I’m flying solo to Turkey this Chinese New Year to meet far-flung friends. My husband and children will be home in Hong Kong wearing pajamas all day and perhaps watching the CCTV Chinese New Year Gala on TV (will Celine Dion try to sing in Mandarin again?). Or maybe they’ll be packed in by the heaving crowds at Hong Kong Disneyland. Either way, I’ll be in Istanbul eating delicious meat on sticks and drinking Efes.
The complication is booking the flights. Plenty of Hong Kong-based people have already snatched up the best tickets to Istanbul (if such a thing ever existed). I’m left sorting through random, odd, leftover flights.
Weighing my poor options reminds me of the British children’s book Would You Rather…? by John Birmingham. A sample page from the book goes something like this:
“Would you rather be crushed by a snake, eaten by a crocodile or sat on by a rhinoceros?”
So I ask, if you were flying from Hong Kong to Istanbul, would you rather …
1. Spend the night in a soulless airport hotel in Dubai (Emirates)? I’d arrive in the late evening, fly out in the morning and have thirteen hours in an airport hotel. Do Dubai hotel minibars stock wine?
2. Puddle jump across China (China Southern)? Covering the Silk Road by air! Hong Kong to Beijing to Urumqi to Istanbul. What a journey! The romantic in me says, “yes!” But can a foreign passport holder swing the just-over-one-hour transfer times? Also, a warning:
“For those in transit note that the [Urumqi] airport closes after the arrival of late flights and one is not permitted to remain inside the building overnight.” (via Wikitravel here)
Miss one critical connection and I could be shoved out of the Urumqi Airport at midnight, mid-winter.
3. Go Snowden spotting in Moscow (Aeroflot)? Aeroflot has me wondering. The just over one hour transfer window in Moscow has me sweating. If I miss that connection (seems likely) how long will I sleep in the airport?
4. Fly on the wrong days via Amsterdam (KLM)? The timing of this itinerary is poor, but the connection is better. Plus, a visit to well-designed “Schiphol” (“ship’s graveyard,” what a cheery airport name!) is always attractive. Does the Dutch cheese shop that looks like a wheel of Edam still exist? On the other hand, do I need to have my shortness emphasized by close proximity to swarms of KLM flight attendants?
A possible 5th option is to fly from Guangzhou (rather than Hong Kong) through Moscow (Aeroflot). The price is right and the transfer time is long enough to comfort my over-worried mind. This option does, however, involve a pre-departure border-crossing. As a solo traveler, I might be game if I can figure out a reasonably smooth way to get from Hong Kong to the Guangzhou Airport without smelling like a combination of sweat and stale ashtray before even boarding the first flight.
So, what would you do?