Hong Kong: East Meets West
“Window or Aisle?” The Cathay Pacific ticket agent asked.
“Window.” I replied trying my best to appear stoic even though deep inside I wanted to vigorously jump up and down with joy. I took the boarding pass from her perfectly manicured hands and proceeded to the security line at the Tom Bradley International Terminal in LAX. It was late August of 2008 and I was about to set off on a peregrination to Hong Kong. The Captain got a job offer at Cathay Pacific Airways, one of the most prestigious airlines in the world, and being his significant other I was given the opportunity to accompany him to Hong Kong via standby on Cathay Pacific.
The Captain had already flown to Hong Kong two days prior and was undergoing the second round of the airline’s rigorous interview process along with a Boeing 747 simulator exam. It was his dream to get on with a prodigious airline like Cathay Pacific and seeing how much it meant to him I wanted to show my support by coming along. Under any other circumstances I would have immediately jumped at the chance to go to Hong Kong, a glamorous and bustling city that blends eastern and western influence, but due to my own academic endeavors I knew that by going I would be taking a tremendous gamble. Although the trip would only be for two full days there was always the predicament that I might not make it back to class on time for a major exam.
I have always been one to believe that the “safe” choice is often the most dangerous, so after weeks of careful consideration and weighing the pros and cons of my dilemma, I finally came to the conclusion that embarking on a journey to Hong Kong was the right thing to do. I boarded the Boeing 747 without regret.
Fourteen or fifteen hours later I landed at Hong Kong International Airport feeling exhausted and jubilant at the same time. From the very moment I woke up and stared out my window I became captivated with the city. The landscape was far more diverse and exotic than I imagined. Dense jungle foliage mingled with impossibly high skyscrapers to create a stunning contrast between city and nature. Islands seem to blend into the mist of Victoria Harbor as mountains pierced the Eastern sky.
I made my way through customs and met the Captain at International Arrivals where we took a bus to the airline’s headquarters. Cathay Pacific City not only serves as headquarters, but also has offices and several centers for crew processing, leisure, and flight training. Cathay Pacific City also has a five hundred room staff hotel where employees often stayed. After dropping me off at my hotel the Captain made his way back to the flight training center for his Boeing 747 flight simulation exam. I napped for an hour and when I woke up I got a phone call from Jeremy, one of the Captain’s expat friends who offered to show me around Hong Kong.
He took me to a nearby restaurant where we talked about what it was like at Cathay Pacific and how the airlines in Asia differed from the ones in the United States. Soon after we headed back to Cathay Pacific City to meet the Captain where he and I attended a brief meeting with one of the representatives of the airline. The Captain and I went into a conference room along with seven other candidates and their spouses, and were given pertinent information on the airline and living conditions in Hong Kong.
After the meeting we met with Jeremy again at Cathay Pacific City and took a bus to Hong Kong Island where we met up with Jeremy’s wife, Joanne. She was beautiful, intelligent, and stylish; and I took an immediate liking to her.
Hong Kong Island was a site to behold – it was like New York City but profoundly larger with a more exotic flair and brighter lights. We stopped by a sushi restaurant where we had dinner and engaged in small talk. Afterward we strolled the streets of the Central District and went to the International Finance Center (IFC) Mall where Joanne and I window shopped while the men walked hastily in front of us. The IFC is a prominent landmark in Hong Kong and its Tower 2 is considered to be the second tallest building in the city. In the movie Batman Begins you can see the Dark Knight leap from this skyscraper. Before heading back Joanne, Jeremy, The Captain and I went to ISOLA Bar and Grill, a stunning waterfront restaurant with dazzling views of Victoria Harbor and the towering skyscrapers of Kowloon, for appetizers and drinks.
The next day while The Captain continued with his exams, Joanne took me around town. We stopped by various shops around the city and got to know each other better. We had a lot in common – same taste in clothes, similar interests, etc. As I sat across from her at Starbucks, sipping my mocha frappe, I wondered why I couldn’t have girl friends like her back home. Joanne is like the Holly Golightly of Hong Kong; fashionable and classy. For those of you unfamiliar with Holly Golightly, she is a fictional character in the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s portrayed by Audrey Hepburn.
Adorned in an elegant teal dress, I accompanied the Captain to the airline’s cocktail party later that evening. We socialized with the Director of Flight Ops and other high ups who were curious to know more about our lives and whether or not we would live in Hong Kong. I enjoyed myself immensely and loved the diversity of the company. I met South Africans, Aussies, Brits, Chinese, as well as other Americans. When the cocktail party ended, the Captain and I made our way to Hong Kong Island to meet with our friends to have dinner at a Chinese restaurant. Then after traipsing around the busy streets we made our way to Victoria Peak, or ‘The Peak’ as the locals call it, a popular tourist attraction in the city. We rode a tram that carried us up an incredibly steep hill that made the buildings that we passed look like they were leaning.
Once we got to the very top we were treated to a spectacular 360 degree panoramic view of Hong Kong. Looking down from The Peak I was mesmerized by the view of the awe-inspiring skyline illuminated in it’s evening glory. I briefly imagined what it would be like to live in this vast city. It was the perfect way to spend our very last night in Hong Kong.
For those curious about whether or not the Captain got the career opportunity at Cathay Pacific, he did. But due to issues that are too complicated and personal to discuss he turned it down. We haven’t been to Hong Kong since but would love to return someday.