As the turmoil in Hong Kong shows no signs of resolving, it’s so hard to think of what will happen to my favorite city. I’m aware that Hong Kong’s heyday may have passed long ago, but it’s still an important city in Asia and in the world. It’s difficult to think about Hong Kong not playing these key roles, and one is as an airline hub in Asia. There are few places in East Asia that people can reach directly from the North America, South America, Europe, the Middle East, Australia, and Africa. I’m not even sure if Tokyo and Seoul are as central as Hong Kong.
I certainly took advantage of Hong Kong’s position as a hub when I was in college. I spent my life savings at 17 when I went to China for the first time. From that time until I was 20, I babysat more, worked at my college’s post office, and tutored English in Hong Kong. With that cash, I traveled halfway around the world when I was 20. And I was able to do this because of Hong Kong.
First off was Japan. I flew Alitalia from Kai Tak to Narita in the winter.
I flew from Hong Kong to Nanjing on Dragon Air over Chinese New Year. (I didn’t use Hong Kong as a base to fly into China most of the times I traveled to the mainland in the mid-90s. I flew in and out of Shenzhen after deregulation, but that wasn’t my choice!) This is the real China.
I left Hong Kong–temporarily–in May that year and flew off to Jakarta, where I eventually went on to Bali. I can’t remember which airline I flew to Jakarta, but within the country I flew Garuda.
After Indonesia, I flew to Malaysia (Malaysia Air), Vietnam (Vietnam Airlines), Cambodia (Royal Air Cambodge), and Thailand (Thai Airways). I flew back to Hong Kong before going on to China (Dragon Air again). It’s so much easier to fly to China from Southeast Asia now, but things weren’t that easy in the early 90s.
On to China, where I spent a couple weeks in Shanghai and Beijing (some domestic airline from Shanghai to Beijing, but I can’t remember which).
Also thanks to Hong Kong, I was able to buy tickets on the Trans-Siberian, so I boarded that from Beijing.
And from Moscow, I went on to Budapest and Prague. This was way before the Internet was a thing for the average person, so I was able make most of these plans in Hong Kong. I ad-libbed the rest along the way.
Hong Kong might not be the travel hub that it once was, but it’s still easy to go from there to most places in the world.
To prove this, on my most recent flight to Hong Kong this May, I didn’t even fly over the Pacific from Chicago (Cathay Pacific).