Hong Kong in Five Days: Part Two
If you did not catch the first part of my adventures in Hong Kong, I suggest you start by covering that here. Otherwise reading this feature will feel like trying to find your way out off a dense forest at midnight (not sure how you will have found yourself there in the first place but hey, stranger things have happened)
Saturday, 25th November
12:35. I wake up to the realisation that the better part of the day just zoomed past me like an electric train. My whole body is aflame, a result of the last one week of training for the Half Marathon and jet lag. I head out for a massage.
13:00.The masseuse, a short Asian girl in her early twenties looks stunning in a plain white tee and grey sweat pants. She has a pretty face to complement the look, framed by black hair neatly held in a pony tail which is the length of a Sudanese cow’s fly whisk. Her hands look delicate and I worry that she might not be the right person for the job. She shows me to a tiny rudimentary room where I strip to my undies and lie on my tummy. She covers my back with a white sheet then proceeds to knead my whole body from the shoulder blades to my feet without making direct contact with my skin. She does this for half an hour and at some point I am convinced that oil is not an essential ingredient for massages in Asia. It turns out that this initial bit is just a teaser. For the next half hour, I am treated to a proper Swedish massage.
14:05. All is well except in the end when I try to explain to the masseuse (who by the way speaks limited English) to do some more work on my calves, thighs and gluteal, she tells me to buy pills for the pain from a pharmacy across the street! As I pull my joggers on, I can still feel the tension in my thighs. I feel cheated and I plan to Whatsapp my physiotherapist Lameck ten words I never thought I would say.. “For once, I miss the pain you inflict on me.” After dressing up, I walk to the reception which is a small space the size of a servant’s quarter in South B. On one side there’s a plain white reception desk and on the other, a nail bar. I catch three middle age asian guys who are getting their feet scrubbed looking at me in amazement. I hand the hostess my payment (HK$ 300, USD 38). She receives the cash, turns her gaze to my head and says “Beautiful hair. Yours?”
“No, yours.” I joke. But the joke is wasted on her.
14:30. I later cross over to the opposite side of the street for lunch at this restaurant with striking bamboo fittings. I order for some soup with bean sprouts, minced pork and ground nuts. The meal is an epic fail, especially because I am supposed to use chop sticks and I can’t seem to get the hang of it. I traipse the streets briefly, browsing several jewellery and clothes stores (without buying anything). When I can’t stand the crowds anymore, I retire to my room, read for half an hour then nap.
17:00. I don’t want to take chances with Hong Kong food anymore, so I head to Mac Donald’s across the street for a burger, fries and chicken wings. After all, I should be carbo-loading. There’s free WIFI, so I call my people from there. Xena is at a friend’s birthday party and says she’ll call me later. It hits me that I have just lost that girl to the universe and maybe I should start thinking of getting another child. Meanwhile, back at home, her sister Xia is still stoked by the decorations on the Christmas tree and the nanny is having a hard time trying stop her from plucking everything off the tree.
23:45. It’s pre-race night. Usually, I struggle to sleep the night before a marathon for fear of missing my alarm and missing the event all together. Today is even worse, given that I am in a foreign land with quite a journey to cover before I get to the event’s starting point. I try sleeping at 11:45pm but half an hour later, I am still tossing and turning.
Sunday, 26th November
03:45: My alarm goes off and I literally jump out of bed. I have only slept for 4 hours at most. I take a quick shower, brush my teeth, pack my running ear buds, arm band for the phone, handkerchief and some cash in my knapsack. I then seat on the edge of the bed to say my prayers before calling a Uber. The race starts at 6:00am and I have two MTR connections to make.
04:25. I spot my Uber parked across the street. It’s white and in it is a gentleman who looks like he is smiling but that’s just his natural countenance. The music on the stereo is blissful, the kind that fills your mind with stillness. It sounds like something played off a harp. I inquire from the cab guy about the artist, he utters a name that sounds like he is eating noodles.
“How do you pronounce that?” I ask.
“I don’t know, sorry.” He says.
04:35. Ten minutes later, the cab pulls off outside Hong Kong MTR. The streets are dark and empty, save for the few cars roaming and the scattered street lights. A few other cabs park in front of us and from them spill humans in colourful sneakers and running gear.
