Our stay was full of crazy changes and false starts in Hong Kong. Sometimes, unexpected turns lead to magic. This week filled with roadblocks. Don’t get me wrong, we enjoyed Hong Kong and will probably go back some time to explore it more. But, little we did turned out as planned.
We began our week with illness. Marlie was hit the hardest, and spent the better part of her stay battling a fever. She’d take an upturn, and come out to explore with us, only to wilt a couple of hours later and head back to the couch. As days were filled with heads on pillows, other adventures were dropped from the list, especially those farther from the center of town. Macau was the first to be cut.
Little says “Hong Kong” to me like an evening at the horse races. I’ve imagined the track at Happy Valley, with horses and jockeys and trainers, and owners and socialites in boxes watching. Average people like us drinking beers and betting on horses, guessing randomly who might win. Our guide book told us races happened every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. Having all felt under the weather on Wednesday, our night at the races was postponed. On Saturday, our last chance, Hannah and I jumped on the Happy Valley tram while John stayed back with a fevered Marlie. We arrived at a closed down public entrance. Although lights were on, whatever was happening inside was not a horserace. Racing was not to be.
John’s wish for most places we travel involves local foods. What else in Hong Kong, but dim sum. Whenever we venture to Portland, the largest city in Oregon, we try to stop in at Fong Chong for dim sum. Dumplings and buns and chicken feet are rolled by our table on loaded carts, we try to find the pork and pea meatballs and shrimp dumplings, and steer clear of the tripe as the food wheels past us.
Our semi-trustworthy guide books sent us to Lin Heung Bakery, a famous dim sum Mecca in Hong Kong. Our first visit was at dinnertime, we’d missed the mid-day-only dim sum. We arrived earlier the next day, in time for the carts bearing foods. The restaurant was full, with what must have been more than 100 people. Over the next 45 minutes, three trolleys appeared, to be swarmed by people rushing to them as they emerged from the kitchen. Each cart held one type of dim sum, and we managed to get two buns filled with bean paste, four meatballs, and two unrecognizable bits of meat and fat wrapped in some sort of intestine. We left, unsatisfied. We never did find our Fong Chong of Hong Kong.
As Marlie was feeling a little better but not yet up for a big outing, we left her in the apartment to rest and headed to the “Big Buddha.” After reaching the end of a very long metro train ride, we arrived to find the famous 360 Skytram was closed for maintenance. It’s a gondola that takes about 25 minutes to reach the Po Lin Monastery from the metro station. We were redirected to the bus, instead, which takes a far less direct route over a mountain pass, about 45 minutes under normal circumstances. As we reached the bottom of the hill on the far side of the pass, our bus pulled over in a cloud of smoke. The smell of burning brakes filled the interior and our sinuses through the open door. Eventually, another arrived and took us the rest of the way. The Big Buddha became a several hour ordeal instead of a morning outing.
Our stay culminated with a frantic departure, aligned with the obstacles that had become normal over the past week. During our stay, John and I hiked through dense forest searching for the trail that had famous views on the peak, never finding it. When we returned to the peak with the girls, the smog was thick enough to almost completely shroud the skyline of Kowloon. We never figured out the bus system, as there are schedules but no route maps, either online or at the stops. We’d also cut short watching the laser light show from Kowloon when Marlie texted us to come home right away, as her ear began to ache.
I usually check our travel information the day before we depart; we were staying a week in Hong Kong, right? No. Monday, the day before our departure, our last day in Hong Kong, Hannah and I were talking about Disneyland. Marlie’s fever was still coming and going, and now she might have an ear infection. We debated on finding a doctor, but she still was just “somewhat” sick. Sick enough not to go to Disneyland, not so sick Hannah should skip it.
About the time we had decided all this, the doorbell rang. Our landlord had arrived with cleaning supplies and linen, and asked what time we’d be leaving. Our departure was on Monday. Not Tuesday. We’d missed our morning flight. After a panicked trip to the airline desk, the help of our landlord who drove me there right away, and a gracious airline who accommodated my stressed demeanor and babble about a child with a fever with re-booked tickets, we threw everything into our bags and scrambled to catch the next flight to Osaka. A departure as unpropitious as our stay.