So we left Auckland ready to get out of the cold and into some warmth of the northern hemisphere! We only had one concern – getting through screening for Swine Flu at the airport. Raj has had a lingering cough from our cold and that is one of the symptoms they screen for. We drugged him up despite his cough being almost gone and we were both feeling great – no symptoms of anything whatsoever. About half way through our flight they made an announcement that one of the passengers had become very ill and they were seeking the help of any passenger with medical training. Raj and I were a bit concerned but it was still quite vague. Then we saw them carry the 20 year old or so girl into first class so she could lie down and most of the flight attendants put on medical masks. So now we were really concerned but we were kept in the dark as to the situation. When the plane landed everything seemed fine; they set up the gate for departure and everyone was up and in the aisles when the captain came on the speaker and asked us to return to our seats while medical personnel came aboard. We watched at least 10 doctor-types in surgical style gowns and masks examine this girl and her friend. We heard a flight attendant tell another passenger that they were considering putting the entire plane in quarantine! Raj and I sat there helpless and started talking about 1) how much money we’d lose if we ended up quarantined for a week in Hong Kong (because we paid for China in advance) and 2) how pissed we’d be if we were quarantined because of someone else rather than because of us! Finally, after about 15 minutes they abruptly allowed us to disembark and we got through the rest of security/customs without incident. We still can’t believe how lucky we got – we thought we were screwed for sure!
Hong Kong is absolutely massive! It is also vibrant and surprisingly beautiful. It sits on a harbor and a large part of it is an island across the harbor. We stayed at a great hotel with a room with a fantastic view of the harbor. The best way to describe Hong Kong is that it is similarly set us as Manhattan but with the bright lights and colors of Las Vegas. Everyone is exceedingly nice and transportation is an absolute breeze. We took a ferry across the harbor and a bus to and from the Peak (for views of the city) with great ease and the subway system seemed easy to use, though we didn’t have a need for it. For such a huge city, everything was very clean and well organized. The shopping was so tempting, but for the most part, we restrained ourselves because we have several internal flights in China with strict baggage restrictions. We did visit the Temple Street Night Market and each got a pair of knock-off sunglasses (or “copies” as they call them).
We were only in Hong Kong for a short 2 days time but we enjoyed ourselves and would like to return when we have more time. There was so much still to see and do there! The only other notable experience was dinner at our first authentic Chinese restaurant. We were torn about eating traditional Hong Kong street food by the market but decided that since it was so muggy, we’d prefer to sit inside somewhere. We found a Chinese restaurant that was very busy but with no tourists (there were quite a lot of westerners all over Hong Kong and thus, many restaurants that seemed to cater toward the more comfortable selections of food). We jumped at the chance for a more authentic experience but that included a wait staff that spoke little English and with more traditional customs. it took some time to figure that we weren’t being ignored by the staff, but that to get service or to order, you must raise your hand (they don’t come check and making eye contact was not enough). The menu did offer English translation but they were brief and without any real description. While we had waited to order we had watched other diners and figured out that it was family style and that it looked like about 2 dished per diner. When our waitress took my order (mixed vegetables and steamed chicken with chilies) she seemed to think we needed rice as well, so we ordered that. Then she offered me, in pretty good English thankfully, that she could cut off the head and the tail of my chicken if I “hated it.” Yes, really. I was in such shock at the offer that I simply smiled and accepted, but after she walked away I realized that if cutting off the head and tail of my chicken was an option, then my meal, which was rather cheap, must include a WHOLE chicken! Since Raj had also ordered a main dish and two sides, we indeed ended up with a ridiculous amount of food. We made decent progress as the dished came out as they were ready versus all together, but we were getting full when she brought my chicken. The waitress said as she put the huge bowl on the table, “don’t worry, don’t worry, it’s a small chicken.” We did the best we could and learned a lot about how to eat the way they do (we spied on all the tables around us) and even managed to eat chicken drumsticks with chopsticks! The food was all very good and we enjoyed the experience.
We are now on our way to mainland China (Guilin is our first city and by Monday we will be in Shanghai). We don’t yet whether internet access with be difficult or not so we are posting this from Hong Kong’s airport. Be patient if you don’t hear from us for a while – we will keep writing and post a novel eventually. Hopefully, it will not be a problem and we will post again from Shanghai!