I'm starting my narrative the morning of May 11 before work, when I clocked in at 168 lb, my heaviest ever. Likely culprits for the gain are my hot-air popcorn popper, and my weekend hikes that keep getting postponed. At Baja Fresh that afternoon at lunch, I caught a hottie checking me out. Good thing the kavorka seems to be peaking at the start of my trip.
Got home from work at roughly 6:45pm, ate spaghetti, finished packing my bags (for the most part I'd packed them last night, pre-flight), and left my apartment around 9:40pm, minutes after American Idol ended. One less thing to watch on TiVo when I get back. On the subway 9:58pm, arrived at Union Station 10:24pm, left on FlyAway 10:35pm, arrived at LAX 11pm, finished checking in (no line at Cathay Pacific) 11:05pm, strolled food court, through security and at gate 11:30pm. Well in advance of my 1:35am flight (on the 12th). Record smoothness.
Waiting to go through the body-imaging machine, I realized I was somewhat shriveled on account of the ice I'd consumed at home, and I was rather bashful about TSA seeing that. But then I figured that most of the guys going through the scanner were Chinamen, so my flaccid dong was still probably the biggest thing anyone would see all day.
At the gate there was a Chinese couple waiting for the flight and the woman had a ginormous sombrero with "Mexico" on the rim. What an ass. If you're going to Mexico, at least buy some Alberto Del Rio merchandise. Or maybe the Urban Sombrero, which Elaine introduced in J. Peterman's absence when he was in Burma, which you might know as Myanmar, which Kramer mistook for the discount pharmacy, an example of which I took a photo of in Mexico...the very country from which the Chinese woman was returning. I assume she was Chinese, and not some girl from Long Island.
For the LAX-HKG flight I had seat 66A in the last row (the Leave Me the Hell Alone Seat). The older woman next to me was going to somewhere in China near Tibet. She asked if I was going to Varanasi, so it must be a cool place. Also she asked if I work in the US. She must have thought I was some sort of rich international playboy businessman. It's an understandable mistake.
I wanted to sleep right away but airplanes always serve food at the strangest times, so while waiting for dinner I listened to my iPod. First song in the shuffle was Promise of a New Day. I've always liked Kelly Coffield's version better. Whoa, and she was in the Seinfeld ep cited above (The Chinese Woman). I just blew my mind!
For dinner I had some chicken mushroom dish and two glasses of wine, which were preceded by a PM pill, so I was out after that, at least for a few of the 14.5 hours. I know I was asleep because I had a dream that Jordi was sitting in her old cubicle and had a really horrible short haircut. The cubicle next to mine was empty, so things were occurring out of sequence in dreamland. Despite the drug cocktail and earplugs, I was awakened by babies screaming for hours after that. Just like at home. [As I type this, the baby in a nearby apartment is crying in agony, as it does every day through the window that its parents leave open so everyone can hear their "accomplishment". People have yelled multiple times for them to close their window. At least take the baby to the hospital to find out what's causing the intense pain. Or stop diddling it and see if that has an effect. Yes, I'm intentionally calling the baby "it".] [And now a couple days later, after someone else yelled, I shouted the hospital reference, and some guy said thank you and closed his window. Maybe the baby has a medical issue, and that's devastating for a parent, but it's also a private matter. Only an asshole would open his window to exploit his baby's suffering by trying to conjure sympathy from the neighborhood.]
Landed at 7:30am on the 13th. I had a 7-hour layover, so I went through immigration and legally entered Hong Kong (country #44). Yes, it counts as a country. It has a separate government, currency, border controls, etc. from China. I needed some cash for this visit and another 7-hour layover coming back two weeks later, and I tried a Travelex ATM, but it "wasn't working", and the quotes are there because there was a Travelex desk nearby with a worse exchange rate that I had to use instead. Actually I didn't have to use it, but at some airports there are no ATMs past customs, and I thought that was my only chance to get Hong Kong dollars before buying a train ticket. Turns out there were more ATMs.
I got on the Airport Express at 9:53am and arrived downtown at 10:20am. The woman on the plane suggested I get off at Kowloon and view the skyline from the pier. I considered improvising, despite not having a map of Kowloon, but then on the train I concluded there'd be no view from across the harbor on account of the weather, so I stuck with the original downtown plan.
Central Elevated Walkway and downtown. I'd walked to this point in the rain, not realizing I could have used the covered walkway. Fortunately I had the foresight to pack my 16-inch black cockbrella in my carryon bag (tapping the side of my head to indicate intelligence, like "The Duke of Dorchester" Pete Doherty or any other '80s WWF jobber showing off to the crowd, or like The Eradicator). In its first test, the umbrella kept me and my bag dry, unlike my previous smaller-diameter one. Its effect on Jewish girls, and how exactly they fit into an ill-conceived umbrella-phallus metaphor, is unknown.
