Travel Story 

Loving long layovers

Making the most of eight hours in the Hong Kong airport

By K-L Grant

When confronted with a lengthy layover most folks head for the departure gate and hunker down with a good book or magazine. But take this approach and your memory of an airport will be of Stephan King’s latest ripper, or John Grisham’s latest thriller. A recent trip from Vancouver to Auckland was the perfect opportunity try a different approach.

As we began our descent into smog-covered Hong Kong and its miraculous island airport, I contemplated creative ways to assault my impending eight-hour layover. Time was my enemy, so I planned to seduce it, lull it and love it until it became my friend.

While other passengers raced to retrieve their baggage from overhead bins, banging elbows and bruising egos, I stretched languidly in my seat, my patience rewarded when an American gentleman voluntarily rescued my two bags for me.

I sipped water while others crammed like cattle awaiting slaughtering in the aisles, frantically going nowhere. When the doors opened, and the airplane cleared, I exited refreshed, stretched and calm. But most importantly, my eight-hour layover had already shrunk into the seven-hour mark.

My first stop after disembarking is always the washroom – a wonderful place to spend as much time as you dare. My post-flight routine invites strange looks from other passengers, but obliterates minutes as I meticulously wash my forearms, neck, face, hands and teeth. Sometimes, when there is enough bench space and no one else is waiting for a basin, I even crack open the face cream and spritz my hair with leave-in conditioner.

Landing in a new airport is disorientating, and as this was my first time in Hong Kong I was paranoid of being that tourist standing in the middle of the walkway clutching my passport and boarding pass looking up and around for non-existent signs.

Instead, I found a scenic seat beside a window, a plant and a water fountain. There was plenty of time to find my departure gate. By sitting and people watching, when I stood up to go in search of food, I was no longer a disorientated tourist but a seasoned traveller walking with purpose.

Casually strolling past the shiny, happy airport stores promising wealth and status if only you’d buy their over-priced silk ties, blemish-zapping wrinkle cream, or diamond-encrusted watches, I marveled at all the goods a writer’s budget excludes. Any money I have to spend in an airport goes on one thing and one thing only, food. My disbelief at seeing a hot tuna sandwich advertised for $20 was quickly tempered by the realization there are six Hong Kong dollars for every Canadian dollar – I won’t starve to death in the next six hours.

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