Tuesday, 7 February 2017

HKG to SEA. (or Sleepy in Seattle but getting CLOSER )

Do I want to return to snow-covered and paranoid North America, where everybody seems to be afraid of their own shadow now?  Certainly NOT.  The whole idea is repulsive to my most inner core. 

I could hang out in Hong Kong forever.   But Grandma is waiting for me and she needs me, even though she told me this morning to use the 4 week waiting period for a visa to travel around here (I kid you not).  So I'm trying to fly to Seattle today.  Maybe they will let me board the plane this time?. 

We'll see, LOL.

When I walk to 7/11 (they seem to have one every 50 meters here !) at 8 am, I notice that it's cold in Hong Kong. Something like 16 degrees and windy.  People are wearing down jackets !

The public transit ride to the airport is a breeze as usual (no squeaking wheels as in the Vancouver Canada Line trains, LOL)

The Asian man at the Delta check-in counter repeatedly mentions 'but the condition' of your passport in a tone that suggests I had put a scratch on the face of the Mona Lisa.  He even goes to check with his supervisor whether he should let me on the plane with such an over-used passport, but in the end he gives me a boarding pass for the flight to Seattle.

YIPPPEEEE (Well, not REALLY, but you know what I mean)

Boarding is at 11:40 am. No lineups !   But there is a secondary security check in the tunnel leading from the gate to the plane.  Take off you shoes. Let me swipe your palms and your belt with that swiping pad. Aha. I had already thought that standard Hong Kong security had been surprisingly lax for a US flight.

I have an aisle seat and am asleep before the plane even takes off and wake up just briefly for take-off.  I'm flying to the US but I can't fly to Canada.  Go Figure !

I'm surprised again when I realize that I really LIKE Delta Airlines.  I've already had that feeling on the flight to Los Angeles, but now it is confirmed.  I don't feel like CATTLE when flying with them.  Must make mental note !

The plane leaves Hong Kong at 12 noon on Tuesday, February 7, and lands in Seattle at 8 am on Tuesday, February 7.  Gotta LOVE that date line ;-)

Go left, lose a day. Go right, gain a day

8:15 am, Seattle.

Time for the HUGE surprise.

I'm expecting a young, testosterone-inflated immigration officer to give me a grumpy look and complain about the state of my passport and then ask me all those questions I always get in Canada: Which countries have you visited? Where you travelling alone? Why? Do you have a girlfriend in Cambodia? So why do you keep going back there?

Given the circumstances, I had planned NOT to give the answer "Because they don't ask stupid questions" this time ;-)


Together with US and Canadian citizens I am directed to the AUTOMATIC MACHINE passport check, just because I have entered the US with an ESTA before.  WTF?  That reminds me of England, where the Canadian citizen Zulema was questioned by a human immigration officer, but this German citizen was allowed in by a computer-operated gate after only placing my passport on a scanning surface.  

Rest assured: Some high-ranking bureaucrats earn LOTS of your tax money to come up with those moronic rules and guidelines ;-)

After the machine scan, there is a human immigration officer after all.  But quelle surprise

Where are you going?
I'm taking the train to Canada tomorrow.
Do you have any food with you?
Think ... NO
Well, you better get food for that train ride tomorrow.

THAT'S IT !!!!  NO BS whatsoever ! No secret codes on some stupid Do-not-fold-card for the customs people.   I'm IN.  I can't believe it !

Compared to Canada, the USA really does appear like the land of the FREE !

Time to remember where this all started:   Canada would have let this Landed Immigrant, who has been a Permanent Resident of Canada for 30 fucking years now, wait FOUR WEEKS in Hong Kong for them to GLACIALLY process some bullshit application to re-enter the country where I have property and relatives.

Already during my first post-flight cigarette, I realize how cold it is. I'm still wearing shorts and there is white stuff on the ground !

Mount Something (Baker or Rainier?) in the background
The view from SODO (South Of DOwntown?)
I take the LINK light rail to downtown Seattle.  After a quick coffee shop pee and admiring the similarity to Vancouver's DTES skid row visible around Pioneer Square, I take the bus to my hotel, aptly named Kings Inn, LOL.

I had petitioned for early check-in when booking and the grumpy manager gives me my room at 10 am.  It's freezing in the room.  I turn the A/C to heat mode and hop into bed to stay warm.  

The room ain't any warmer at 4 pm when I wake up.  Oh, how I miss Cambodia !  In addition to no functional heating, my room (US$ 93/night) doesn't have a coffee maker, and there is no freshly brewed pot waiting in the reception area either, so I head to Top Pot Donut shop next door, which supplies me with the much needed caffeine for my afternoon wake-up.  Friendly and comparatively inexpensive place !

Buying an Amtrak train ticket to Vancouver's Central Station for US$ 42 is probably a waste, because I'm 75% certain that I will be hauled off the train at the border for questioning.   Now what period in history does that remind me of again?

The donuts from Top Pot aren't overwhelming good or long-lasting, so after a shower in the STILL FRIGID bathroom, I decide that it's time for some REAL food (TM) at Tanaka San around the corner.  The place has a $-rating of $$ out of $$$$ on TripAdvisor. 

And the hostess warned me before that there would be a 20% service charge included in the tip but I still have to use my cell phone flashlight to make sure that the price for my small size dish of salmon with rice and two glasses of rose is REALLY US$ 53.  It is.  That's CAD$ 70 !  I think this might have been the most expensive solo dinner or lunch I've ever had.  Too bad it was far from the BEST ;-)

OMG, Seattle seems to show where Vancouver is heading. NO SMOKING in my hotel, on the balconies, in the parking lot, or even on the sidewalk all along the motel property !  Wow.   

NO idea what these Sri Lankans (?) are saying. But they are
talking about SALT
My dinner could REALLY handle a dose of SALT, but there is not even a salt shaker on the table, and I'm actually afraid to ask for one, out of fear someone might think I'm a SUICIDE SALTER !  After all, there is only a TINY step between not caring for your health and becoming a suicide bomber, eh? 

Actually, I shall refrain from making fun of Americans, because America has been GOOD to me on this trip, something I had NOT expected in my wildest dreams.   But then, DUMP was apparently elected by people in the so-called fly-over states, NOT by people on the coasts, and that is noticeable.  Mental Note: KEEP flying OVER those states in question.

So I've made it to Seattle.  Tomorrow morning I will take the train from Seattle to Vancouver, being prepared to be forced to leave the train for questioning.  But maybe CBSA will surprise me?

Oh, right, guess where the train leaves from:   King Street Station, LOL.

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