The Long Road To Mandalay (via Hong Kong) Part 1
The Travel & Arrival
Friday 23rd September
Derek and myself set off from Dundee on Friday morning and met colleagues at Glasgow Airport – a mixture of people from the Scottish Government, and other third sector support organisations.
Flight was on time and surprisingly roomy, with some spare seats, so chance to stretch out. Great on-board entertainment system, which included real time route map. An App showed compass bearing to Mecca to allow people to orientate themselves for Morning Prayers – I had never encountered this, but of course this was Emirates Airline. Map showed countries and cities that we were passing close to – including Ukraine and Aleppo – difficult to reconcile travelling in such comfortable conditions, whilst underneath people were enduring such horrors. Then watched a couple of films, including a very black comedy set during the recent war in Bosnia – really evoked memories of my time working there with Edinburgh Direct Aid.
Arrived in Abu Dhabi feeling ok, but 32deg at midnight. A bit surreal sitting in the terminal building at a Costa Café, under a real palm tree, with people from what seemed like every nation, rushing by.
People joined our group who had travelled from other starting points. A lively 3am discussion ensued as we waited at the departure gate, on the merits of an Asset Lock, and in general what makes a true social enterprise – as ever no consensus.
Next flight was on a double decker Airbus – we were in ‘steerage’ class of course, whilst VIPs enjoyed their upstairs luxuries – still felt pretty good to me. Feeling a bit sleepy, but watched the Revenant, which told the tale of a trapper’s fight for survival in the bleak Canadian winter – unrelenting from the very start, with dangers from wild grizzlies, native warriors, and just about everyone and everything seemed to be out to kill poor Leonardo.
Saturday 24th September
Woken with a dig in the ribs from Derek, saying breakfast was coming – felt completely disorientated with sun streaming in the aircraft window and being presented with rice porridge, topped off with spring onion and prawns – unusually for me I couldn’t even face it.
Started our descent into Hong Kong (some 19 hrs after setting off from Glasgow) and immediately could see the airport, which had been built on ground snatched from the ocean – probably better however than landing the old airport, which was situated right in the centre of the city and where people recount tales of virtually being able to reach out and grab roof top washing lines.
As I passed through the customs area I was scanned by a person looking for people who might be showing signs of the Zika virus – I must have been looking rough. Bus into the centre of Hong Kong and a great commentary from our guide, who updated us on the building works that seemed to be happening everywhere. He pointed out the new station building that was nearing completion, which would mark the end of the line from Beijing to Hong Kong – it would transform a journey that currently took 2 days, to one where you could breakfast in one city and dine that same evening in the other.
We had a brief time to freshen up in our rooms and then met with our tour organisers, Gerry and Johnnie from Community Enterprise in Scotland. There was a really eclectic mix of people in our tour party, with some of the most eminent people in the field of social enterprise, from Scotland, England, USA, Italy, Canada, New Zealand and Australia – not for the first time I wondered if I was out of my depth. We were then joined by my colleague Raymond, who by a very happy coincidence was visiting family in Hong Kong. Raymond took us out into the bustling evening streets and we found a restaurant, which offered a range of western foods and some that I’m not quite sure what it was – I did however recognise a picture on the menu of a whole pigeon (including its head and feet) – passed up on that one.
Raymond took us on a brief tour and we promptly got lost – understandable really, as since the last time Raymond had visited HK several years earlier, more of the Bay had been reclaimed and the city had advanced by a number of blocks. We eventually found the waterfront area and looked across the bay to HK Island, which was quite simply the most stunning city scape I had ever witnessed. Everyone looked shattered and so reluctantly we bade Raymond good night.
Till the next blog!
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