The HK shuttle shuffle

This item appears on page 60 of the December 2008 issue.
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At the completion of an April ’08 Silk Road tour in China, I traveled on my own from Shanghai to Hong Kong for my 15th visit since 1961. While Hong Kong has changed since the British left and is now rather expensive, it is still one of my favorite cities.

As many ITN readers know, the new, world-class international airport is located on Lantao Island and is 35 to 40 miles from Kowloon. I stayed on Kowloon, from which there are express trains leaving every 20 minutes for various locations in the former colony.

Before I left on my tour, I had made arrangements on the Internet with Viator, Inc. (phone, in the US, 866/648-5873 or, international, +1 (702) 648 5873, www.viator.com), for transport by shared shuttle from the airport to my hotel and, at the end of my 4-day stay, back to the airport. The cost was US$22.50 each way. The shuttle is in a good location at the airport.

For the return trip to the airport for a flight to Los Angeles leaving at 1:20 p.m., I was picked up at the YMCA International House in the Yau Ma Tei section at 10:10 a.m. That in itself was cutting it close, as the drive takes about 45 minutes under normal conditions. Unfortunately, the driver had to make four other pickups at various locations in Kowloon as well as one on Lantao itself.

The traffic was extremely heavy, and after the first hour I was positive I would miss my flight. Since I had a discounted consolidator’s ticket, I would not automatically be placed on the next flight and I’d probably have to purchase another ticket at full fare for a flight leaving the following day.

I arrived at the terminal at 12:40. My plane was already loading. After getting my baggage, I had to locate the correct island in the huge terminal where my airline (Cathay Pacific) was located. When I found the correct line, there were about 25 people ahead of me and only three working agents. I just knew I would be staying for another night.

Suddenly an agent asked if anyone was planning to make the LAX flight. I spoke up and was directed to a special agent, who checked my baggage as well as yours truly, who was by then quite tense. Clearing passport control was not a problem, but at the security line my carry-on bag was searched, as I had a small pair of blunt-end scissors, which I had carried on two flights going to China plus six flights on Chinese airlines.

Exiting security, I had to walk from Gate 1 to Gate 66. I ran as best I could on a lame left leg and with a big carry-on bag. At Gate 30, I was directed down a long escalator to a train. After a relatively long train ride to another terminal, I took an elevator to another level and then tried to run from Gate 30 to Gate 66.

When I finally made it, I was completely spent, in a sweat, and my heart was beating so hard that I thought I could hear it. I was the last person to board the aircraft. I think I must have set a record, clearing a major international airport in 40 minutes.

As it turned out, I was assigned an aisle seat in the first row of the economy section, and though the plane was nearly full I had an empty seat next to me. Also, it was close to the lavatory — a plus, for me. I fell asleep before takeoff and had a most enjoyable flight back to LAX.

If I ever have the good fortune to visit Hong Kong again, I will certainly elect the express train for transportation both to and from the airport. The train is not only faster than the shuttle but much cheaper.

When I took the train from the airport to Kowloon two years ago, the cost was about $12 one way, but then I had to get a taxi from the station to the hotel, which cost about another $5 including a tip.

EDWARD LIFSET

Oceanside, CA

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

At the completion of an April ’08 Silk Road tour in China, I traveled on my own from Shanghai to Hong Kong for my 15th visit since 1961. While Hong Kong has changed since the British left and is now rather expensive, it is still one of my favorite cities.

As many ITN readers know, the new, world-class international airport is located on Lantao Island and is 35 to 40 miles from Kowloon. I stayed on Kowloon, from which there are express trains leaving every 20 minutes for various locations in the former colony.

Before I left on my tour, I had made arrangements on the Internet with Viator, Inc. (phone, in the US, 866/648-5873 or, international, +1 (702) 648 5873, www.viator.com), for transport by shared shuttle from the airport to my hotel and, at the end of my 4-day stay, back to the airport. The cost was US$22.50 each way. The shuttle is in a good location at the airport.

For the return trip to the airport for a flight to Los Angeles leaving at 1:20 p.m., I was picked up at the YMCA International House in the Yau Ma Tei section at 10:10 a.m. That in itself was cutting it close, as the drive takes about 45 minutes under normal conditions. Unfortunately, the driver had to make four other pickups at various locations in Kowloon as well as one on Lantao itself.

The traffic was extremely heavy, and after the first hour I was positive I would miss my flight. Since I had a discounted consolidator’s ticket, I would not automatically be placed on the next flight and I’d probably have to purchase another ticket at full fare for a flight leaving the following day.

I arrived at the terminal at 12:40. My plane was already loading. After getting my baggage, I had to locate the correct island in the huge terminal where my airline (Cathay Pacific) was located. When I found the correct line, there were about 25 people ahead of me and only three working agents. I just knew I would be staying for another night.

Suddenly an agent asked if anyone was planning to make the LAX flight. I spoke up and was directed to a special agent, who checked my baggage as well as yours truly, who was by then quite tense. Clearing passport control was not a problem, but at the security line my carry-on bag was searched, as I had a small pair of blunt-end scissors, which I had carried on two flights going to China plus six flights on Chinese airlines.

Exiting security, I had to walk from Gate 1 to Gate 66. I ran as best I could on a lame left leg and with a big carry-on bag. At Gate 30, I was directed down a long escalator to a train. After a relatively long train ride to another terminal, I took an elevator to another level and then tried to run from Gate 30 to Gate 66.

When I finally made it, I was completely spent, in a sweat, and my heart was beating so hard that I thought I could hear it. I was the last person to board the aircraft. I think I must have set a record, clearing a major international airport in 40 minutes.

As it turned out, I was assigned an aisle seat in the first row of the economy section, and though the plane was nearly full I had an empty seat next to me. Also, it was close to the lavatory — a plus, for me. I fell asleep before takeoff and had a most enjoyable flight back to LAX.

If I ever have the good fortune to visit Hong Kong again, I will certainly elect the express train for transportation both to and from the airport. The train is not only faster than the shuttle but much cheaper.

When I took the train from the airport to Kowloon two years ago, the cost was about $12 one way, but then I had to get a taxi from the station to the hotel, which cost about another $5 including a tip.

EDWARD LIFSET

Oceanside, CA