Sunday, August 21, 2011

Leaving the Country

Six years ago we lived in Hong Kong. We made several wonderful friends that we are still in touch with today. Most have moved on from Hong Kong, but at least one family is still residing there. Although when we knew them, they were just a couple, and now they have three children, the youngest being only a few weeks old (Congrats, Goodchilds!). One family, the Bradens, were so incredible to us. We went to their house on a weekly basis, and I absorbed so much wisdom from them when I was struggling with our oldest son. I was especially sad that they've moved off to Manila while we're back here just an hour's boat ride away from Hong Kong. However, the husband was celebrating his 40th birthday last weekend and arranged a junk trip back in Hong Kong for all their old friends. Michael normally doesn't get the weekends off, but he worked his schedule around so that we could take a three day trip to Hong Kong to spend a day celebrating with the Bradens and friends, a day visiting Disneyland, and a day shopping.

This was the first family vacation we've taken that didn't involve staying with my parents in over a year. You might think that being here in Macau is a vacation, but this is real life. Groceries must be purchased, bills must be paid, laundry must be done. To me, vacation is when someone else cleans the toilets, brings you fresh towels, and room service is an option.

The junk trip was Saturday starting at 11:00 a.m. You have to arrive at the Macau Ferry Terminal 30 minutes early, then it takes an hour to get from Macau to Hong Kong, and up to 30 minutes on each end to get through immigration. We figured we needed to get on the 8:30 a.m. ferry, which would get us through immigration in Hong Kong by 10:00 a.m., leaving us about 45 minutes to take the MTR train over to the pier on Hong Kong Island. So backing up, we figured we needed to leave our house by 7:00 a.m. Some times it takes awhile to get a taxi, but not that day! We managed to book our tickets for the 8:30 a.m. ferry by 7:20 a.m. We decided to go ahead and go through immigration right away instead of wandering through the terminal. As soon as we got through the other side, we were met by a representative of First Ferry saying they were holding the 7:30 a.m. ferry for us, but we had to run. Of course, we didn't actually need to get on the 7:30 a.m. ferry, but when you've got a lady with a walkie-talkie holding up the ferry just for us, we went ahead and ran. We each had a back pack on and Michael and I had a rolling carry-on suitcase each. It's quite a hike from the terminal to the dock, and every time we would start to slow down to catch our breath, another First Ferry employee would be there, walkie-talkie in hand, gesturing wildly for us to pick up the pace. We got down to the gang plank to find they'd already started closing the door, just leaving space for us to squeeze through to get on. We hadn't yet stowed our luggage or sat down before the ferry was already pulling out of the dock. We were told to take any seat, and there were plenty to choose from. I counted about 15 sleepy passengers spread out with their eyes closed. We weren't sleepy though! Our hearts were pounding and we were out of breath from the jog!

The ferry ride was very smooth with bright sunny skies so we got to see all the little islands between here and there. Because there were only 15 other passengers, getting through immigration took no time at all. Since we left so early, we hit McD's for breakfast in the China Ferry Terminal before making our way to the MTR station. It was a little crazy hiking through the stations, pulling luggage behind us, getting passed on either side by the morning commuters. This time around, we taught the kids how to read all the train station signs and how to figure out which line you were on, how to switch lines, and how to know which direction you need to go. By the end of the three-day weekend they were complete pros. We'd tell them where we needed to go, and then let them guide us to the proper platform. Soooo much easier than six years ago when I was dragging a preschooler and a toddler and a stroller, trying to figure everything out on my own while one kid tried to run one way as the other refused to budge! (Seriously, I shuddered more than once that weekend thinking about how incredibly difficult Hong Kong was to navigate sans help with two little ones in tow!)

We had a general idea of where we were going, but still managed to end up exiting on the wrong side of the huge Central MTR station. Thankfully a helpful MTR customer service rep gave us clear directions to get the pier and issued us one time use MTR tickets so we could get back into the station and exit on the correct side after another long hike. We managed to get to the pier at 10:40 a.m., just 20 minutes before the junk trip started. Good thing we got that 7:30 a.m. ferry, huh?

Coming tomorrow: What is a Junk anyway? Plus photos!

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