“Other runners here.” He says in broken English.
“Thank God.” I say, glad that my decisions so far seem to be on course.
The MTR -which thanks to the marathon will be running an hour ahead of its usual time – will take of at 4:50am. We go down the elevator to the underground section and everyone else walks through the gate to the waiting area except me. It seems like they all purchased their travel cards in advance! I panic at the thought of not being able to get a card until normal operating hours, by which time the marathon will have started. Some guy senses my frustration and points me towards the automatic pay point where I manage to pick my destination on the screen, slot some cash and the machine dispenses my ticket to Disneyland!
05:15. The train stops at Sunny Bay where we interchange to the Disneyland line. It is packed with a cocktail of running enthusiasts. People in their teenage, others in their fifties. People wearing Asics shoes and a few others wearing Nikes, Adidas and New Balance. Actually, out of every ten people I sampled, seven were wearing the Asics brand. It must be the undisputed running shoe. I had Adidas CloudFoam on me.
05:30. We walk out of the train and into Disneyland. The feeling in the air is magical. Disney characters led by Mickey Mouse are staged along the way. People stop to take selfies, much as it is still dark. At the starting point, there are approximately 200 washrooms lined up as well as a bag drop off point. You drop your luggage and they note the number on your race shirt. I think this is the most organised marathon so far in my short history of running.
06:00. The gun goes off, and off we go, as one heaving mass. We run through Disneyworld then out into the woods, emerge on the edge of the island where the land borders the sea. Later we go through a tunnel then up a tarmac road. Its scenic but then it gets hilly and torturous at 9kms, 14kms and the worst at 18kms. As we approach the finish line back at Disneyworld at 20kms, the place erupts into Christmas Carols. I get emotional and fight back tears. I am also struggling to finish the last stretch. Finally, I cross the finish line and break down into tears. I did it, despite all odds. I write this emotional letter to my kids, dedicating my win to them.
09:00. I take the MTR back to the city centre in Tsim Sha Tsui at Chungking Mansion where I quickly check out and take the MTR to my new hotel Bay Bridge in New territories. A wave of sleep consumes me and I oblige while holding on to my luggage. I am not worried about missing my stop because it is the last one. When I finally exit, I walk out of the train station and spot a Japanese restaurant across the road. After about fifteen minutes of trying to understand the menu, I settle for rice with chicken, potato stew (hallo warus!) and a chilled glass of pepsi. When I finally sit down to devour it, I wonder why I did not come across this outlet sooner in HK. The meal is flavorful and proves to be value for money.
12:00. I flag a metered taxi and show the driver an email with my hotel’s address. In about ten minutes, I arrive at my destination and end up spending the next 48 hours in the hotel (not by choice). It sits in a serene and quiet area by the sea, right next to Tsing Ma bridge, the world’s 11th longest span suspension bridge. In the next two days, I get to watch the most beautiful sunsets from the hotel’s foyer.
Monday, 27th November
08:00. I intend to do a few touristic things today, including going on the star ferry and the peak train. However, fate has other plans for me. I wake up with a slight discomfort in my tummy which I ignore. After breakfast, my stomach starts grumbling like a washing machine in the rinsing cycle. I rush upstairs and spend the better part of the next Two hours in the washroom. I later painfully reconcile with the fact that I would have to stay indoors all day.I guess it is nature’s way of telling me to slow down. Thankfully, I am treated to a view of the verdant mountains through the wall to wall windows.
15:00. I spend all day in my room reading Stephen King’s Finder’s Keepers and only leave to grab late lunch. Half portion of spring chicken and whole roast potatoes, a salad and a glass of orange juice. At 8 pm, I take a shower and pack up. After speaking to the mister and the kids, I retire to bed excited about the next phase of my trip. I cannot wait to lay my eyes on Vietnam!
P.S. It might please you to know that Kenyans don’t need a Visa to visit Hong Kong.
P.S.S. If you are one of the winners of the #lilmissbelle12daysofchristmas campaign and you are yet to claim your prize, I might be forced to claim it on your behalf 🙂