Tuesday, October 4, 2022

The Journal of Steffanie Rivers: The Day I Almost Went To China Accidentally!

Hong Kong - Disneyland

*If you’ve ever been to Disneyland or Disney World in the United States or abroad you know anything associated with Mickey Mouse – from the entry fee to the parks, the cruise ships, the resorts, all the way to the souvenirs – is expensive! Disneyland Hong Kong is no different: It’s located in one of the most expensive parts of that city.

The landscape around Disneyland Hong Kong offers a picturesque view of a beachfront, the mountains and lots of eateries and shopping. It’s where most tourists stay when they come to Disneyland Hong Kong. I found myself staying at the Auberge Discovery Bay Hotel near Disneyland during my recent visit to Hong Kong. The hotel was impressive. For $250 a night – the price I had to pay to be there – a great hotel with a picturesque view and great amenities is to be expected.

As nice as the hotel was it wasn’t my first choice! So just how did the cheap diva end up at a $250 a night hotel?

It started when I traveled to Bali, Indonesia on vacation. Even though I went alone I had a wonderful time and wrote about my ventures in last week’s column.

On my way back home from Indonesia, I planned to stop over in Hong Kong for one night so I could be in place for my connecting flight to Dallas Fort Worth the next day. I’m a flight attendant and one of the complaints I hear from passengers is how flight delays cause them to miss connecting flights and important engagements such as graduations, weddings and funerals; events you can’t do over. People have a habit of scheduling flights the same day as their events, which leaves them no room for errors. To try to avoid this, I decided to cut my vacation short by one day and fly into Hong Kong a day early so I would be only a local transportation ride away from the airport. I wanted to be on time for my flight and get back home as scheduled.

I pre-paid for a Hong Kong hotel on-line. My first choice was an $85 a night hotel in a cheaper part of Hong Kong. At least that’s where I thought the hotel was located.

Information for the hotel said it provided shuttle service to and from the airport, which is one of the criterion required when I book online in a strange place to keep me from having to worry about getting there and back to the airport.

Chinese-message
This is the message written in Chinese on my iPhone I used to tell the taxi driver where I wanted to go.

So I arrived at the Hong Kong airport ready to go to my pre-paid $85 a night hotel and I still had not been able to make contact with the hotel to secure my shuttle ride. After about 30 minutes of trying to email them using airport wi-fi I decided, to take an Uber. But Uber doesn’t operate in Hong Kong. So I did a money exchange and got about $100 in Hong Kong money, thinking that would be plenty of money for me to get to the hotel. I also had plenty of U.S. dollars and a credit card.

Geographically Hong Kong is set up much like New York City with its different boroughs connected by bridges and tunnels. When I left the airport in a taxi – with a driver who spoke no English and I, no Chinese – all I had to help translate was a message on my smart phone that said “Please drive me to Grand Skylight International Hotel,” written in Chinese.

What I didn’t know, and I assume the drivers couldn’t tell me since we didn’t speak the same language, was taxis are not allowed to cross the bridge into other territories. Passengers have to be dropped off at the end of a taxi’s territory where they are passed off to another taxi that takes you to the end of that territory and so on. It turns out I had to cross through two territories, over one bridge and through two tunnels at a cost of $500 Hong Kong dollars. I only had $100 Hong Kong dollars on me. My credit card was not accepted by the driver. Luckily he accepted U.S. dollars so I could pay my cab fare.

When I exited the cab I followed the crowd of people up the escalator to where I thought I was going to take another taxi to get to my hotel. When I asked the security guard (who spoke a little English) for directions, he told me I needed a travel visa to get to my hotel, because where I wanted to go was across the border in China. I had been dropped off at customs and immigration at the border between Hong Kong and China trying to get to my $85 a night hotel. When I didn’t have the correct paperwork and couldn’t fully explain myself, because I speak no Chinese, customs agents gave me the side eye, denied me entry and walked me back to the Hong Kong side of the customs facility. International incidents occur because of misunderstandings such as this!

With no Hong Kong dollars left in my pocket and a credit card deemed unacceptable for payment I got back into a taxi, confirmed that he would accept my U.S. dollars and headed back towards the Hong Kong airport. Two territories, two tunnels and one bridge later I arrived at the airport. I used the wi-fi to find a hotel close to the airport, which apparently is on the expensive side of town. That’s how I ended up at the Auberg Discovery Bay Hotel for $250 a night.

After a good night’s sleep I recorded this video version of my written column, packed my bags and took the short bus ride back to the airport for duty-free shopping while I waited for my flight.

While I waited I used the wi-fi to file a complaint against the hotel in China for not providing the transportation they claimed in their advertisement, and to request a refund of my $85.

As an optimist I realize things could have gone real wrong that day. And I’m thankful for the lesson learned. I hope my experience helps you should you ever find yourself in Hong Kong looking for a hotel. Make sure you don’t have to cross the Chinese border to get there.

Steffanie Rivers
Steffanie Rivers

Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex. Email her at info@SteffanieRivers.com for questions, comments and speaking inquiries.

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