But before I get to that...a day of travel:
We awoke at 5:30am and were greeted in the lobby by our old pal, Mr. Yen. He drove us to the Guilin Airport where we literally walked right onto the plane and found our seats. Unfortunately, we were surrounded by 50 pushy German tourists who kept dropping their huge carry-ons on Alex's head. I shot them dirty looks and kept mumbling something about the gestapo under my breath. After a 45 minute flight on South China Airlines to Guangzhou (formerly Canton), we landed and attempted to disembark. The Germans, however, had some extreme need to get off the plane before the doors were even opened, prompting a loud and annoyed, "You need to chill out." from me.
At the luggage terminal, there was no sign of a guide to take us to the train station, so I was sent to the greeting area and was promised my bag would be located and taken care of. Wandering around the airport looking for someone holding a sign saying anything resembling "Spotswood", I mistook 3 people for our guide before finally finding him. A middle-aged Chinese guy that spoke great English, he introduced himself as "Kelly" and informed me that the drive to the train station would take 45 minutes, and the high speed train ride to Hong Kong another hour and 50 minutes. Fine. I'm normally not even awake yet, so what do I care. The family found the bags, including mine, and headed over to meet us. Mom kept calling him "Kenny", but otherwise, it was pretty easy getting to the train station, all the way across Guangzhou, aparently the biggest city in Southeast China.
The train station resembled Calcutta during a Ghandi speech, and we were forced to fight our way past the chickens, goats, and legless beggars to the ticket counter. Informed that they only took cash, and my father now famous for being consistently cash free, we ran Amazing Race style to an ATM, and with much help from me, dad was able to aquire some scratch. As Hong Kong is considered foreign still, with different money and English as the official language, we had to go through customs and get a SARS test, which consisted of lasers in our eyes and some machine that magically took our temperature. With minutes to spare, we made our train and had a lovely ride to Hong Kong. We spent our last yuen on a gross train-prepared lunch and dad seemed to worry the entire time about getting some HK dollars at the train station. Ya know, I bet they have ATM's there too.
They did indeed, and as soon as we went through customs again, and more SARS laser tests, we found said ATM and a taxi line. I cannot express to you the level of BO I encountered in that taxi line, but I think it's fair to say it was substantial. So having traveled by van, plane, train, and taxi, all in one morning, we pulled up to the world famous Penninsula Hotel in Hong Kong and here I am. As we entered the lobby, a string quartet played "Yesterday" from a balcony overhead. I looked up and smiled at them. They looked down and smiled at me. I was tempted to request "I think I'm Gonna Like it Here" from Annie, but thought I should probably play it cool. Shops in the lobby include Manolo Blahnik, Tiffany and Co., and the ever-present Armani. Out bathroom has a flat-screen TV with DVD player built into the marble wall, and the robes are plusher than anything I've ever felt in my life. Our 23rd floor room has a view of metro Hong Kong, and a Philipe Stark designed retaurant and bar on the top floor is open till 2am. On my way down to the Business Center, where I have my own office, mind you, I chatted with the bell boy about where the hip and happening party here. Now, I've got the scoop and plan to hobknob with the jetsetters upstairs once the folks hit the hay. We're here for four nights, leaving bright and early Sunday moring. And no, dear Andy, I return on the 22nd, not the 23rd. In fact, we leave HK at 11am Sunday moring and arrive in SFO at 9am. This is one crazy planet.
I must say, after an exhausting day of travel and new and unexpected smells, it's all been worth it. I shall now retire to my room, steam my gown, and plan my next three days.
I have one fantasy in Hong Kong, and the family has agreed to it. I want to spend one evening alone, drinking alone and dining alone. I have this fantasy of myself as the mysterious, American woman travelling alone at the Penninsula Hotel, dressed fabulously, reading a book at a table alone. I want everyone to wonder who I am and what I'm doing here, and I don't want to talk to anyone I'm related to. The key word is alone. Alone. Alone. Alone.
You people have 3 days of freedom left. Send your last minute requests for Chinese curios and I'll do my damdest. And now, to tea...