My first overseas travel

I’m a late bloomer. I spent all my life wishing for things to happen to me before realizing that things don’t happen to people; people happen to things. Nah, that’s a lesson I have yet to fully imbibe, but having heard of a seat sale with this budget airline started things up.

I was 35 years old, almost 36, in fact, and I hadn’t been anywhere. Not in my country, not outside my country. My days were spent daydreaming, and since the Internet came into my life, I had been its resident and it, my domicile. That day came when the cost of flying to Hong Kong and what I could charge on my credit card blended well together and before I knew it (actually, before my friend/travel companion knew it), I had printed my itinerary: 3 glorious days in a foreign land. My friend went along without much fight, even if she wasn’t consulted before the booking.

That trip taught me a lot about screw-ups and meeting people who are willing to help. A month before we were scheduled to board the plane, I received a call from HK. Apparently, I booked the hostel for the wrong dates — a month earlier. I had to pay one night’s worth for that mistake.

October 2008: I was fascinated with Hong Kong because it looked a lot like Manila, some parts of it, at least, but it also felt decidedly wealthier. I took a map, as well as other free materials, at the airport. Because I was anxious, I completely ignored the advice on which bus stop to alight at. And the map I got at the airport was not of any help because I made my friend walk to the opposite direction of where the building we were supposed to be in stood. (Oh, was that my fault, not the map’s?)

Oh wait, the map served its purpose. It (and the trolley bags we were pulling) broadcast to the entire Nathan Road that we were tourists. Fortunately, it caught the attention of one elderly Chinese-looking gentleman who spoke English. He offered his help and I said, “We’re looking for Chungking Mansion.” He smiled and pointed to the right direction. At that point, I had a really great feeling about the trip. I couldn’t say the same about the state of my feet.

That wasn’t the end of the almost-blunders. When we got to Chungking Mansion, a number of men tried to get us to book a room with them. A youngish Chinese-looking guy said, “Tom’s Guesthouse?” He made us queue up at the elevator. Thank heavens for the long line. Before it was our turn to board, I noticed that he had shoved us at the wrong door and I moved to the one which said that it was going up Tom’s floor. We boarded that elevator and a nice Indian or Middle Eastern guy (who got off at the same floor) pointed us to Tom’s.

I didn’t immediately realize the impact of this and initially chalked it up to an innocent mistake. Later, the Filipina caretaker of the guesthouse told us that Tom is an old guy and she didn’t know that there was anyone authorized to meet guests downstairs. She told us about the experience of other guests who were forced by burly men to stay at other guesthouses in the building. Were we lucky or what?

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Hong Kong Disneyland was the place to go at that time. My friend and I spent the day as big kids, marveling at the happiest place on earth in Hong Kong.

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There weren’t many other blunders, I’m happy to recall, and we ended that journey splurging on a 300-HKD airport breakfast that we wouldn’t have spent as much on at home.

What jet-setters we were, and it was only my first time on board a plane!

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