23 May 2014

HK day 0.5: Where were we?

So, there we were in Dubai, hotel voucher in hand, wandering through the expansive airport trying to figure out what time and day it was and what time and day our bodies thought it was.  [It was 1000 on Thursday 22 May, but our bodies thought it was 0200 on Thursday.]

Dubai's airport is enormous and beautiful.  The whole place is like a marble palace inside, and very, very quiet.  We did manage to wander our way to the proper desk to hand someone our voucher.  The nice man told us a shuttle would arrive for us shortly to take us to the hotel, where we should show our voucher again to get our room and credit for a 3 minute international phone call.  Kind of sounds like jail?  As John Mulaney would say, "ooooookay."  So we waited, and the shuttle arrived and drove us to the hotel.  

I'm not sure what the technical differences between a hotel and a motel are, but this one was a shack-y hotel at best.  I gave it 2 stars.  It was clearly a dumping place for all cattle class passengers of Emirates flights, as all the staff were prepared for our situation.  They even had a person handing out flyers for 2 hour tours of Dubai, leaving every other hour (not a bad idea, really).  We checked in at 1050, I know, because the breakfast buffet was closing in 10 minutes.  We took our newly procured vouchers to the dining hall style buffet area and enjoyed a slightly better breakfast than what we'd had on the plane.  Ten minutes later, we asked about getting wifi, and traded our 3 minute phone call for 24 hours of wifi (for 2 devices, even!).

Ok, ok so apparently they got 3 stars from somebody

Our room was... minimalist 80s style, containing 2 slightly larger than twin beds (apparently, they weren't sure if we were a couple or not).  Contrary to what our Emirates greeter had told us about the hotel providing all the "hygiene products we might need, like towels and toothbrushes," there were exactly 4 towels, one of which was a bath mat, and 2 shower caps.  No soap, let alone toothbrushes.  And, because we'd checked our 12kg small suitcase, we didn't have any of the "just in case" things I always pack, and so infrequently need.  We both wanted a shower, but that wasn't going to be too useful without soap of any kind, nor clean clothes to put on afterwards.  Plus, given 13 hours to hang out in Dubai, we didn't think we should sit in our hotel/motel room.  But, it was 95F+ outside.

Cleverly, we rallied our thinking powers and asked the Google what was nearby.  Google's response: The Dubai Mall, one of the world's largest shopping malls.  The fourth person we asked in the lobby told us it would cost 50 dirham(s?) to get a taxi to the mall.  The man in the business center (which was a corner of the cafe) who also handled currency exchange could not exchange our HKD for AED (dirhams), so we found our way across the atrium (which had a beautiful pool... too bad we didn't have bathing suits!) to find an ATM.

About an hour later, we walked into The Dubai Mall and were greeted by glorious air conditioning (yet not too cold!) and a dinosaur skeleton.  Apparently, the diplodocidus was found in 2008 in the US and brought to be displayed in Dubai.  We decided to set ourselves the goal of finding soap, shampoo, and clean socks and underwear at the very least.

Four hours later, more tired than we realized, we'd each procured new outfits (including the aforementioned socks and underwear), a bottle of baby shampoo, and 2 little, plastic travel bottles.  In search of a taxi stand, we were approached by a man asking if we needed a taxi.  Oh, how perfect - yes! we do need a taxi.  Please take us to our hotel.  45 minutes and 4 obvious u-turns later, we were at the hotel with the "cabbie" charging us 170AED.  T pushed back, but I was tired and got out to go exchange more money.  Walking into the hotel, the guy who got us the first taxi asked how it went and I quickly explained I needed more cash as I walked by him into the business center.  One of the bell boys followed and asked what was going on, so I explained.  He thought the cabbie's behaviour was outrageous and told me to go back out and ask for a bill or receipt or something to stall while he went to get a security person.  After stalling for about 2 minutes, during which the fare went down to 120AED, the bell boy came out himself, apparently unable to find back up and spoke to the driver for us.  So, lesson learned - even 3 star hotel/motels can have pluses.

Following this ridiculousness, we finally got our glorious shower with all purpose baby shampoo and a much needed 4 hour nap.

We woke up in time to use our vouchers at the dinner buffet.  It was a very tasty buffet, with a good effort at pleasing as many people as possible.  As we ate, we observed our fellow diners.  Of particular interest was an older gentleman, sitting alone.  Shortly after he sat down, a woman asked to sit with him, clearly a stranger.  He accepted and the two had a nice conversation getting to know each other.  [We weren't intentionally eavesdropping at first, the woman was speaking loudly so the man could hear her.]  As we were finishing up, the old man's grandson appeared and the three of them had dessert together.  It was such a nice thing to see how kind these perfect strangers were to one another.

After finishing our own dessert, T and I decided to head to the airport early.  Our flight wasn't until 0330, but we weren't interested in hanging out in our hotel room.  So we turned in our key and were told to have a seat for 10 minutes until someone came to tell us the shuttle to the airport had arrived.  After about 20 minutes, we decided nobody was going to tell us anything, so we went outside.  A shuttle had just arrived with a new load of displaced passengers, but we were told this one would be leaving empty, a shuttle bound for the airport would arrive in 10 minutes, please have a seat and wait.  Not willing to do that again, we waited outside, and amazingly enough, about 15 minutes later, a shuttle did arrive and took us to the airport.

Once at the airport, we breezed through security - only had to remove my laptop from my bag, but we got to keep our clothing on.  We headed straight for the Marhaba Business Class Lounge and used our Lounge Club passes (courtesy of Chase) to enjoy the next 3 hours in relative quiet, with unlimited tea, a selection of dinner-esque foods and accompaniments and free wifi.

Our second flight was closer to our expectations of what an Emirates flight would be like.  Aboard one of their newest Airbus A380s, just the fact that everything was cleaner, newer, and shinier helped the situation.  Also, there seemed to be only one child and she was sitting far enough away from us (or was well behaved enough) that we didn't hear her until we landed - making exclamations of excitement whilst returning to her seat from the lavatory.  [Side note: why are all airplane bathrooms called lavatories?]  The food was better this time around, though we didn't get two full meals, but instead had a "light bite" snack of a sandwich and blackberry muffin and breakfast.  Everyone had the same light bite, but the breakfast options were cheese omelet or chicken congee.  T had the omelet, I had the congee.  We were both pleased with our choices.

Being about half the length of our first flight helped a lot, too.  We still didn't sleep much, maybe an hour total, because we still didn't know what time our bodies thought it should be.  The night-day effects are pretty convincing!

Upon arrival in HKG, passport control was quite speedy, and we made our way to baggage claim.  To our pleasant surprise, both our bags turned up!  The little one (new for this trip) arrived looking about 5 years old, but they were both there, intact and that's all that really matters!  Finding the greeting desk for the Langham Place was pretty simple also, just following the signs.  We waited perhaps another half hour for our shuttle, having just missed the previous one, and were ready to start our Hong Kong adventure!

Next time: First foray into Hong Kong!

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