Sarah and I spent a day at Ocean Park in Hong Kong. While wandering through the park, we came across a stage performance with dancers dressed in sailor outfits. It looked interesting so I stuck around to watch and take photos. But when they brought out the water guns, I felt like a little kid on his first visit to a candy store. I’m embarrased to admit it, but I was so excited. The dancers sprayed water all over the audience and the energy was contagious. I took as many photos as I could, but it wasn’t easy. While I didn’t mind getting soaked, I did not want my camera to get wet. I had to time all my shots between the water sprays. In the end, I managed to keep my camera dry.
These were taken last August while the pro-democracy protests were happening at the Hong Kong airport. The protests had a big impact on tourism and attendance that day at Ocean Park was low. It was great for us since it meant that there were almost no lineups for anything at the park. The downside came when Sarah and I tried to fly home the next day. We arrived early at the airport but it was already too late. Protesters had blocked the entrance to the gates, so no one could get through. And then 30 minutes after our arrival, the airport cancelled all check-ins.
The worst part was the lack of information. No announcements were made and what little information we could gather was from other passengers and the occasional airport employee who knew enough to answer questions. It took about an hour to learn what was happening and all of that was by word of mouth. And then, when I called my airline’s customer service number to change our flight, they were not even aware that Hong Kong airport had shut down check-ins. I had to pass my phone to an airport employee and have her explain it to the customer service rep. We re-booked our flight for the next morning and then I booked us a hotel for the night. Then I had to get some cash to pay for the taxi and the only ATM was through the crowd of protesters.
Lucky for me, the protesters were all sitting down taking a break from chanting. They were even considerate enough to leave some space between them to create an aisle so I could get to the ATM. In fact, the protests that day at the airport were rather peaceful. It was loud and overwhelming, but I never felt as if I was in danger. Maybe that makes me foolishly naive. Some of the protests that week had turned violent. But that day at the airport was just loud. Many of the protesters tried to apologize to travellers at the airport by offering free bottled water, but I wasn’t interested. I just wanted to go home. So I grabbed some cash from the ATM and headed back to my wife.
The entire experience has taught me how important it is to have a working cell phone when travelling. If I hadn’t purchased a travel package for phone service and data before the trip, I think we would have been lost. Instead, we were easily able to call the airline and book a hotel online while other tourists were at a loss for what to do. We tried to help out a fellow Canadian at the airport, but she wandered away from us at one point and we didn’t see her again. The ability to use my phone that day turned a near disaster into an inconvenience and a memorable experience. Sarah and I were able to catch our flight the next morning and we headed home.