BLOG: Amazing 40 hours in Hong Kong

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From left, Robert Bourrier of Delta, Ranjan Goswami of Delta, Cherry Lee of Hong Kong Trade & Development Council, and Mike Medeiros of Delta. (Photo by Assunta Ng/NWAW)

What can you do on a 40-hour stay in Hong Kong?

Seriously, I didn’t expect much when I said yes to be part of Delta’s 12-member delegation for its inaugural non-stop flight from Seattle to Hong Kong on June 16. Nor did I expect to discover anything new in such a short trip because I was raised in Hong Kong. I visit the city every November.

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From left, Seattleites Tom Norwalk, Kazue Ishiwata, and Benjamin Lee, with Mandarin Hotel manager Kristin Charbo, of Los Angeles. (Photo by Assunta Ng/NWAW)

But the moment I stepped on the plane, my assumptions were proved wrong.

I actually accomplished more than any of my previous trips to Hong Kong. How I managed to do so is because Delta had worked with the Port of Seattle and the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in order to produce one of the most efficient and interesting tour experiences for us.

Hong Kong has many admirable qualities. It is among the top five nations where people have the longest life spans. Also, the unemployment rate is extremely low (although the gap in income equality between rich and poor is mountainous).

Treated like a queen

Delta is generous; they know how to impress their guests on a special mission. The guests were invited to sit in business class. Each of us sat in a spacious, comfortable seat with a bigger television screen than other airlines. The seats are well designed and private. You need not worry about whether the person sitting next to you can see your face if you sleep or snore.

For a 13-hour flight, I would normally get sick, have back pain, and lie awake the whole time had I not sat in the business row. I felt like a queen during the flight, pampered with fine food and plenty to eat, while watching the most current American movies and HBO programs.

In the 1990s, when Northwest Airlines (Northwest later merged with Delta) invited my friend to join the inaugural Seattle-Hong Kong flight, she had to pay for everything, including airfare and hotel.

I don’t know why Delta picked me as a guest. I was the only member of the media on the flight. I felt blessed to be part of such a historical flight, experiencing a side of Hong Kong that I had never been able to before.

Delta was on time. We arrived about 7:40 p.m. at the HK airport. If I had needed to transfer to another plane, I would likely get there after 10:30 p.m.

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Prawns being served at the Man Wah Restaurant. (Photo by Assunta Ng/NWAW)

Tuesday

At the Mandarin

“Wow!” was the reaction when my relatives found out that I was staying at the five-star Mandarin. I couldn’t believe I was in such a luxurious hotel. My room had a day and night view of the harbor. Hong Kong is ranked third globally for its colorful nightlights.

The room spares no detail or luxury. A built-in kettle was there for me to enjoy tea in the morning. The tea selection has five fancy kinds to choose from. Too bad my husband didn’t join me. He would love that espresso machine with quality espresso available. The tea, espresso, and bottled water are free for guests.

A pair of slippers was waiting for me at bedside. The television is connected to a CD player with relaxing Zen music, inducing me to sleep.

Management thought of everything, didn’t they!

Wednesday

Business and family

At 8:30 a.m., the bus took us to the Hong Kong Trade Development Council to meet with its manager, Cherry Lee. Armed with impressive stories and statistics, she knew exactly what to say to promote Hong Kong as the gateway to China after the British returned the city to China. Instantly, Hong Kong developed a strong adaptability under China’s One Country Two Systems. It proclaims itself as the best link between the East and West.

However, she stumbled on a question from Delta’s vice president, Mike Medeiros. With its non-stop flight between the two cities, Delta has invested a lot, not only in Seattle, but Hong Kong, too.

“What are you (HK) going to do for Seattle?” asked Medeiros.

A smart response would be: “What do you suggest? I can pass your ideas to my boss.”

I learned ages ago that when you open doors for other people, you open doors for yourself, too. Creating a win-win for both cities, rather than taking Seattle for granted, would serve Hong Kong well.

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Eden Woon of HK University, Mark Michelson of IMA ASIA, and Alan Turley of FedEx. (Photo by Assunta Ng/NWAW)

We also visited the American Chamber of Commerce. It was delightful to see a former Seattleite, Dr. Eden Woon, vice president for the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, on the Chamber’s panel.

After meetings, some were bussed to Maxim Palace at City Hall for dim sum. Four of us decided to walk, not realizing the boiling sun was flexing its muscles.

In my decades of living in America, I had forgotten Hong Kong’s heat and humidity. Before my head was about to spin, thank God, we were inside the air-conditioned Maxim.

Dim sum lunch was welcome, especially sitting next to Brian Marks, who works for Brigham Young University in Utah. This was his first time to try dim sum, and he loved it.

It’s appetizing to dine with someone who enjoys his meal so much, especially the steamed BBQ pork hum bow. After he ate two, I asked him, “Want to split another hum bow with me?”

“Sure,” he said. You won’t have this in Utah for sure!

The group then went sightseeing, including riding the tram to the peak, while I rode the subway to another part of town to see my mother.

Mandarin’s location is excellent, only one block from the subway. Anywhere I travel in the world, I prefer hotels close to the subway. It saves time and avoids traffic jams, which is common in Hong Kong.

“Ahyah! Daughter, daughter,” said mother, jumping with joy, screaming and clapping like a kid when the door opened as I hugged her on the doorstep. I had called her a few days ago to tell her that I would be home. Obviously, she had forgotten the whole conversation; she has Alzheimer’s.

Dinner was at the Man Wah Restaurant on the 25th floor of the Mandarin. With a classy and elegant setting, Man Wah serves refined Cantonese cuisine. The dining room has a valuable collection of traditional Chinese artwork. Some guests came just for its priceless art.

We sat with the Mandarin sales staff and key Delta leaders in Asia. I skipped dessert as my son, who works in Hong Kong, had arrived in the hotel. I was happy to see him. We chatted for two hours before I hit Mandarin’s 24-hour fitness center. It came free with the room. I took advantage of it every day.

It’s remarkable that I could engage in six different meetings, without fatigue, in one day. There’s something magical about being in Hong Kong to watch its people being resilient, flexible and thriving. It motivated me to follow their spirit.

As Al Hess, owner of Hess Travel and one of the Delta delegates, said, “Hong Kong has a special spirit; it is both chaotic and comforting. I love the sounds, the smells, and the energy that I always find there.” (end)

Continued next week: Part II
World’s highest bar, Ozone!

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