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Travels in Cathay: A Trip to Hong Kong
After a whirlwind trip to Hong Kong, the fabled outpost to China, under the luxurious care of the Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific, Ashok Gupta writes about his experience.
(Above): A spellbinding night view of the Hong Kong waterfront from Kowloon. [Hong Kong Tourism Board photo]
It is probably true that we all live in a “time-famine” age. We all have twenty four hours in a day and still we wish for more time to deal with our hectic lifestyle. This “time famine” was a huge issue during my shortest ever journey to India. There is so much to learn from a land that has given this world the likes of master mathematician Aryabhatt, aviation technology pioneer Acharya Bharadwaj, Acharya Patanjali who is considered as the father of yoga, to name a few.
My trip continued to Hong Kong, part of a land of many dynasties and regimes such as the Qin (221 – 206 B.C.), Han (206 B.C. – A.D. 220), Ming (1368 to 1644) dynasties; the land that survived a Mongol invasion in 1276, the British in 1841; was occupied by Japan from 25 December 1941 to 15 August 1945; and the modern Hong Kong under British rule of 1950s-1997. Hong Kong was handed over to China in 1997.
With the signature Cathay hospitality on board flight to Hong Kong from Delhi we were greeted with the same smile, the welcome champagne, delicious gourmet food and the works.
(Above): The opulent lobby at The Langham, Hong Kong. [The Langham Hotel photo]
After a relaxing flight to Hong Kong, we arrived at The Langham Hotel that has just completed the first phase of its $22 million renovation project. About 150 guest rooms have been converted into Grand Rooms. Winny Mui, director of marketing communications, said, “The Langham, Hong Kong, is an elegant European-style sanctuary with a contemporary twist and boasts of being one in the world’s top 500 hotels.”
One step into the room and my first impression was – Wow! It is hard not to appreciate the minds that had created such a masterpiece of comfort and luxury.
(Above): The grand rooms (top) where we were housed, and the lavish bath (bottom), are designed with great care for the needs and comfort of traveling guests at The Langham, Hong Kong. [The Langham Hotel photo]
The Hong Kong Tourism Board arranged for a day’s tour to Asia’s world city where the East meets the West with an exhilarating experience of shopping and dining matched by spectacular harbor vistas and rural splendor.
The day started with a visit to Repulse Bay, the crescent-shaped strand of sand at the most beautiful beach in Hong Kong. Adjacent to the beach is an ornate Chinese pavilion with two 10-meter-tall statues of traditional Chinese deities Kwun Yum and Tina Hau.
(Above): Sai Kung, known as Hong Kong’s “back garden,” is located on the eastern side of Hong Kong. Warm inviting beaches, clear waters and tantalizing sea breezes beckon. [Hong Kong Tourism Board photo]
Our next stop was at the Stanley, the world famous market known for its relaxed ambience, sea environs and bargain buys in the Main Street Market. We were then driven to the Mid-Level Escalators, the world’s longest (approx 1 mile) covered escalator to experience the cosmopolitan atmosphere of Central and SoHo area. The Hollywood Road, where shops and stalls sell antiques and handicrafts — from dinosaur eggs to Han décor, also boasts of a 100-year-old banyan tree having its roots above ground.
The Victoria Peak, with a Peak Tram ride and visit to Antique Peak Tram Visitor Service Center was not complete without the breathtaking panoramic harbor view at The Peak, if you are lucky enough to get the clouds out of your way. The unforgettable dim-sum lunch at the Tien Yi Chinese Restaurant at The Peak was a great experience. The rest of the evening was spent at the shopping hub where the East meets West.
