How sleeping in Hong Kong’s airport saved me money and hassles and provided an unsolicited form of entertainment.
The sleeping obese guy on the bench across from me had his shirt rolled up over a bulging gut, his hand was stuffed down the anterior side of his jeans, his fingers throttling the trigger. My wife’s eyelids froze in their most upright position, her jaw hung in its lowest. “Is that guy . . . uh . . . doing what I think he is?” Though I myself am no more than a lay practitioner of the art, I applied my expertise to the situation. Both hand position and direction of motion appeared to meet the necessary qualifications. “Technically, I believe he is, but he’s sleeping so I’m not sure if it counts.”
Draw three dozen strangers together in the middle of the night in some foreign land and give us absolutely nothing to do, and strange things will happen.
We were setting up to sleep in the arrivals hall of Hong Kong’s international airport. Our bunk mates had arranged themselves over just about anything with a flat surface, vetting options from the softest to the hardest. Travelers were sprawled out over benches, teetering on the marble ledges of small gardens and advertisement installations, or were curled up on the floor. We were from an array of global locales, backgrounds, and financial positions. There were young Chinese women buried beneath their coats, tourists buried in luggage, and businessmen pretending their briefcases can second as pillows. There was only one thing that bound us all together: were were all too broke, smart, or dumb to actually go into the city and drop $50 – $200 for a room. Somewhere along the course of our lives we’ve discovered that we can just sleep in airports for free.
Crashing in airports is preferable to traveling across a city in the middle of the night. When I have a flight that leaves between the hours of 3AM and 9AM in the morning, or when I arrive in a place between the hours of 11PM and 5AM I sleep in the airport.
To put it simply, I find getting accommodation on nights of flying a poor usage of travel funds. Paying for a room for an entire night and only staying for part of it seems like a waste. As cheap public transportation often comes to a close prior to midnight in most cities of the world, getting to or from an airport after this time means paying for expensive airport shuttles or taxis. Each night I sleep in an airport I easily save myself a minimum of $15 to $50+, depending on where I am in the world.
Stumbling across a predawn city going to or from an airport is often not the most intriguing aspect of travel. Sometimes, in some places, it can be a risky maneuver as well. Dangers and annoyances have a higher chance of occurring late at night, and while the probability of being mugged while riding across a city in a taxi or while walking into/ out of a hotel at this time are slim, the mental and physical energy expended to inhibit this is something I prefer to avoid. Waking up at a ridiculously early hour and leaving a hotel or trying to check it at 3AM is also a rather vexatious chore. It’s just easier to sleep in the airport.
In the more expensive cities in the world, I also use airports as a free exchange for a hotel — whether I’m there for a flight or not.
Besides the unsolicited entertainment provided by the snoring masturbater, everything was ideal in Hong Kong. My daughter and wife shared a bench and I had another directly across from them. I locked up our bags and stretched out, looking at the ceiling, planning my next move, enjoying the mental and physical downtime that travel provides.
There were roughly a dozen other people sleeping near us and another dozen or so in proximity. Perfect. While I do not believe that any of those strangers would really step in and prevent someone from robbing me, having them around will inhibit such actions. They also stave off those with more pernicious intentions. Safety in numbers — even when you’ve never spoken a word to any of them.
Airports seem like secure places, they have an excess of security personnel and cameras, but they’re really not. While they are packed with law enforcement they are generally not tasked with protecting the random vagrant curled up under the benches in otherwise abandoned areas. My wife was once attacked by a janitor while trying to sleep in a secluded part of Washington Dulles. The shocking part came after she fought the guy off. She tore through the airport looking for someone to help her, and found nobody. When crashing in airports, look for the colony of sleepers. They’re the dirtbags hoveled together in a far corner of an arrivals lounge.
Sleeping in that airport did not provide me with a pleasant night of good sleep, though waking up at 3AM and traveling across Hong Kong wouldn’t have provide me with such anyway. But it did save me some money, some hassles, and guaranteed that I would be at the airport long before my flight’s departure.
About the Author: VBJ
I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. VBJ has written 3678 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.
VBJ is currently in: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
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