We paid 40 rupees extra to stay in our room until 3 p.m. on the day that we left Kathmandu, then spent a couple of hours hanging out in a cafe watching tourists of all shapes and sizes walkabout on the streets. At 5:30 p.m. we collected our packs and negotiated a fare with a taxi driver for the 20-minute ride out to the airport. We had a 90-minute wait in the uncomfortable and facility-less main concourse, then proceeded through immigration and customs to the departure lounge where we spent our final Nepali rupees on Cokes and it and a pastry each.
We boarded the aircraft at 9:30PM. It was a Boeing 737, nearly new and took off exactly on schedule at 9:40. Snacks were served on the one-hour hop to Dhaka in Bangladesh, where the aircraft was refuelled from barrels sitting on the tarmac and pumped straight into the wing tanks in the pouring rain. We then flew on, heading east towards dawns which filled the Sky with molten colour as we approached Hong Kong at 6:30 a.m. local time.
As we came out of the cloud base, the amazing spectacle of the city unfolded beneath us. The rows of skyscrapers, backed by steep, rugged hills and with the opaque blue of the sea resplendence site and it seemed the aircraft would land atop the buildings, for the airport is surrounded by tiers of apartment blocks and office buildings.
Formalities were quite rapid and we were on the airport bus heading into the city of Kowloon half an hour after we landed.
It took us a while to find a cheap place to stay in the labyrinth of Chungking Mansions¹ but eventually, we settled for a HK$45 dorm bed each: bloody expensive at 5 quid apiece but apparently the cheapest around.
After showers, we set off to try and track down my cousin Mark Wynne, who lived in Hong Kong and worked as an export consultant for the New Zealand Dairy Board. We went first to the Hong Kong Tourist Office where they gave us the address of the New Zealand Tourist Office. The Star Ferry took us across the congested, polluted Hong Kong Harbour to Hong Kong Island where a jumble of high rise buildings competed for the meagre area of flat land between the water and the steep hills behind. We checked out the post restaurant at the at the GPO and there were two letters for me and two for Linda then we went to the 18th floor of the Jardine building opposite the New Zealand tourist office. They gave us the address of the New Zealand dairy board back over in Kowloon and we sat in the lounge reading our mail and old copies of The Listener magazine.
Back on Kowloon, I rang Mark’s office to find out that he was in fact away travelling in China on business so that was the end of that story.
We spent an hour or so wandering around in the gigantic ocean centre shopping mall I’ll bring it shops full of electronics clothes toys and all manner of consumer goods. Back in Kowloon we rest at the hospital for a while it went out for a beer in a pub called The White Hart fake English decor expensive beer and to McDonald’s for a meal that served confirm our opinion of the food from the golden arches – overpriced shit.
¹Chungking Mansions was, and still is, a towering rabbit warren of cheap hotels, Pakistani restaurants, sweatshops, doss houses and opium dens. The stairwells were spattered with the red of betel nut and from every corner issued the steam and smalls of all Asia.