Central-Mid-levels escalators, the longest outdoor escalator system in the world. It's more of an inclined moving walkway, without distinct steps like a traditional escalator.
I thought Megan McCormick or Samantha Brown said you had to pay to ride this, but it's free. It only runs downhill after 10am though, so I walked up the stairs to the left for a couple blocks then rode back down. I had energy going up the steps whereas most people were winded. My recent Hollywood sign training hike paid off.
Hong Kong has apparently been stricken with Pac-Man Fever!
More skyline to the east (or "orient").
More skyline to the south.
Kowloon across the harbor. The view had cleared up by then. I'd wanted to do a ferry tour, but I checked in advance and I think they didn't operate until later. Or earlier.
Tower 2 of the International Finance Center, the 8th-tallest office building in the world.
My first attempt to leave an airport during a long layover having gone flawlessly, I took an 11am train back to the airport, arriving 11:30am. I noted that I felt relatively rested despite not getting a full night's sleep. Maybe a slight headache. I wasn't totally out of it like I am after a redeye to Tampa for spring training.
I ate at Popeyes at the airport. I've never been to one in the US. The food was marked halal rather than kosher. I guess they assume Jews don't travel. I figured I'd get free food on one of the next two flights, but I had HK$ to use up. Then I took a dump, which as usual I mention for LG's benefit. Speaking of segues, I saw a phone and thought about calling him (an Asian airport layover tradition), but I'd forgotten to write down the AT&T access number for Hong Kong. Phooey!
I noticed that most people waiting for the flight to Bangkok/Delhi were Chinese Asian and not Indian Asian. Odd.
The Hong Kong airport has free Internet! There are terminals in the, uh, terminals. You're supposed to limit yourself to 15 minutes. I got on briefly just to check e-mail and brag on Facebook about where I was. Yeah, I limit my status updates to interesting ones that people might be inclined to comment on. I'm different that way.
The flight out of Hong Kong left almost an hour late due to thunderstorms, but I didn't mind after I was served the best airplane food ever...chicken curry with rice and a whole chili pepper on top, which was optional to eat, and I opted. It made me tear up. I wasn't expecting a meal on this 2-hour flight though. That made 5 meals in a little over a day. My usual expectation of losing weight while travelling was set back a bit, but knowing I'd be full meant I could avoid having to look for food in Delhi at night.
Kung Fu Fighting played on my iPod, which was cool since I was on a plane full of funky Chinamen from funky Chinatown. A sudden motion from any of them would have made me skip!
We landed in Bangkok at 4:30pm, and everyone in the back of the cabin exited except me and 3 others. While we waited for Delhi passengers to embark, I got to witness the vacuuming and magazine/pillow-replacing process for the first time. It involved a dozen cleaning people bickering in Thai.
NOW the Indians were getting on the plane. But only like 5 of them. After boarding there were still only about 8 people in the back of the cabin. I had the rear 40 seats to myself. I hadn't seen so many empty seats since every one of my 165 comedy shows.
Another meal! Lamb and rice. Sick of Indian food already and I'm not even there yet.
I was drifting in and out of sleep when an announcement was made that the plane would be sprayed per Indian regulations, and contact lens wearers should shut their eyes. I heard spraying. What the hell was this all about?
We finally landed in Delhi at 7:30pm. The airport there looks a half-century newer than the one in Mumbai (although I think that one closed after I was there in 2001). The moving walkway is called the Travellator. The immigration room is clean and quick, unlike that crowded room in Bombay.
I took kind of a wild taxi ride to the hotel. I showed the driver the address and he didn't seem to know where it was, and I had no clue what he was saying to me. It might have been small talk, or asking me about the hotel, or pointing out sights. He tried calling the hotel for exact directions and there was no answer, but the Gap instructions said it's next to the Shadipur metro station, and as we drove under the station I saw the Shanti Palace sign across the street. The ride cost Rs 320 (1 US dollar = 44 rupees), and I gave him another 100 when he asked for a tip. I noticed that when I took out Rs 10,000 at the airport, the ATM gave me a 100 instead of a 500. It's one of those countries.
Arrived at the hotel 9:30pm. The Gap sheet at the desk said our group meeting was at 2pm tomorrow, which meant I had to cram any sightseeing into the morning, and also we were leaving for Jaipur Sunday at 5:15am, so I went to bed right away at 10pm.