Ah, the thrill of being on the move again. The time for my visa is up, and as a solution I decided to get out of the country – so I can enter it again. The destination I chose was none other than Hong Kong. So yesterday I hopped on the taxi in Baner and set forth towards Mumbai.
Gradually, as we approached Mumbai, the Pune highlands morphed into the flat lowlands of the west coast. Dark silhouettes receded into urban skylines, and three hours later I stepped into the brand new T2 terminal of the Mumbai international airport. After taking in the vast inner space and the intricate shamiana patterns in the ceiling, I proceeded to the baggage drop and immigrations. For the last time I flashed my employment visa and exited the borders of India.
The flight was a red-eye, in other words a night flight, with departure at 1:30 and arrival at 9:00 local time. With a flight time of a mere five hours, the chance of getting anything resembling a good night’s sleep was next to nil. As always, I had a window seat. Because I like to look out of the window. If I can’t get one at the online checkin, I give my most charming smile at the airport checkin and ask if there is one available. Everyone are not aware of these options, including the young indian man who sat next to me on the flight. Every now and then he would lean over, a bit too far into my space, to glance out the window or to take photos. That, or he was trying to make advances. And every now and then I would respond to his approaches by looking at him with my most sincere “can I help you with something?” face. He calmed down a bit, but I’m not sure he got the hint.
Clearly he would have appreciated a window seat more than the middle one he had.
Sunrise over the Chinese mainland below was beautiful: long mountain ranges protruding from a cover of clouds, casting vast shadows underneath the rapidly heartening gradient horizon. Quickly the light became blinding and we had to close the curtains, which gave me some breathing room from my cuddly neighbour.
Not long after that we descended through the strata and landed in Hong Kong international. Since the clock was only 10 and check-in was in four hours, I was in no particular hurry to exit the airport. I had a latte and took in the scene. That’s when it became clear to me: I was not in Kansas anymore. Or, to expand the Wizard of Oz -metaphor: I had come back from Oz. It all felt so.. functional somehow. Subtle things that made more sense. Didn’t cause confusion like their counterparts in India would. Clear signage. People were queueing properly. No need for second-guessing if a train would be on time or not.
So I bought an MTR ticket and took the train via Tsing Yi and Kowloon to Hong Kong island. From the central station, instead of hopping on a local train or bus, I decided to get to know the surroundings a bit better by walking to the hotel.
And it was very different: the developing landscapes of Pune had been replaced with this modern, multi-layered, towering metropolis of glass and neon lights.
A thought struck me: in terms of solitariness, this is as far as I’ve ever been from everyone I know. Closest friends are 4200 km away, in Pune. Distance to family and friends in Finland is 7800 km. It doesn’t have to have any greater meaning, but it is a healthy reminder that I’m here, in fact, very much alone.
So where to from here? I don’t know. But it sure looks good.