For my 35th birthday, I took a huge plunge and decided to go to Hong Kong. The many, many reasons that I’d never visited Asia are so many to list, and some so incredibly personal and/or totally off the wall that I won’t be detailing them here… or anywhere… likely ever, but it does also explain why, for the first time in a long time, there was no October 31st post.
But we’ll get to that in a later post.
I can be a nervous flyer, and this would be the longest flight I’d ever taken – alone or accompanied – and since I intended to fly alone, I researched for a while before settling on flying Cathay Pacific. I’d heard wonderful things about them, I managed to pay around $800 round trip for a nonstop flight, and I was good to go.
Well… maybe. Here’s a pic of me pre-takeoff, a little nervous and trying to look as anime-like as possible because Asians like that, right? How did I do?
The flight attendants had slight accents but were friendly and attentive. No attitude, just doing their job seemingly happily. I was unfortunately given the middle seat, which led to more anxiety, but it all worked out — I made sure to use the restroom every time the person on the aisle got up, so I wouldn’t feel so much like I was disturbing her.
The person in the window seat, though, never got up. Not once. I don’t know how she did it; someone later suggested that perhaps she was wearing an adult diaper. I mean, a 16 hour flight without using the bathroom once??
We were each given menus at the start of the flight to browse. I never found out what ‘assorted snacks’ were available though.
My first choice was chicken and mashed potatoes which was pretty satisfying. I thought the salmon and potato salad was a weird offering — but I ate it, because I’ve learned that unless I’ve packed snacks, I better eat what’s offered when it’s offered, or I might go very hungry… and on a 16 hour flight, I wasn’t risking turning HANGRY while in the middle seat. No…
It appears I didn’t take a picture of it, but they came around shortly after serving this to give us ice cream bars! I love when airlines do that. It’s like they know that just a small little treat can bring a smile to your face and make a potentially unpleasant situation (flying for 16 hours cramped between two people you don’t know!) into something marginally more tolerable.
I settled in to watch 3 movies and then took a nap.
I want to take a moment to share with everyone some solo-traveling etiquette/tips. My #1 personal rule is that if I cannot lift my carry-on bag over my shoulders to stow in the overhead bin, it is too heavy and I must pack lighter. Since I travel alone frequently (pretty much always), this is an absolute must. While it’s true that as a woman who is perceived to be attractive, if I were to struggle with my bag (and sometimes even when I’m not struggling), someone will almost always step in to offer to help, I don’t like people touching my stuff. Plus, you can’t rely on the variable of someone being around who will or can help. Learn to do it on your own, and you never have to worry about this!
Why do I bring this up? Yes, it’s important to be able to do things on your own – if you’re going to travel alone, you should truly be able to do those things alone, such as pull your bag off the carousel, put it in the overhead, and everything else – but something completely crazy happened while I was boarding this flight.
I was minding my own business, making my way down the aisle towards my seat, when the girl ahead of me stopped short. She was very short – 5’1 or 5’2. I’m 5’8. She turned around, narrowed her eyes at me, and stared at her bag, then lifted her gaze to the overhead bin. I simply stared back, uncertain what was going on or what she was doing. She repeated the gaze-motion – looking from her bag to the overhead bin – without saying a single word. I was getting impatient, still anxious about the impending 16 hour flight I was facing, and finally said, “do you want me to help you?” and she just looked back at me and let go of her bag.
I can’t tell you how annoyed I was at this moment. She couldn’t even bother to open her mouth and speak to me, but just try to command me with her eyes? If I hadn’t been impatient and anxious, I wouldn’t have grabbed her bag, hastily shoved it into the overhead, and started to walk past her. She looked satisfied, but I couldn’t help myself and said aggressively and not very nicely, “you’re welcome” as I huffed past her towards my seat farther back.
She barely reacted.
Please don’t try to defend her in any manner. If she didn’t speak English, or if she thought I didn’t speak English, she could have tried another language. She could have smiled. She could have done any number of things that she did not; she was simply an entitled princess who is used to people doing things for her and this instance was no different. She seemed probably surprised that it took me as long as it did to understand what she needed/wanted.
Not even a thank you.
I know, my participation in her madness just reinforced the idea that people will just help her wherever she goes, but I don’t have time to tell everyone who’s wrong in the world that they’re wrong.
By the way — funny story — in my Facebook feed a few months later, an acquaintance who is 4’11 posted how no one offered to help her as she struggled to get her bag into the overhead bin. Now, granted, she is very very short, but I wondered to myself if her bag was also too heavy for her to lift over her head. I didn’t ask because that seemed like picking a fight that I didn’t care to have.
