It’s a gorgeous day in Hong Kong with puffy cumulus clouds out over the harbor. I’m working from the hotel room .. but my colleague Vic and I want to take advantage of the weekday this afternoon to take the Peak tram up the hillside overlooking the city. The brand-new 110 story International Commerce Center building has not yet opened its observation deck – they will do so by the end of the year, says the website. Now back to work !
It was very warm out today .. the public service banner does not say Beware of heat stroke for nothing ! (Isn’t the dog with the flapping ears cute?) It is so humid along with the heat. My camera malfunctioned on Saturday – the shutter started firing uncontrollably as soon as I switched the camera on. Today the problem was gone, but I read in the Sunday newspaper this morning that many iPhone users in Hong Kong have reported problems related to the 95%+ humidity in the city.
The self-picture is from the MTR station at Wan Chai, and there is a guy on the on-coming tram taking a picture of me taking a picture of him : ).
I posted pictures of the proposed livery for airplanes of the merger between Continental and United Airlines about a week ago.
Then yesterday I got pictures from a friend showing the livery for Kulula Air’s airplanes. (Kulula is South Africa’s low fare airline). The pictures are all from their website at kulula.com. It shows their route map, the flying 101 plane, the camo plane, the daylight savings time plane (the airline is campaigning for daylight saving time in South Africa), the jet setter plane and the this way up plane.
These pictures from Saturday .. the trams on Hong Kong Island are always fun to watch, all of them decked out in attractive artwork. I thought this next one was a martial arts picture but no, it’s the billboard for Step Up 3D, a dance flick. The giant cutie pie doll is from a Japanese store window in Harbour City shopping mall. Basketball player Yao Ming left big shoes to fill – this is in a sporting goods store in the same mall, as is the Tag Heuer watch. I drooled at it inside the store, but it is too expensive to buy! – about US$3,000.
While I was checking out at the Marriott hotel on Sunday, the giant touch screen’s headline ‘Hooker advances in pole vault‘ made me look twice. (Hooker is an Australian athlete). Next one – we accidentally found our own company’s offices in Hong Kong’s Central district in a building where we stopped for lunch.
The final three pictures are artwork from Times Square mall in Causeway Bay. No, I didn’t upload the picture with the bronze figures with distorted pixel dimensions. I’m really not sure how the artist made real three dimensional figures with distorted proportions. Same for the girl at the mailbox – it is as if her image was distorted by a curved mirror. Finally, check out the very very creative use this artist put rubber tire shreds to. A mean muscular black rhinoceros!
We arrived early at Hong Kong airport and the driver did a great job getting me through customs and Shenzhen evening traffic to get me to Dameisha in under two hours. The first picture is of the Hong Kong-mainland China border crossing just at sunset.
At the apartment I had to run out to get some milk, ended up buying some jasmine tea and iron buddha tea. (I will need it to perk me up tomorrow). The brand of the tea is Lipton. I thought Lipton was an American brand, but I see Lipton was created at the end of the 19th century by Sir Thomas Lipton in Glasgow, Scotland. His enterprise soon flourished and he established a chain of grocers, first across Glasgow, then the rest of Scotland, until finally he had stores throughout Britain. Today the brand belongs to Unilever.
Yes, here he is, all smiles, the globe trotter waiting for his flight to San Francisco. My flight to San Francisco is delayed slightly, but I should still be able to make my connection to Hong Kong.
Tip to summer travelers : allow one more hour to get through security. The clock ticks and those screaming babies in their strollers and those first-time travelers with liquids hidden inside their maximum-size carry-on bags WILL trip you up and make you miss your flight. What is going on up there? Why are they so slow? the people behind me kept asking. Well – you are asking the wrong question, I thought. Why did you get here so late?
Yes, I’m counting them ! I’m flying a familiar route on United, down to San Francisco and then out due west to the Far East, across the International Dateline. The picture is from www.flightstats.com and I just punched in the flight number – the same one I will be on tomorrow.
So it’s a hive of one-man activity here, up and down the stairs to get the laundry, then out the door to run an errand, and start packing my bag. I have a checklist for the small roller bag, a check list for the computer bag and an out-the-door checklist for tomorrow morning. Yes sir! it helps to calm me down.
Here’s the out-the-door check list :
- Adjust thermostat
- Windows, doors closed, LOCKED
- Lava lamp OFF
- Clothes iron OFF
- TV, Computer UNPLUGGED
- Garage LOCKED
- Fridge perishables OUT
- Garbage OUT
- Inside Lights ON
- House alarm SET
My travel back to China has been pushed out by a week, so that I can attend corporate training here in Seattle. I see United Airlines and Continental Airlines will merge towards the end of 2010. It’s a ‘merger of equals’. But what will the new planes look like? Well, below is an artist’s rendition. (It wasn’t me spending two hours Photoshopping!) The Continental gold and blue graphics will be kept and be replaced with the word United – so the new airline will be called United Airlines.
I work on a project that I call Mission Impossible, and therefore I run into mission impossible situations in the week I am at home as well.
