When planning this trip I was extremely nervous. By this point I’d been out of the country by myself a few times but going out-of-continent was a step further so I made sure to do my research. I went on the ‘gov.uk’ website which advised Hong Kong was relatively safe for tourists, watched vlogs, read blogs of other solo travellers, googled the question, generally got a lot of advice and decided that Hong Kong would be safe to visit by myself. I booked it feeling relatively confident.
Of course no one could predict the protests that would start taking place throughout the city and as my trip began to approach I started to get nervous. I don’t know enough about the protests to comment my opinion on them, I was just slightly selfishly worried that they’d ruin my trip. The news made it sound disastrous but I kept an eye on ‘gov.uk’ website which basically said ‘you can still go but make sure to avoid the protests’. I started checking out tourists’ photos on Instagram and lots of people still seemed to be having a good time in the city. Besides, I couldn’t really risk losing my money so I set off.
The flights went okay. I was due to travel to Amsterdam and then Hong Kong. The first flight got delayed by twenty minutes and I was proper on edge about missing my second flight but even though we set off late we still arrived on time. The only fail from that flight is that during take-off I must’ve looked terrified because once we’d levelled out a member of the cabin crew came over and asked “Are you okay? I saw you gripping your arm rest during take-off.” In my defence, yes there was some shaking from the clouds but also the pilot was flying like a madman. But luckily we made it into Amsterdam in one piece.
My original plan had been to find a souvenir shop in the airport as the only snow globe I’m missing from my collection is Amsterdam (I started buying a snow globe of all the places I visit abroad but unfortunately didn’t start this until I went to Luxembourg). I was so stressed about my next flight that I just went straight to the gate and completely forgot about the snow globe. Earlier that year me and my friends had missed our connecting flight to Belgium and I was desperate not to repeat this as my flight was the only one going to Hong Kong that day. I went straight to the gate and just sat there until we were allowed to board the plane.
Once on the plane we were informed there was a delay which lasted about an hour but I wasn’t too concerned. My flight was landing in Hong Kong in the early morning and I knew I’d be shattered so I wasn’t fussed if we were late. In fact I hoped we were later so that I had less time to kill between landing and checking into the hotel. I was quite lucky on this flight because the middle seat on my row was left unoccupied (the guy had turned up, said it was his seat and then disappeared and never came back) so me and the window seat guy had extra space which was appreciated. We took off and landed in Hong Kong after ten hours of flying bang on the time we were originally supposed to land – apparently they’d put extra fuel in so that we could fly faster and therefore we made it on time. This never happens when I’m in a rush.
I won’t lie, day one wasn’t fun. I landed at 10:20AM and my hotel didn’t open check-in until 2PM and I didn’t want to start dragging my case around the city. It was a Sunday so apparently there were protests happening but luckily not at the airport. I spent the morning in the airport before setting off at 1PM to find my hotel.
To be fair the transport in Hong Kong is so easy to understand that I didn’t get worried navigating. I did get worried on the Island Line when we went via Causeway Bay as I’d heard there were protests there and I’d seen that some do spill onto the MTR, however we passed by and all was fine. I made it to the hotel in one piece to be informed my room wouldn’t be ready for another thirty minutes. Obviously not the end of the world but as I sat down in reception I realised I was way more tired than I thought I was originally as I was feeling super spacey. Luckily the receptionist came over and informed me my room was ready and also that I’d been given a harbour view room. I was pretty happy with this considering harbour view cost extra and I hadn’t splashed out for it but it had paid off anyway!
The reviews had made it sound like the room was going to essentially be the size of a cupboard but it was a decent size and spotlessly clean. I’d chosen an ibis as I wanted a trustworthy chain hotel on my first out-of-continent trip.
Day One was a bit of a write-off to be honest. I was so bloody tired that I went out to try and do some sight-seeing in the local area but it was so hot and busy that after an hour or so I ended up back in my hotel. I read for a bit but found I was nodding off and it was still only about 4PM. I decided to have a ‘half-nap’ for a couple of hours which is where I lie down and try to sleep but also play music moderately in the background so that if I do nod off the music will startle me awake again – I get to relax but not so much that I can’t sleep later. Got up again, had a shower and then finally gratefully collapsed into bed at 7PM.
Unfortunately I was woken up by the woman next door. It sounded like there were three people in the room and one of them, whom I nicknamed Foghorn Voice, was on the phone to someone else and they were on loudspeaker. I didn’t want to get out of bed and check the time but I kindly gave her the benefit of the doubt and assumed it was around 8 – 9PM and she had no idea someone was trying to sleep as it was still early. Luckily she eventually hung up and everyone in the room stopped talking so I managed to get a decent night’s sleep and was up early on my birthday.
My birthday at Disneyland was fabulous, I wrote a long post about it here but the only fail was that I hadn’t brought sun cream with me from England. I’d had a quick look in Boots before I left but hadn’t spotted any so decided not to take any at all – it had been hot in Japan but I hadn’t burnt. I quickly realised this was probably because the dresses I’d worn then covered pretty much all of my skin whereas at Disneyland I was showing a fair bit of chest and all of my arms were exposed. By the end of the day my chest, shoulders and nose were burnt. Also from all the walking I’d done I ended up with horrendous blisters and had to deal with that for the rest of the week.
The next day was October 1st, National Day in Hong Kong. I’d initially been sort of excited upon finding out as I’d heard there was going to be a fireworks display and all sorts of celebrations but of course due to the protests I believe these were cancelled and there were major protests planned across the city. In fact that night I heard Foghorn Voice (at bloody 11PM so she was an inconsiderate hoe after all) telling whoever she was speaking to on the phone that her and her partner weren’t going out as they were worried about the protests. It got me wondering if I was being wise to go out but since I only had limited time in Hong Kong I decided I’d have to risk it.
