on! There was range! Hail Airtel! I sent a message home. :)
we checked in and got the boarding passes and went in for the security check. I had lots of water with me which was not allowed inside. So so as not to get my bottle thrown away I made everybody drink all of it!! :D  We got confused at the queue  where to enter! DJ's poster holder was found to exceed the allowed size! So both Dj and my comrade went to check it in the over sized luggage. After all these we entered the queue. Everything had to be put in; as usual; now people were putting belts too!!! So I had to remove the belt!!! I wanted to clarify something with somebody and asked an elderly man in the queue. He said "no English" and smiled! :) Finally we got checked in and all and went to search for the gates and obviously a wash room! :) We had plenty of time since out flight was only in the afternoon.

Finally we found our gates and refreshed and started our wait. We all switched on our wi-fis. :) Free wi-fi in airport! Aha! What a relief! After all we were not cut off from the rest of the world! And obviously everybody started to send messages and mails on fb and gmail. :) The wait continued till our flight was announced. While waiting we took photos. The view from there is beautiful. If this was so beautiful one can imagine how beautiful Hong King is! And I saw a photo ( I don't remember if it was the ad of a camera) which made me feel again that it is heaven!!! :)
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We boarded the flight. The meal time arrived and the "vegetarian meal" which was pre-booked came! Here started the tryst with "no fish, no egg, no meat" (ofcourse I have no problem with egg and fish, but for my friends). There were some suspiciously meaty looking stuff which was told as tofu but my friend didn't believe. And there were spinach and shrimp (shrimp :) ) too. And I kept all the suspicious stuff away and ate the rest of the food (i.e rice and vegetables) since I was hungry.

I tried to get some sleep, but couldn't sleep. My mind was pre-occupied with all the forms those had to be filled, for the air hostess had distributed the forms. Somehow I tried to fill them. Forms make me nervous for some reason!

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We were landing. And I saw the city of Beijing beneath! :) Everything neatly arranged in rows. :) And then we landed. (Somehow I feel that Beijing airport is designed like a dragon .) And again the run for immigration and stuff. We waited patiently until all our formalities were finished and went out. The impression the airport leaves on you  is "awesome"! Now Hong Kong airport seemed to be smaller. Here again we had to take the train to go out. So we started with our train journey which seemed quite long. Then we arrived at the exit point and went out to get the luggage. There were some 100 belts (I actually again don't remember the exact number)! And finally we found our belt and waited. I saw cute suitcases with flowery prints and bright colors. After waiting for sometime our colorless luggage came and we collected them. (This is when we cursed ourselves for buying all those books!)  Next we had to get Yuan. We went to the forex and got the money converted!  I looked at Yuan. It looked very strange to me. Whenever I had seen a foreign currency back in India I had looked at it with curiosity. Now as the "owner" of some amount in a foreign currency felt a bit strange!!! I had rupees with me along with some dollars too. The whole concept of money seemed very weird at the moment, because Yuan would be the only valid thing for me until I stayed, no matter how many other currencies I had with me.

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We came out after another round of confirmation security and I spotted the student with "INSS" notice waiting in the crowd of "receivers" to pick us up. We went with him and we were asked to wait sometime. Then we met another student who was in charge of receiving students and we all started teaching each other our names. While waiting, more people arrived, we started talking and getting acquainted with one another.  Now we should keep in mind the second student who met us. He was to become my tutorial partner later. :D So finally we had to get out of the terminal. So we took the lift since there were so many people in the group and even more luggage! First we went to a floor waited there and then realized that we had to go to another floor. But then there too we had to go back to the second floor where we had been waiting initially. We climbed up and down some 4 times in the lift and by the end of it, I was on the verge of laughing. :D  It was so funny (imagine a bunch of people going up and down with all their luggage and so on and still not being able to figure out where to go ultimately! :D ) Finally we understood where we should be heading to and the person who had to pick us up all, came along and guided us to another lift far away out from this terminal. :) I remember that it was a long walk and we ended up in a basement. It was not a mere basement! It was a huge basement for parking vehicles! It reminded me of all the other language movies I used to watch in our university film festivals. Suddenly I felt that I was in one such movie. It also reminded me of thriller movies!!! (Somehow basements and empty railway stations remind me of thrillers (consequence of watching too many movies!! :) )). I even considered the prospect of shooting a thriller movie there. ;)

Finally we dumped all our luggage in the cars and got in. My comrade and I got into one and the other two in another. I got the front seat! And I was sitting on the right with the driver's seat on the left! :) Again it felt a bit weird. :) And we started our journey. We got out of the airport and started our journey to the resort where the school was to be held. All the highways were impressive. And clean. I tried to enjoy the scenic beauty but sleep was slowly catching up. At one point when we were about to take a wrong turn, the person who was driving, used the gps to find the way. We reached the resort pretty soon. :)

 Then we registered and got instructions and room keys and all. I was so tired and my head had started pounding. I could barely see anything. All I wanted to do was to bathe and sleep. I wasn't even hungry anymore. After reaching our room which my comrade and I shared, I took bath and slumped onto the cozy bed. I didn't wanted dinner. All I wanted was sleep. I still couldn't believe I was in China. It all felt surreal. And with the surreal feeling hovering in my mind, I slept a dreamless sleep.
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