I was recently in Hong Kong for a reunion with friends and to celebrate my birthday. It’s a city I have visited frequently and really enjoy. I knew that our planned itinerary would have to be changed according to the current situation in Hong Kong. What I didn’t realise is that it would turn into an adventure of sorts, with fast paced thrilling moments to pepper our otherwise languid sightseeing.
What should have been a quick half hour journey on the MTR to the beautiful Tian Tan Buddha turned out to be an long drawn but interesting ferry and bus trip. An hour and a half after we left our hotel, we arrived in a rickety bus to an almost empty village with a handful of tourists to flank the enormous and serene structure.
After a quick visit to the nearby monastery we rushed to catch the one bus which would take us back to the fast ferry back to the Island, only to see it deliberately driving away from us, five minutes before it’s scheduled time.
One taxi stood idly and kindly responded to our request to call for more taxis to accommodate our group of seven as he drove off for his prior appointment. We had 40 minutes to reach the ferry. Two taxis turned up, one of them was infuriatingly hailed by people who weren’t in the queue. Time was ticking by. Another one turned up soon enough. We had 30 minutes and the drive time showed 35.
We told the driver to step on it and he did, taking his cue from the speedy lady driver in the taxi ahead of us! Racing on hills and cursing at one ways, we finally got to the ferry with 3 minutes to spare! We made it to the Island on time to get on with our evening.
This was one of the many days in the vibrant city of Hong Kong which has been greatly affected because of protests. One night as reports of activity closed in on our location at TST we decided to rush back to the hotel. 3 taxis were needed, only one agreed to go.
I sat in the first taxi with my heart racing as we drove directly into a barricaded area, full of a crowd of protestors dressed in black in the distance. The driver turned around swiftly, thinking of alternate routes, manoeuvring around bricks, trash bags and a blocked path to a tunnel. As we alighted the taxi near our hotel, we came face to face with a single protestor, who was quietly putting traffic cones back on the road to block cars from passing.
His mask represented everything we had seen on the news, concerning all the activity going on in the city. There was fear and anxiety in the air as we walked away as quickly as we could to the hotel. One group managed to get a taxi after waiting for 20 minutes, another group walked around the affected areas along the promenade as they made their way back to the hotel.
The above was a little window in to a city which was a thriving hub, safe and prosperous which is now facing closure of schools, MTR stations, an economy in recession and many questions about its future.
It was a thrilling time which was filled with hourly updates on where to go, what to avoid and trying to stay safe in the process. We saw everything on our itinerary thanks to the wonderful planning of our guardian angels, Ekta, Veer, Rakesh and Manisha. Nothing stopped us from having fun! From Sheesha nights to parks, great days out sightseeing to beautiful dinners, foot massages to enjoying desi music, we did it all!
In a chance meeting I got to meet my brother Vinod who was there for work. Thank you for braving a night out from your hotel to spend time with all of us.
Thank you Hong Kong for standing tall and welcoming tourists. Hotel, restaurant and public transport staff were extremely helpful and kind to all of us. Hope things settle down soon and see you again to enjoy the buzz and energy you have in so much abundance.