A New Year's Eve Ode to Hong Kong International Airport

If a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, a journey of eight thousand miles from New Orleans to Manila, Philippines begins with three flights and two layovers for a total of 34 hours of travel. While some may prefer to spend New Years Eve sipping cocktails and dodging confetti, I planned a New Years of being stranded in the Hong Kong airport for 12 hours, waiting for a morning flight to Manila so that I could make it to a New Yorker friend's destination wedding.

But I've never been a huge fan of New Years' Eve and the world's sentimentality for it, as if this one particular day should symbolize something profound. From what I can tell, it's about going to some party with a million people you don't know, or even like, pretending to be thrilled about sharing a special moment. Afterwards, driving home is a life or death version of dodge ball in your car as you try to avoid drunk drivers.

So it wasn't the end of the world for me to spend New Years in an airport, especially because for the most part, my 2010 sucked. This time last year I was getting over a break up. In fact, 2010 for me was the year of the break-ups. After years of being reasonably happy as a single gal in Alaska, somehow last year I spent the first half of the year extricating myself from two progressively dysfunctional relationships, and then spent the second half of the year trying to figure it all out. I also broke up with two jobs. Having left government work by my will, I learned in my subsequent job that the mercenary of an agency director of my former employ (who I once considered a good friend) had personally taken out a bounty on my head. And I also broke up with Alaska. I can't decide whether it was falling through a partially frozen river or getting frostbite the week after that took the glamour out of Arctic winters for me. So, after six years on a roller-coaster of both amazing adventures and brutal winters, I decided it was time for me to move on. The dark and the cold just became too much to bear.

So I had no desire to reflect on all these events with my new friends New Orleans. I was content to have my December 31st be a start a new journey, of 8,000 miles to be exact, which was why I found myself at the Hong Kong International Airport on that day.

Upon hitting the tarmac, I was fully prepared to be physically miserable. I had already spent a layover the day before in Newark International Airport, which had resembled a scene from Dante's Inferno. As the hub of Continental, and a recent locus of numerous snowstorms from a week earlier, it had become a campground for the thousands of stranded passengers who were due to fly on one of the 500 flights that got canceled. By the time I got there, it was only starting to resume flights. People were sprawled on pieces of cardboard, using luggage as pillows. There was a line to the bathroom that streamed out of the facility and around the corner. When an overhead announcement was made that a flight to Ohio was beginning to board, applause erupted; some were reduced to tears.

Though I was relieved to be headed out of there, my 15 hour flight to Hong Kong was, well, a 15 hour flight on a major carrier with about 500 people whose body odor, illnesses, and snoring patterns I grew well-acquainted with. And don't forget the crying babies. I surely couldn't, and managed to get about three and a half hours of sleep, even with the aid of over-the-counter sleeping pills.

Walking through the duty free section at Hong Kong International, I was a touch on the groggy side and couldn't get that weird kink out of my neck, or that aching streak of pain running through my left leg. We arrived at 8pm local time and there were already a few thousand people from four or five international flights, all waiting to get through immigration. Leaving the airport would have required at least two hours' wait, and walking around alone in a new, insanely bustling city (which I do love by the way), up until the wee hours of the night, having about three hours of sleep under my belt, did not sound appealing to me. So I resolved to stay in the airport, stranded in the middle of fifty-some incredibly high-end duty free shops.

And that is when I read what I now believe are the three most beautiful words in the English language: Premium Plaza Lounge. I had heard about these things before but thought them only legend. That is, until I walked through that romantically-lit doorway, greeted by immaculately groomed and attractive attendants, who welcomed me in cheerful Hong Kong English. The place was laden with large, modern yet plush-looking leather couches and arm chairs. There was a full bar, a handful of large flat-screen tv's, an internet cafe, and an all-you-can-eat hot noodle bar and buffet. The lady at the counter explained that I could check into my own room with a bed and private shower for 6 hours and stay in the lounge for longer, food and other amenities included.

I consider myself a fairly frugal traveler, staying in hostels more often than not, paying for bus rides over taxis when I can. But at that moment, I could not hand the lady my $120.00 fast enough. My room had the look of an exclusive spa and the bed was an extra-wide massage table with starch white linens. I immediately stripped my body of its airplane-marinated clothing, took a hot shower in my slate-tiled bathroom, shut the lights, and collapsed on the bed. And slept. And slept. It was that kind of sleep earned from a long, tiresome journey. It was no matter that the bed was narrow; I could have rolled right off and crashed onto the bamboo flooring without cracking an eye lid. On December 31st, 2010, when 11:59pm came and went, a fleet of wild horses could not have dragged me out of my deep and peaceful slumber.

I woke up on New Year's Day. The kinks of pain in my body had vanished. I lapped up a couple bowls of hot noodles, which, on New Years, is good luck in Chinese and Vietnamese culture. I leaned back into the comfy, leather armchair and began mentally reviewing the events of 2010: I recently heard that one ex-boyfriend moved back to his parents and remains there still, and just yesterday I saw that the other moved to another mountain state and started seeing someone new, from the looks of it (at least on facebook) completely unlike me and entirely more appropriate for him. I also heard that the agency director of ill-repute, for many reasons, is in the process of being relieved of her post against her will. As for me, a new job, new friends, New Orleans. And there I was sitting in Hong Kong, well-rested with a noodle-filled tummy, well-prepared to greet my day which eventually would finish in Manila in the arms of a good friend I hadn't seen in six years, on the day before her wedding. Finally, things are starting to be to be as they should.

Happy New Year's dearest reader, I hope your 31st was as blissful as mine in Hong Kong International. May 2011 bring us all better days.


  1. Hi there! We (all colleagues in Plaza Premium Lounge) are so thrilled to read your blog, though it's a bit late that we noticed that such a great blog is written. Though a lot of our guests appreciate our services and facilities, not many really take the time to write and tell others. Thank you for your valuable time telling us your experience in our lounge in HK. It is such a great encouragement to our team in Hong Kong! Besides the facilities, is there any good service which impressed you during your stay? I'd love to know that so that I can give special thanks to some well performed colleagues. Next time when you are in HK, pls come and enjoy our massage services too. We wish you a great year of 2011 and many years to come! My contacts are Ms Aileen Wong, Regional Director, Plaza Premium Lounge Management Ltd, Unit 10-12, 2/F Airport World Trade Centre, 1 Sky Plaza Road, Hong Kong International Airport Tel (852) 3960 1300, Mobile (852) 9137 7110, email : aileen@plaza-network.com, www.plaza-network.com


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