The day was finally here and my friend Michael and I were boarding our flight to Hong Kong, which would be followed by a flight to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Michael’s wife Linda drove us to the airport and said goodbye. We boarded a little after midnight and by 1:00 am we were in the air. We were flying economy, but were fortunate enough to get exit row seating. This made a huge difference as seats 59 A & C would be our homes for the next 15 hours and 27 minutes.
I am fascinated by the route we took. After wondering whether we would fly east or west, we flew almost due north! Just 2° east of North according to the screen at my seat. As soon as we crossed over the North Pole, that heading changed to 2 degrees west of South!
I’m so used to thinking of the world map in 2 dimensions that it never occurred to me we could go north to get there. The route took us over Ottawa Canada, part of Greenland, across the Arctic Ocean and into Russian airspace.
From there, going north to south now, we crossed Russia, Mongolia, and China! This just blows my mind!
But here’s the part that really blew my mind. When you go due north, the time zone doesn’t change, until you cross the North Pole. That was around 9am eastern time, but then it became 9pm Hong Kong time. It would remain night for the entire 15 hours!!!
If you consider we left just after midnight Tuesday, and landed at 4:30am Thursday morning, we missed all of Wednesday. Well, we didn’t miss it, but we were in the air for the entire thing, and it was in complete darkness for 15 hours!
The good news is that this made it easier to sleep. On a red-eye from CA to DC, or from DC to Europe, you’re lucky if you can get 4 hours of sleep. but on a 15 hour flight, you’ll get 8 hours over the course of the flight. Good thing too, because it’s morning when you arrive.
Not only were we pretty rested upon arrival, but the flight did not seem as long as you might expect. They served 2 meals and a snack, and you fall into this cycle of eat, watch a movie, sleep, rinse and repeat.
The Hong Kong airport is HUGE! There were signs for gates 501-530! At 4:30am, however, it’s a pretty sleepy place. We did find a 7-Eleven! More importantly, we found some authentic Hong Kong food that was open.
We feasted on noodles and dumplings. They were so good, and this was just the airport!
We will stop in Hong Kong for 2 days on the way home, but today we did not leave the airport.
We had a 4 hour layover before one more flight to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
After all that time in our seats we decided to get some steps in and walked the length of the terminal a few times. It was so cool to see signs in Chinese, the mountains outside (the sun was finally coming up!) and the many things that looked normal yet different at the same time.
We did make it to Vietnam, but I will save that for the next post!