On Friday, December 18, B’s school announced that due to the pollution forecast* they were closing school on Monday, the 21st through Wednesday, the 23rd (and the foreign teachers already had the 24th and 25th off). We frantically decided where we should go for Christmas with our newly extended time off. It was a toss up between Shanghai, Hong Kong or the Philippines, but Hong Kong won in the end because the flights were cheapest. On the evening of Saturday, Dec. 19, we bought our tickets to fly out Tuesday, Dec. 22 in the late morning and return on Saturday, Dec. 26 in the evening. We flew out so late partly because the school was still having a Christmas party Monday night and it’s sort of a big deal that they are having a Christmas party for the foreign staff and since this is only the second year they are doing it, we didn’t want all the foreigners to take off and abandon the party.
*China instituted a new policy last year (?) that if three days of pollution (days over 200) can be forecasted in a row, they cancel school and put into place some restrictions to cut back on the pollution. This new policy was first used in mid December.
Our flight was in the late morning. We packed two of the small, carry-on sized suitcases, two kid backpacks, my purse/bag, and B’s larger computer bag. We checked the two suitcases so they wouldn’t confiscate Squidgems’s applesauce pouches as liquid more than 4 ounces (which they almost did on the way to Thailand last Christmas). We took our normal subway route to church but instead of switching to line 13, we switched to the Airport Express. Once to the airport we checked in, used the bathrooms, switched our money to Hong Kong dollars and then went through security. Once in line at security, we started panicking that we weren’t going to make our flight. Somehow, we did. When we showed up at our gate, they had just started loading the first buses to transport people to the airplane (we were at a non-airplane pull-up gate).
On the flight to Hong Kong, we were in three rows of two. B with Buddy, Squidgems with me, and Little Guy with Princess Sparkley.
Squidgems really likes coloring right now, so he was almost a delight on the four hour flight. If only he’d eat normal food…
Leaving Beijing in a Red Alert smog warning was crazy from the plane. There was a point where we definitely rose above the smog and you could see the line of grossness below us. Completely surreal.
It’s fun traveling at Christmas time because there were Santa hats on the baggage claim numbers.
Squidgems studying a map of the airport while we waited for our luggage.
We had several people tell us a lot about Hong Kong, where to stay, what to see, how to get around,etc. People who are from here, who have visited here, who have lived here, etc. Most suggested we stay in Kowloon (on the mainland) but the best deal we got on two connected hotel rooms ended up being at the Cosmopolitan Hotel on Hong Kong Island. It was under construction, but other than that, it wasn’t bad. And B and I both want to live there so we can shower in that shower every day of our life. So, back at the airport, we bought Octopus cards (multipurpose cards like the subway cards here in Beijing that get us on buses and subway trains, but in Hong Kong, you can use them at grocery stores, restaurants, 7-Elevens, etc.). Then we took the Airport Express train to town and waited FOREVER for our hotel’s shuttle to come. During this time, Squidgems made three trips to the bathroom. Just as the shuttle arrived, B and he were on their way there again. Luckily they made it back (I moved really slowly getting all our stuff to the shuttle) or we’d have had to wait even longer.
Once we checked in we left our stuff (and coats) and wandered the neighborhood looking for dinner. We ended up eating at a place called Cafe de Coral. A colleague of B’s had recommended it as a decent meal for a decent price and with locations all over the city. It was pretty good. While everyone waited for food, I ran downstairs and bought water bottles (water in Beijing from a newsstand is about 2-3 yuan, or 33-60 cents. Water bottles in Hong Kong were usually about 6 or 7 Hong Kong dollars, about 75-88 cents). After eating we stopped at McDonald’s to get Squidgems some
chicken nuggets then we went back to our hotel.
Bonus of our hotel (aside from the awesome shower), they provided one smart phone per room that could act as a Wifi hotspot with unlimited internet access, phone calls (both within Hong Kong and internationally). This was awesome because we could connect our phones to it, look stuff up online, access maps, post to Facebook, WeChat our Hong Kong friends in Beijing with questions, etc.