In November of 2015; I made a “weekend” trip to Hong Kong – spending slightly over 48 hours on the ground there. An absurdly short amount of time, for sure, given that each leg of the trip involves 15 hours of flying and a 4 hour layover in fairly spartan section of Beijing Capital International Airport. I’d like to take this opportunity to share with some of you my travel experiences.
As we have now revealed, dealing with Tully Gehan's Factory For All had been nothing short of a big giant train wreck. Determined not to get screwed again, I've decided to start looking at taking back over control of my sourcing operations.
The primary objective of this trip was to renew my Home Return Permit. This is a special travel document issued to Hong Kongers – and prior to the availability of the new 10 year Chinese entry permit, was worth its weight in gold for me, as it allowed me to travel to China at the drop of a hat.
Even with the availability of 10 year entry visas, Home Return Permits are still great for getting through immigration faster – all major ports of entry are equipped with biometric based automated passenger screening systems and a home return permit meant not having to wait in the slow line with all the visitors on foreign passports). Unfortunately, I had stupidly let my Home Return Permit lapse, and failed to account for the nightmare that can be Chinese government bureaucracy. These permits are issued by the Guangdong Province Public Safety Bureau and can only be applied for in person in authorized offices in Hong Kong, or in the case of a loss during travel in China, a special office in Huang Guan in Shenzhen. So after some debate, I decided to make the trip and make the best of it, cramming as many meetings with potential partners and current suppliers as possible, and doing as much as we can to unjam the current logistics mess and prevent it from happening in the future.
In this mini-series on our blog, I’d like to share with our readers the whirlwind 48 hours that I’ve just spent in Hong Kong. We’ll touch on what the next steps for OpenBeam will be as we step our our international market presence, and why we chose Hong Kong as our remote base of operations. I’ll take our readers through the electronics shopping district in Shumshuipo, and go over how we are building out a relatively inexpensive photo and video studio for doing better documentation for our product line.
(Tools, tools tools! This store specializes in measuring equipment; scales, dial indicators, even low end inspection microscopes).
Trip Planning: Flight planning, Where To Stay, etc
My primary requirement for flights is that Seattle is my port of entry into the US; since I will be carrying commercial merchandise back to the US, I expect to be fully searched by customs. Put it to you this way: I’ve never made my connecting flight flying through SFO and I’ve missed my share of connecting flights flying through LAX. Nowadays, the only other port of entry that I would consider is YVR (where you could clear US customs on the way in); this way if I missed the connecting flight I have the option of hoping onto a bus and getting home without much delay. There are also other advantages of picking this route, we'll touch on that later.
Delta has a new SEA <-> HKG nonstop flight, but unfortunately it doesn’t fly every day (and my vacation / sick days have already been wiped clean, no thanks to Thermo Fisher screwing me on my unpaid paternity leave). Eventually I settled on Hainan Airlines; as a huge bonus, I’d earn half the flown miles as elite qualifying miles on Alaska. Sure, there are a few oddities with the inflight entertainment selection, but for $800.00 round trip, there’s a power outlet in every seat (which meant I could actually get some serious design work done), the food was decent and it was on a very comfortable Boeing 787.
There’s another bonus with this route selection as well: Hong Kong Railways offers a city check-in service where up to 24 hours in advance, you can take your luggage to the Airport Express rail station and check your luggage in, obtain your boarding pass, etc. The plan was to carry back, at the allowable weight limit, 2x 23kg of fastener packs, and two robotic screw dispensers in my checked luggage.
My flight’s boarding time was at 07:00, and I was in no mood trying to schlep over 100lbs of cargo in one trip with public transportation. Thus, City Check-In is quite invaluable – but unfortunately due to security concerns, it’s not available on US bound flights. So, on the day before my departure between trips to visit vendors, I carted my two bags to the Airport Express rail terminal and checked in for a flight to Beijing – with the bags checked through to Seattle.
Because of the tight schedule and all with meetings all over the map, I decided to stay somewhere centralized. I quite like the Mong Kok / Prince Edward area, and the MetroPark Mong Kok had decent rates (~$100/night) and for that price you get a decent sized room. I’ve seen the closet-like rooms of $80.00 budget motels (where you literally had to put the luggage in the toilet in order to close the main door). The hotel’s seen better days – the signage wasn’t lit, the wallpapers are peeling, the carpet is lumpy and uneven, and it was where they quarantined people from the last SARS outbreak 10 years ago, but the bed is clean and $100/night for a decent sized room is pretty hard to beat. The MTR station is 3 minute walk away and from there I can hop onto both the green and red lines, which covers all my meetings.
With flight and lodging taken care of, I'll go over some of the goodies I picked up at Shum Shui Po, as well as a visit to some of our vendors, in the upcoming blog entries. Stay tuned.