For example : get more blank visa pages added to your passport in ONE WEEK. It’s harder than one would think. The city agencies dealing with passport applications offer a THREE WEEK expedited service. When you finally find out you’re lucky enough to have a federal agency right here in your home city, it may take three visits there as it will for me. The first one was to fill out a form (after committing the mortal sin of showing up there this morning without an appointment). Also needed is proof of one’s travel plans in the next two weeks on paper. Yes : got to print out that electronic airline reservation. But no printer for US citizens’ use in the passport office. I had to try my luck at the Seattle library (picture below from the inside – pretty! but one printer for 200 people, didn’t work) and then at Fedex-Kinko’s (you pay $6 but it’s so quick).
So there I was, sweaty from running/ walking a dozen blocks back and forth across Seattle downtown, through the security check point, back at the appointment window in the federal building. No luck, too late to help me at 2.45pm. Got to dial that 877 number, it’s the only way to get an appointment. (Did that. Got an appointment for tomorrow at 8 am).
I made it in around 2 pm Seattle time. The picture is from San Francisco airport, and my plane looked the same as the one through the window.
The flight from Hong Kong got in a little late, so I had to hustle to make the connection to Seattle in San Francisco. USA regulations make international arrivals pick up their arriving luggage and go through security again. And the later you are, the longer the line is, and the slower it moves – Murphy’s Law applied to airports?
I am at Hong Kong airport in the United Airlines lounge. Looks like it is all systems go for an on-time departure. The cryptic report below is what pilots use – it’s available from the Hong Kong Observatory’s website. The website also provides a decoded version in plain language, shown below (click to make the picture bigger). I learned a new unit of measure today : an okta, the international unit of measure for the amount of clouds in the sky.
The latest aviation weather report at the Hong Kong International Airport issued by the Hong Kong Observatory at 09:30 HKT on 22 Jul 10
METAR VHHH 220130Z 12014KT 9999 FEW015 SCT025 29/26 Q1006 TEMPO 14025G35KT 2000 +SHRA=
So barely has typhoon Conson dissipated, when tropical storm Chantu comes up (the magenta blob on the map below). I’m not sure why we have two consecutive storms with names starting with ‘C’. But the bigger concern is that the storm might interfere with Hong Kong International Airport’s ability to dispatch me home on Thursday.
The Hong Kong Observatory says it will be ‘rather windy’ tomorrow. Got to love that British word rather. How much is rather? I guess I will find out tomorrow!
The mission of the day was to go to see Big Buddha, on Lantau island (that’s also where Hong Kong International Airport is situated). Since the storm had passed, it was a beautiful day and the line to the tramway that goes up to the site where the Buddha is perched, was very long — we waited for an hour to get onto the car. The tramway is fairly new, started operating in 2006, goes for 5.7 kms and is supported by 8 towers. It goes up very high at one point as the first picture shows, but the other segments are lower. We picked a cabin with a glass floor (it was OK sitting down but eerie standing up).
There is a village with all kinds of souvenir and food stores, and then one has to climb a series of steps to get to the statue of Buddha.
The statue is named Tian Tan Buddha because its base is a model of the Altar of Heaven or Earthly Mount of Tian Tan, the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. It is one of the five large Buddha statues in China. The Buddha statue sits on a lotus throne on top of a three-platform altar. It is surrounded by six smaller bronze statues known as “The Offering of the Six Devas” and are posed offering flowers, incense, lamp, ointment, fruit, and music to the Buddha. These offerings symbolize charity, morality, patience, zeal, meditation, and wisdom, all of which are necessary to enter into nirvana (see last picture).
The Buddha is 34 metres (112 ft) tall, weighs 250 metric tons (280 short tons), and was the world’s tallest outdoor bronze seated Buddha prior to 2007. It reputedly can even be seen from as far away as Macau on a clear day. Visitors have to climb 268 steps in order to reach the Buddha (we climbed it, yes! oof!) , though the site also features a small winding road to the Buddha for vehicles to accommodate the handicapped.
So the two Wills -Willem and Will – (he’s a colleague I worked with before, just joined our project) came to Hong Kong on Friday night. The typhoon passed well south of Hong Kong, so we were fine except that cats-and-dogs rain would come down on to the city at times.
Pictures from the top :
Junk spotted in Hong Kong harbor on Friday night from the Kowloon side. Hibiscus at the Flower Market on Saturday morning. A fluffy kitty kat with one brown eye and one blue (since I was speaking of cats and dogs), also in the flower market area. Traffic in the Mong Kok area on the Kowloon side; at this time on Saturday afternoon the sun was blazing down and one thought the rain was gone permanently, but no! absolutely not. Saturday night we went to Lan Kwai Fong in the central district, where we happened to find a beer fest that was going on, only to be caught in another downpour. Yikes. The locals tell us in summer it could rain like this for days at a time.
Keeping our eyes on the typhoon* Conson here, the first of the season .. looks like it will go by on the south side of us. Hong Kong is where the red asterisk is, so there might be LOTS of rain this weekend there.
*typhoons and hurricane are essentially the same, but here in Asia the term hurricane is not used