The coach journey has been relatively uneventful after the problems at the start, although the journey has not been pleasant for some, with the coach not being suited to the heat. When I walked down the bus to check that all were o.k. those seated under the air vents were cooled by the breeze, however, for others the heat was oppressive. To their credit no one complained. In my opinion the service from Davies’ coaches has been ‘well below par’ which is a little disappointing as we book a lot of coaches with them and rarely have a problem. One positive is that we may be better prepared for the heat and humidity of Hong Kong when we arrive!!!
We are met at the airport by Victor Alway who is the agent with the travel company who has handled the organisation of our tour. He takes us to the Cathay Pacific check in, and the air conditioning inside the terminal immediately makes us feel a lot more comfortable. We are able to load our cases immediately and problem number 2 occurs.
“What time is your flight sir?” the lady on the desk asks me. “6.20pm to Hong Kong” She checks the manifold. “You’re not booked on that one sir, you’re on the 8.15pm flight” Victor checks his records and confirms he’s made a ‘faux pas’. He apologises for his mistake but it does mean we have an extra two hour wait in the airport. Oh well, we take the positives, if we had set out from Gowerton two hours later, we’d have been travelling in even warmer conditions and at least when we arrive in Hong Kong we may have immediate access to our hotel rooms as it will be mid afternoon. Time will tell.
At ‘weigh in’ case weights are really impressive, with very few cases exceeding the 20kgs limit-Well done mums and dads. Tom Froom at 21 kgs has the heaviest case. The Hughes family who had held the record for the heaviest case on the previous two tours with Natalie in ’06 and Jonathan in ’09 come in underweight with Julia’s case-Well done Richard and Nicola.
We go straight to security and several set off the alarms which means their bags have to be emptied and searched. Jayde and Molly’s make-up is a cause for concern. Perhaps Jayde’s false nails were considered a dangerous weapon! While Bethan Rees put her liquid toiletries into a clear bag, but then left them inside her hand luggage bag when she should have carried them through separately.
Rob James continued to show his public spiritedness and pointed out to Richard Keefe that he needed to take his belt off or it would set off the alarm. Richard did so, but Rob forgot to do so himself!!!
Despite these minor hiccoughs we are through security pretty quickly and by 4.00pm we are all through to the Duty Free waiting area. We find a central assembly area and give the students 3 hours to do some shopping and get something to eat. We tell them that we will be having a meal on the plane after take off and that drinks are provided as required during the flight.
Timekeeping is fantastic and everyone is back on time. Rob tells everyone not to worry about drinks on the plane-he’d purchased 6 bottles of Coke at a cost of £9. I don’t think he’d been listening 3 hours earlier. Never mind, at least he won’t have to buy any Coke while we are in Hong Kong.
Our flight is boarding at Gate 18 at 7.00pm, which is a 20 minute walk for the fit and active. For those a little lazier, you can stand on the conveyor belt and ‘go with the flow’ I’m afraid I have to admit that I’m with the latter group, well I am 57 now.
We are through by 7.30pm and wait to be ‘called’ in the holding area.
The plane loads its passengers from the rear. Katy Baran is in row 55 and as she is furthest back is called first. The announcement asks that those going ‘First class’ should go through door B and ‘Economy’ passengers should use door A. Katy walks straight past door A and goes through door B. Mr Long chases after her to bring her back and a slightly red faced Katy emerged through the door to a big cheer from her ‘mates’. There’s no mercy on tour.
We are all seated on the plane by 8.00pm, but take off is delayed slightly by two late arrivals. They duly arrive and we taxi down the runway and are in the air by 8.45pm. Rumour circulates that with our luggage being underweight we’ll have no problems making up the lost time.
A look at the ‘in flight’ entertainment shows that we have a choice of watching 29 films, none of which I’ve heard of. Joel Young reliably informs me that ‘GI Joe-Retaliation’ and ‘Olympus has fallen’ are both ‘worth watching’ and I duly settle down to watch the latter.
Not long after ‘take off’ the cabin crew bring around drinks and snacks quickly followed by evening meal.
Mr Long asks for a coke and the stewardess opens the can, which must have been shaken strongly because it sprays out at high velocity and covers Mr Lewis who is sat next to Mr Long. The stewardess is mortified, but Miss Jeffreys who observes the whole incident isn’t quite so concerned and laughs uncontrollably for several minutes.
Evening meal consists of a Mediterranean salad starter, a choice or pork, chicken and ravioli main and ice cream for dessert. Most seem to have the chicken which is served in Dijonmustard and is really appetizing. All I speak to say they enjoy the meal and Alex Freeman tells me he rarely eats food on a plane, but he really enjoyed his.
I finish watching the film and thank Joel for his advice. I enjoyed the film.
Day 2: July 23rd:
The lights go down on the plane at about midnight U.K. time and I try, pretty unsuccessfully to get some sleep. I may have had about an hour as I can’t remember anything between half two and half three. Some of the students try to get some sleep, but a lot wander about the plane in small groups chatting and enjoying each others company. They seem really relaxed, their behaviour is fantastic and I’ve not had to tell anyone off yet-which means I’m really relaxed. Long may it continue.
Next it’s breakfast on the plane followed by landing in Hong Kong and the first real leg of our journey-an exciting prospect.
Breakfast receives mixed reviews. Fruit salad and yoghurt to start followed by scrambled egg and ham with spinach in a waffle and tomato. Some enjoyed it, but I wasn’t too keen on the main course.
We land at 3.10pm local time, collect our luggage and pass through customs without a problem and meet our liaison officers Steven and Shuman who are to guide us while we are in Hong Kong. As we leave the airport the humidity hits us. Temperatures are about 30ºC and it’s overcast, but the atmosphere feels very heavy. We have a 45 minute drive from the airport to the hotel. But no problems with transport. We have two air conditioned coaches with leather seats. It’s a comfortable journey and we enjoy some of the sites as we go.
We arrive at the hotel at 5.30pm. We have an hour and a half to freshen up and will meet at 7.00pm to walk to see the lazer show over the harbour and then to go and get something to eat.