And now back to your regularly scheduled programming…
My next meal choice was herbed orzo with pulled pork. You’re probably wondering why I chose the distinctly non-Asian meal choices on an Asian airline. Well, I was sitting pretty far back and I accurately guessed that those choices would disappear first, but also because I was about to spend 5 days in Hong Kong and eat nothing but Asian food. I had every intention of keeping my palate intact for it, too, so I figured I’d get my fill of “American” food while I could – plus, sometimes HK people make their version of “Western cuisine” and I adore it. It’s really strange but I’ve described it elsewhere on the site, so I’ll stop rambling. This was another solid meal choice – not amazing, but super satisfying and flavored nicely. Mixed together, the orzo sopped up the ‘pulled’ pork (it was more like minced, soft mush) juices and made for a nice bite. The apricot crumble was super moist, as airline desserts tend to be, and I felt sleepy enough after this for another nice, long nap, just to take me into HK airspace.
… and then back on an airplane! Yes, I’m posting about my travel before I post anything about the trip itself, because it felt more natural to do so. I switch it up sometimes! On my flight back, I took it to be a good sign that I was seated on the right side of the plane, directly behind a flight attendant galley such that my seat was almost ‘sticking out’ into the aisle. I mean, several people bumped me while planing. But that meant ALL OF THE LEG ROOM remember I said I was 5’8?? I was super happy – this might have been a result of checking in early and being super polite to the person assigning me my seat.
My happiness was short-lived as eventually, a couple seated themselves next to me… with a lap-baby. Do you know what a lap-baby is? It’s a child young enough that the airline doesn’t force you to buy a ticket, because the baby is going to sit in your lap the entire time.
For a 16 hour flight.
Luckily, I’d bought this adorable sleep mask in Macau and planned on using it to help me slumber through any crying. But I needn’t have worried because – shocker – the baby was totally fine the entire time!! I felt bad for the mom because she had to hold the baby and obviously be awake enough to hold onto her, but also because her husband was totally useless. To the tune of when the mom went to use the restroom, instead of holding the baby, the dad – who was sitting next to me – left the baby on the floor next to the window and stared down at it while the baby sort of sat there playing with something, garbage maybe? I don’t know. I was kind of horrified at just how sterotypically submissive the woman was to her lame husband who literally did not help at all and simply made things more difficult for the woman when she needed to eat, or feed the baby, or anything. Horrifying and another reminder why I’m single – I like things a little more equal, thanks…
Interestingly, this time we didn’t get menus so I can only guess as to the names of these dishes officially. This was a beef goulash type of dish, beef chunks with mashed potatoes that was fine, though definitely not as good as the previous meal. The little cup was almost like japchae (Korean glass noodles) but fairly bland. I ate just to eat, but was very eh on this meal.
We may have gotten ice cream, I don’t recall. Again, no picture.
Then, more because I could, and because without a menu I wasn’t sure if we’d be fed again, I asked for a Cup’o’Noodles a few hours later. I saw someone else ask for one and figured I’d give it a go – after 5 days in a totally foreign country, I wasn’t feeling too comfortable in any language but English so I didn’t ask what other snacks there were. The flight attendants seemed more tired on this flight.
This was a cup of instant noodles. Nothing special, but these will forever make me smile (though these were a bigger cup than I used to get) — my dad used to buy these by the case for me from Costco because I LOVED CUP’O’NOODLES. Literally the worst thing I could eat, but I adored them to no end.
Many many hours later, it turned out we would get fed again – though I think it was close to 11 pm in New York, that meant it was close to 11 am in Hong Kong, so we were fed breakfast. The choices were congee or “American breakfast” and as you can see, I opted for (or was given; they may have run out of congee) the American breakfast. Very sad sausages, a wobbly egg muffin, bacon, and potatoes. I ate every last bite (including the strangely over-sweet yogurt), but I could have lived without eating those things.
Funny enough, the food on my flights was way better on the way to a place filled with amazing, delicious, inexpensive food (which you’ll see), whereas the food on the way back was… well, highly mediocre. I don’t know why that was — given that we weren’t given menus on the return flight, I wonder if the flight had too quick of a turnaround and therefore was underequipped and staffed with over-tired attendants (who were still totally fine). I don’t know, I just know that I definitely enjoyed my flight going more than returning.
I will say this: the research paid off. I totally enjoyed my experience on Cathay Pacific overall and wouldn’t hesitate to fly them again. The fare was more than reasonable and the service was incredible, given all those factors… and the food was passing to pretty decent. If you find yourself faced with the choice, I would definitely recommend flying Cathay Pacific.
PS Apologies for the disjointed nature of this post; my dog was pestering me through the first half writing this, and then settled down for the latter half after I walked her. So there’s a distinct divide between when I was able to write as I thought vs. constantly stopping to tend to her. She’s recently decided she hates when I write… sigh.