As I write this I’m on the Airport Express train from Hong Kong station to Chek Lap Kok airport. 0550 … first train of the day. Flying from Hong Kong to Clark in the Philippines on Cathay. Not a great fan of early morning flights but the that is the price one pays if wanting to stick with Cathay. And since I have just made Silver level with Marco Polo I am trying to do that. Airlines like Cathay treat their elite members well. Unlike American carriers. If you are flying out of Hong Kong Kong, being able to check your bag in at the Hong KOng train Station is a huge convenience. But check your airline. Not all airlines have counters there.
And I thought I would write about starting to travel again. After all, my goal is to become a digital nomad … in a limited way. I want to travel three to four times a year, generally staying three to four months in each place. I have been taking mini-trips starting last year in September as a way of preparing myself for this. Remembering how to travel, what to pack, what not to pack, techniques for booking tickets, etc.
I have been to Bangkok, Pattaya, and Hong Kong on this trip. Dodging around trying to avoid all the idiotic holidays. Easter in the Philippines, Rugby 7s in Hong Kong, and Songkran in Thailand.
Easter in the Philippines because I want to avoid the morons who think it is acceptable to whip themselves with metal flails in public. The Rugby 7s, for their part, attract the worst kind of drunken hooligans, none of whom who should be let out in public without adult minders. For God’s sake! It is just a sport! Why this seems to be a valid excuse for declining and falling all over Lan Kwai Fong, I just don’t know. Not to mention it makes a reasonably priced hotel room impossible to find in Hong Kong. And Songkran, which is an otherwise sane holiday that has been hijacked for the purposes of attracting farang so that money can be siphoned out of their pockets. I’m not a fan of being soaked and then having flour scattered all over me. Jackasses. I got sprayed with a high pressure hose one year while on the back of a motorcycle taxi. Almost went down. That was the last time for me.
On the other hand … I found it relaxing in Pattaya. When one isn’t indulging in Walking Street, it is a calm relaxing place, especially in the morning. I do find it amusing that when I walk to McDonald’s at 5 am to get my first cup of coffee, the hard core partiers from Walking Street are just dragging themselves back home after a night of drunken revelry. It makes me feel exceedingly virtuous.
Bangkok. A small world syndrome struck again. I saw a guy on the street I thought I knew, a retired FedEx pilot, in Pattaya. Thought, “No. Can’t be him.”. A few days later, in Bangkok, wandering at random, walked into the Times Square building on Suhkumvit, never been there before, saw a Starbucks, went in, and guess who greeted me. And yes, it actually had been him in Pattaya. Spent a very enjoyable hour or so, having coffee and chatting. As I had been having a bit of an anxiety attack that day, it was just what the doctor ordered. Why anxiety? How dare I be out enjoying myself and not working particularly hard? I should be working and stressed!! Yes, yes. Sounds silly putting it down in writing. Maybe that’s why I’m doing it. Perspective.
So out of Thailand on the eve of Songkran and back to Hong Kong, the Rugby 7s morons having vacated the island. I love Hong Kong. I have an E-Channel bar code on my passport, so it is so easy to get in and out. Public transport is awesome. I do find Hong Kong somewhat exhausting though. I seem to walk a lot. Because I take the MTR everywhere I guess. I did, as I was walking through some of the upper end malls(all so beautifully done), marvel to myself at the staggering level of blatant consumerism one finds in Hong Kong. How can all this stuff actually be bought? As an increasingly enthusiastic minimalist, I find myself stunned at the amount of absolutely useless stuff available for purchase. That said, I did do my periodic upgrade of my laptop. But that is a tool, not a luxury. But I remember thinking the same thing about consumerism as I was wandering through the computer shops on Hennessy Road. What an incredible amount of stuff. And the packaging. I had to get some things for a friend in the Philippines. By the time I unpacked everything to fit in my suitcase, I had an entire bag of debris for throwing away.
This trip taught me a lot about traveling again. I’m trying to re-learn the discipline of my daily routine when I travel. Working out, meditation, writing, and what I eat. The eat part is the hardest. I go these hotel breakfast buffets and I feel that if I don’t eat (over eat) then somehow, I haven’t gotten my money’s worth. And I like going to the hotel restaurant in the morning. I’m a loner, but I like being around people, watching them, working on my laptop, checking my email, etc. I always feel overly reclusive when I’m holed up in my room working on my laptop. But, I need to see if I can be in a public place and enjoy the world without having to stuff my face with pastries 😊.
And packing. I’m no fan of trying to live as light as possible out of one carry-on bag. I like my comforts, and more importantly I’m obsessively clean, so I like to have a lot of changes of clothes. Since the triumph of terrorism over common sense, I’ve resigned myself to always have a check-in bag (because of carrying liquid personal care products that are over 100ml), and I couple that with never being in a hurry to get somewhere. But frequent traveling has enabled me to bring precious little stuff that I don’t actually use. Practice, as they say, makes perfect. Laundry is another issue. I’m not poor, but I just hate paying hotel rates for laundry. In Thailand, finding reasonably priced laundries is easy. Hong Kong – you need to hunt. There are quite a few around the HKU MTR station. Singapore – I need to check that out the next time I’m there. But for what many hotels charge for laundry, you could just buy new clothes.
But for efficiency in packing I can only say “packing cubes”. I discovered them last year and I love them. I have gone a step further and made some laminated labels that I zip tied to each packing cube. That way, when time comes to pack, I know exactly what goes into each cube. It might sound OCD, but I have different sizes of packing cubes and I found myself not remembering what I put into which cube. The last time I packed (for this trip), it took me 15 minutes. And that was a large bag plus a roll on and a laptop bag.
Another thing I would note. Loyalty programs, at least with Cathay Pacific, Marriott, and Starwood, seem to be worthwhile. The Marco Polo program offers you some genuine perks even as a basic level member. And once you hit Silver, I was surprised to be offered lounge access on a flight where I had bought an economy ticket. With Starwood, I saw some excellent rates on line if you were a Starwood’s member. And they are linked to Marriott. Also, at least with Marriott and SPG, they offer you free Wi-Fi access if you are a member.
And, finally home to the Philippines. Well I am fond of my house there. Well rooms actually. I share a house with a good friend. But it is good to be back. To the house at least. But home for me is my friends. And I find that I can be in contact with them anywhere. But still it is nice to have a base where one can regroup and recharge. My ultimate goal though is to be able to have the comfort feeling almost anywhere I settle.