I fell asleep as soon as I boarded my flight in Manila and awoke three hours later in a perfectly groggy post-nap state. It took me about three minutes to realize that we were not in the air. I double-checked my watch then looked out the window to confirm we were still on the ground. Ends up the flush lever on one of the toilets was broken and they were replacing the entire toilet on the tarmac. Thus began the biggest fiasco in the history of my personal travels.
I arrived in Hong Kong well after all flights to the U.S. and Europe departed so I was stuck for 24 hours. I was extraordinarily irritated and could not believe there was no option that didn’t leave me stranded for an entire day. I received a hotel voucher and hopped the shuttle to the Novotel. This is where things [temporarily] started to look up. The hotel was gorgeous. A glass wall separated the shower from the rest of the room allowing for sweeping city views from the bathtub.
The hotel is connected to a mall which is connected to the terminal for Ngong Ping 360, a cable car system between Tung Chung Town Centre and Lantau Island. Now realizing that I had been given a free 24 hour excursion in Hong Kong, I dropped my bags in the room, bought a ticket and hopped into a cable car. Dense fog obscured the mountain and sea views on the ascent, but I had a glass-bottom cable car to myself and the trip through the clouds was peaceful. The cool, humid air was welcome after being stuck in an airplane for nearly ten hours.
I disembarked and walked around Ngong Ping Village, then through the Po Lin Monastery. It was extraordinarily quiet, save for the occasionally moo of the resident cows. The fog lingered and I wandered about aimlessly for a couple of hours.
I took one of the last cable cars of the day back down and the fog cleared enough to see the Tian Tan Buddha Statue, the world’s largest tallest seated outdoor bronze Buddha.
I noticed a fellow passenger wearing a Garmin watch and then saw that she had on an Ironman t-shirt under her raincoat. When I asked her about the race she looked very surprised that I recognized the logo. We spent the next fifteen minutes trading race stories and discovered that we had both been at the Chicago Marathon last year. She gave me a few tips for running the New York City Marathon. She was from Mexico and was also traveling alone – backpacking through Asia at the end of a graduate school study abroad experience, an extended vacation before jumping into her next Ironman training cycle.
I wished her good luck at Ironman Cozumel then disembarked feeling restored and grateful to be stranded. As I walked back to the hotel I thought about the endurance sports community and how unique it is to feel instantly connected through sport – what a gift to be able to recognize a kindred spirit even while traveling all alone in a cable car in Hong Kong.