(Above): (Clockwise from top): Chocolate is a popular ingredient for desserts, and Langham’s Chocolate Bar at Palm Court exquisite creations raise it to an art form [The Langham Hotel photo]; T’ang Court, the celebrated Cantonese restaurant at The Langham, has created a special eight-course Nourishing Skin Menu, that is perfect for people who are seeking healthy diet options or menus that revitalize skin complexion [The Langham Hotel photo]; and this huge banyan tree is hundreds of years old and above ground roots. [Siliconeer photo]
We had an elegant dinner sponsored by The Langham. A tour of the hotel, the rooms, its prized restaurants and other facilities ended with a sea-food dinner at The Bostonian Restaurant.
With a whirlwind tour of Hong Kong tour and a befitting dinner, we were glad to return to our rooms and turn in for the night. The following day had a few surprises of its own.
On the last day of our trip we visited the Cathay City that houses Cathay Pacific headquarters for worldwide bookings and flight training.
At the entrance there is a propeller driven plane, one of the historical models Cathay used in the early years. This place would have been a perfect spot for my grandchildren. With all the airplanes, old and new, and areas developed as dummy airplanes, kids will love it just as we did.
Gallery One starts with the check-in counters as were used in the 1960s when commercial air travel was an upcoming young industry. Gallery Two is the takeoff stage. This was one of the historical displays of the events that became the foundation for Cathay Pacific, when with a crate of Johnnie Walker, Roy Farrell managed to secure an old DC 3 from the army to start an import-export company out of Shanghai. It also displays the items that used to be shipped —high society clothes, toothbrushes, lipsticks, combs, oysters, chicks, fish, and even gold.
(Above): (Clockwise from top left): Air turbulence simulators are used to train cabin staff to deal with bad weather and ensure safety of passengers; an old propeller driven Cathay Pacific airplane inside the Cathay City, and Cabin Crew Training School at the Cathay City displays some of the products commonly used in old days. [Siliconeer photos]
Gallery Three has been christened Ascent and houses the extensive journal about the travels by Jock of Butterfield and Swire, the then owner of Cathay Pacific. Gallery Four says that by the late ’40s Cathay has reached a comfortable cruising altitude. This is the place where the Cathay Pacific does its in-flight service and flight planning activities. This is the time when the Cabin Crew Training School was established. Here we could peek back into time by listening to some of the personal stories of the old time stewardesses and look at some of the products commonly used back then.
We toured the airline planning department that takes care of overall network development and the daily scheduling of flights. Amongst tires, engines and wings under repair in a virtual hanger, we got a glimpse of behind-the-scenes happenings in engineering. The integrated operations center monitors flights worldwide. Here one can experience for himself the factors involved in “loading” a plane.
The most interesting part of the tour was a DC3 flight simulator. Gallery Seven houses the turbulence training and flight stimulators that work on high velocity vibrators that allows one to experience the virtual turbulence due to typhoons, clouds and other adverse weather conditions that leaves the passengers to scary ups and downs and turmoil in actual flights.
(Above): The team of journalists who took a trip to India and Hong Kong sponsored by Cathay Pacific (from l to r): Chris Nelson (IndUS Business Journal), Deepak Srivastava (Nirvana), Ashok Gupta (Siliconeer), Nany Tao (Cathay Pacific) and Lakshmi Baweja (India Waves) with the flight instructor at Cathay City, Hong Kong Airport. [Siliconeer photo]
This brings an end to the exciting story of the CathayXperience, that we five journalists enjoyed with our hostess Nancy Tao. Cathay Pacific made a commitment to Hong Kong as a hub and community by investing in the new Hong Kong International Airport. Our flight takes off for San Francisco.
On reflection, the trip packed an enormous amount of traveling. Nevertheless, thanks to the impeccable hospitality of our hosts, it was at the same time a pleasant and memorable glimpse into luxury travel in today’s globalized world.
Interested readers can get more information on Cathay Pacific Airways by visiting www.cathaypacific.com. Readers can also get more information on The Langham Hong Kong hotel by visiting http://hongkong.langhamhotels.com/.
Ashok Gupta is the president of Siliconeer. He lives in Fremont, Calif.