We had a particularly fast flight to Sydney for reasons unknown but I hate those Dash-8 aircraft which Qantas Express use on that route, particularly their tiny overhead lockers. Still this flight was included in our Circle Pacific ticket at no extra cost and it would have been wasteful extravagance to fly with another airline under the circumstances. It rained all the way to Sydney and kept raining for the following 24 hours as well.
The Toyota Corolla we'd booked through Hertz had been upgraded to a brand new Camry at no extra charge which was pretty good value at $46 for a 24 hours rental, especially as this was subsequently reduced to $32 (long story). We quickly dumped our bags in the Mercure Airport Hotel and headed off to our favourite yum cha restaurant in Blakehurst. Now why would we eat there when we're going to Hong Kong next day....? Well because I really like yum cha and I can't get it where I live, is why. And I'm certainly not going to have a tantrum if forced.... to eat yum cha food two or three days running . After lunch we visited some of our family, returned to the hotel and turned in early. It had been a long and tiring day.
Next morning I'm again awake between three and four.... it's par for the course. I'm standing at the 6th Floor window in our darkened hotel room looking down on a wet car park and across to the adjacent airport runways. It's pitch black except for a few amber coloured lights here and there, the rain is literally pelting down and it's all quite depressing. We have a good friend who loves travelling more than anyone else we know. She's been heard to say, "when I die I wish to be cremated and have my ashes sprinkled on the tarmac at Sydney Airport". Well my dear, if we had sprinkled you today you would have turned to mud in 5 seconds flat and dribbled into Cooks River Creek with all the industrial effluent. Just thank your lucky stars !!
on to Honkers
Increasing numbers of major hotel chains (especially in Asia) now have an Executive Floor incorporating a "Club Room" and free perks such as gratis in-room internet access, all day espresso coffee, sandwiches and cakes, free drinks and substantial hors d'ouvres for 2-3 hours each evening. We also get complimentary breakfasts, free downtown shuttle and lots of other little personal service benefits. We only latched onto this kind of setup about a year ago and whereas it used to be a pretty expensive option, nowadays some hotels have started to offer executive floor rooms for very little extra cost due to low occupancy rates since the GFC started to really bite. Nowadays it's WELL worth the moderate extra cost just for the free breakfast, free evening drinks and the chance to have quite a decent gratis "dinner" of hors d'ouvres in the Club Room. It's quite easy for a couple to save well in excess of $150 per day on food and drinks alone and this makes it a bargain opportunity, even without all the other little services which come with the deal. To cut to the bottom line, that's why we didn't need to move more than a few steps from our room to finish our day off with drinks, snacks and a pretty fair type of a meal all at the hotel's expense. In fact it was so good that one female executive club "member" got totally sloshed, staggered across the Club Room for another free scotch or whatever, then stumbled and fell into the middle of the buffet table. Thankfully we'd already finished eating and hopefully that lady will be too embarrassed to turn up again tomorrow night. I wouldn't count on it though !!
Next day we decided to use our one and only opportunity to take the 75 minute free shuttle downtown into the centre of Kowloon. This journey was quite an eye opener. Hong Kong is now a mega-city of just over seven million people and still growing rapidly. It has wall to wall high rise apartment blocks as far as the eye can see. Talk about a rat's nest !! I've never considered an airport hotel as being a place of security and serenity but I can tell you that Lynn and I were well pleased to conclude our mini exploration of Hong Kong and return to our sanctuary beside the Hong Kong Airport runway !! However, thank goodness for the double (or was it triple) glazing they must have put into our hotel's windows.
Well this concludes our short visit to Honkers. We're flying to San Francisco tomorrow with Cathay Pacific Airlines. We'll meet you there. Look for an oversized guy with bloodshot eyes accompanied by a beautiful wife.
Sickness Enroute to SFO
Check-in time was 3.00pm in our hotel down at Fisherman's Wharf but by switching to a Twin Double room instead of a King room we were able to gain access by noon. A nice afternoon sleep on a good soft (non Asian) mattress was fairly restorative.... so much so that by 7pm we were ready to hit the street and find some dinner. We climbed back into bed again around 10.30pm and fell immediately asleep. Unfortunately I snapped wide awake at 2.15am. I spent the rest of the night fixing some problems on my laptop. I sure hope I can settle down my sleeping pattern soon.
Crab and More Crab
Next day we took one of those "get on and hop off" double decker bus tours that are available in every major city throughout the world. We think they provide a good two to three hour overview of a city. An ideal quick orientation for short term visitors and they provide a chance to later re-visit places of particular interest. Our tour covered a large portion of the city and also took us across the Golden Gate Bridge into Marin County and back again. Of course we were on the open top deck and I managed to get a really good dose of sunburn and wind burn. Bummer!
"meet" the President
The day had turned very warm and sunny but the tourist traffic was minimal in Sausalito. We strolled along the waterfront, had an inexpensive lunch in a Thai Restaurant, purchased ice cream cones and wandered back to the ferry wharf again. It was all quite pleasant for a couple of old fogies like us. We found a bench and watched the passing parade for an hour or so then joined a squillion cyclists boarding the ferry for the return journey to San Francisco. These men, women and children had rented bicycles at Fishermans Wharf, then ridden across the Golden Gate Bridge into Marin County then continued on down into Sausalito. After refreshment they then joined us on the 3.35pm ferry back to San Francisco. It looked like it was going to be totally chaotic but the ferry crew were past masters and organised everything quickly, smoothly and beautifully. We left the Sausalito jetty spot-on schedule.
to the Theatre
We were expecting some dramas when it came to picking up a Jeep for our seven week drive around the Rocky Mountains. We'd opted for a small independent one city outfit called Rugged Rentals even though this name has some negative overtones for an Australian ear. Still, it's going to save us almost $2,000 provided things work out as planned These fears were unfounded however. Our Jeep Grand Cherokee has only 11,000 miles on the odometer, it seems very well maintained and the counter staff didn't try any of the sneaky, value adding little tricks one frequently encounters with Hertz, Avis, Budget etc, especially in the USA.
It was time to hook up our (usually) trusty GPS navigator which took us unerringly to a tiny flat we'd rented in a moderately down market suburb in Salt Lake City. We then ran the gamut of a very complicated instructional document which the owner had emailed to us so we could get into "Fort Knox".... or so it seemed. Codes and special instructions to drive a vehicle into the property, codes to open a locked box and extract a key, instructions about how to mount a plastic dangler that would avoid having our card towed away... and so on. Anyhow this little condo is pretty much what we expected and it will do us fine. Of course we were a little surprised to discover that a freight rail line ran by a mere 80 metres from our condo and an elevated freeway was only 100 metres away in the same direction!! Fortunately only about 10 very long trains went by daily but each one blew six to eight long blasts on its horn as it approached a level crossing at the end of our road. Funny how none of that was mentioned in the property's website or in any of the guest testimonials either .