My sight-seeing that day was on the outskirts of the city and I made it there on public transport just fine. I didn’t see any protests and where I was everything was nice and calm. I managed to tick everything off my list for that day and I decided to head back to the hotel early as I wanted to avoid the worst of the protests.
Too late unfortunately. I made it back to ‘Hong Kong’ station but unfortunately couldn’t change to ‘Central’ station because it had been closed in the protests. The station staff were telling people to go and catch the bus so out I went to the bus station to discover none of the buses were running either. I won’t lie to you I got very panicked at this point until I overheard a member of staff tell another tourist to ‘go and catch the ferry’.
The ‘star ferry’ had been on my itinerary but I hadn’t hoped to catch it in these circumstances. When it got to its destination I realised that although I was technically now closer to the hotel I was also on the wrong side of the river. Google Maps advised me there was a bus around the corner that would take me straight to the hotel. I felt a bit more hopeful as there were other buses working in the area so round the corner I went and started to wait.
The bus was meant to be once every twenty minutes but after forty-five minutes I admitted defeat and I had to go and find water because I was dying of thirst. Even though the sun had now set the city was still boiling and I was still completely panicked. The last thing I wanted to do was walk over an hour through the city back to my hotel and come across a protest. I was proper on edge, hot, thirsty and tired – all I wanted was to be back at my hotel!
After a lot of research I discovered there was another harbour where I could catch a boat to North Point harbour which was right opposite my hotel. Unfortunately this harbour was a half-an-hour walk away but I had no other plan so I set off hoping to find it.
About ten minutes into the journey I made the briefest eye contact with the bloke standing next to me and he turned to me, smiled and said “Hi.” I responded in the smallest voice ever and when he asked how I was I responded “Good, you?” and then immediately beat myself up internally for returning the question. When he asked for my name I ignored him. He asked me a couple more questions before I wearily said “I’m just trying to find my hotel.” “I want to get to you know you a bit better though” he responded and I said “Okay but I’m a bit busy right now”. Luckily he took the hint then and buggared off somewhere else but like? I was sweaty and stressed, some random bloke trying to hit on me was the last thing I needed – or expected to be honest!
Unfortunately I hit a dead end on Google Maps. It was telling me to continue walking but there was a ton of building work meaning I couldn’t go any further. I decided to try and get back on track and went up a ramp and into a tunnel which took me into an MTR station which was still open. I had a quick look at the map and realised if I went up I could change to a different line, go across, change lines again, come back down and end up at the station for my hotel. It was a bit of a risk because if I went up and the line wasn’t running or the station was closed then I’d be even further from the hotel but it was a risk I’d have to take.
Luckily the risk paid off as all the lines were open and all the stations I needed were open. I made it back to the hotel three hours later than I would’ve if the original station had just been open. I was just grateful to be back in my nice air-conditioned room. I had a shower and gratefully collapsed into bed. It sounds so easy and simple reading it back but I was genuinely panicking that I wouldn’t be able to make it back to the hotel at one point. I honest to God don’t think I’ve ever been so relieved to make it back to my accommodation before – I even bought some chocolate from the 7-11 in the metro station to celebrate.
The next couple of days generally went without a hitch, even the people next door were generally quieter until Thursday night. I got into bed at a reasonable time when next door started watching something – sounded like it was on a tablet or laptop and it was a stand-up comedian. They had it literally on full blast and the sound of the studio audience was going right through me. I put up with it for as long as I could stand before getting up and knocking on the door – you have to understand that I’m such an awkward person that this was a big leap for me! I’d expected to hear some grumbling but the programme was immediately switched off and then I didn’t hear anything for the rest of the trip – thank God!
All went relatively well until Saturday morning. I spent most of the morning doing last minute packing and getting ready to go then left my suitcase in the hotel and said I wouldn’t be back until 6PM. However when I left I discovered the entire MTR system wasn’t running due to protests that had happened the night before. I was a bit worried but tried to carry on with my day – I was going to catch a tram to the first sight-seeing place on my list but all the trams were packed and I was a bit confused anyway. I sat in a McDonalds for about an hour before messaging my Mom when it turned 7AM back home to ask whether she thought I should just go straight to the airport. I didn’t know if the public transport situation was going to get worse and I really didn’t need a repeat of Tuesday. She told me she thought that was sensible and I went back to the hotel to collect my suitcase – they seemed a bit confused that I was there so early but I wasn’t taking any chances!
Luckily the buses were still running and I caught one which took me to the airport within an hour. I arrived at the airport at around 2PM and my flight wasn’t until 10:50PM, I hadn’t even intended to set off for the airport until 6:30PM. But at least I was there and ready to catch my flight. I killed the time by watching shows on my fire tablet, got dinner when I was through to departures and had a good look around the airport Disney store before boarding the plane.
The flight home luckily went without a hitch, I slept better on the way back and got to Paris in plenty of time for the next flight. Unfortunately this time I had to go through security so I had to bin an unopened bottle of water and it just really annoys me when you have to do that. I just got off a flight, what would I have obtained between now and then?
The flight from Paris to Birmingham was absolutely horrendous, the turbulence was so bad that a member of the cabin crew fell over as she was walking down the middle and I consoled myself with the fact that at least it was happening on the short flight – you’re in the air probably less than an hour.
Overall I think considering what was going on in Hong Kong during my visit it was a relatively successful visit. I didn’t bump into any protests (I briefly went into a shopping centre where lots of people were yelling but that was it) and any problems that arose were eventually solved. So for my first solo out-of-continent trip I think I did very well! I’d love to go back to Hong Kong one day, hopefully when the political situation has calmed down.