So I said I'd be back on the 30th of December. Yet here I am, typing away at my computer like there's no tomorrow. What gives?
Well, it's "gave", actually. And it was my mother's ankle.
Here is a brief recap of our vacation:22 DEC: MACAU
IN WHICH FAR'S MUM GAMBLES, AND LOSES BADLY
Flight to Macau was delayed for over an hour - which was of little surprise, considering the budget airlines our tour group was taking - but no matter, because (1) I was armed with a thick Michael Shermer book, and (2) the tour operator had gotten somebody at the office to fill in all our immigration cards for us. Unfortunately, said person was probably educated in Martian, because said person managed to mess up half the passport numbers (I swear, the guy must have been channelling the numbers for Alpha Prime Green Guy because none of us knew where the hell they came from), made up bizarre occupations for half of us (clerk???
what the...), and produced two different signatures for each of us on two different sets of documents - which wouldn't have passed inspection anywhere else but Macau.
Thanks to the delay, though, we arrived at our hotel at ten pm, which I suppose is the perfect time for people to crawl from out of the cold into the many, many casinos on the island to worship the One Arm Bandit God of gambling, but my dad and I were exhausted (and personally, I think it's more fun to set fire to a wad of money, anyway), so we decided to stay in. My mother, on the other hand, wasn't about to waste the night cooped up in her hotel room, and went out with a bunch of friends and the tour operator.
Two hours later, she returned to the hotel - limping. Witness accounts are hazy, but it would seem that, while descending a very short flight of steps, my mother managed to subluxate her left ankle. As in, it totally popped out of place when she applied weight to it (whether or not she accidentally twisted it while placing her foot down is anybody's guess), but then boinged right back in place on its own a moment later. Mum was annoyed, but figured hell, she just wouldn't be getting as much sightseeing done on a sprained ankle.
[Yes, my mother's friend's husband went out and gambled and won $16,000. My mother went out and won a leg injury...]
23 DEC: HONG KONG
IN WHICH WE DISCOVER THE ILLUSORY NATURE OF ORDER IN HONG KONG
Made an amazing discovery at breakfast time: cafe chairs in Macau can walk
. One of our chairs mysteriously walked away from our table to a nearby one occupied by a group one can only charitably describe as "vocal yokels"; a second one tried to walk away, but was impeded by my foot, which was tightly wrapped around it, and so was apprehended in time.
Our breakfasts were very nicely homogenised in our stomachs by the hydrofoil ride into Hong Kong. ("Monty Python" and "bouncy bouncy" spring to mind). Upon our arrival at the Hong Kong immigration, we quickly discovered that queues - and, indeed, order in general - was pure fiction, only believed by people whose IQ scores are surpassed by oysters. In other words, it was total chaos in there. Here, we found, were people who had not only never heard of Miss Manners, they'd have trampled her to human grits if they'd met her. Harhar.
The day's tour covered the Golden Bauhinia Square, named for the 6-metre-tall gilded sculpture of a Bauhinia blakeana
(apparently an important symbol for the Hong Kong people after reuinification with China), Repulse Bay (where old men in "tea bags" are said to terrorise the sands), Aberdeen Harbour and Ladies' Street. (No, it's not what you think. Seriously).
The Tsing Ma Bridge, the seventh-longest suspension bridge in the world.
Gilding a Bauhinia
Watching two children watch an artist at work at Repulse Bay.
We went on a sampan ride around Aberdeen Harbour. On one end you see luxury cruisers and the gigantic Jumbo Floating Restaurant (whose past diners include Queen Elizabeth II, John Wayne, Tom Cruise, Chow Yun Fat and Gong Li); go around the river bend, however, and you see a very different side of Hong Kong: the "village" of fishing boats huddled together, inhabited by people who spend nine months of every year at sea, whose wives are illegal immigrants, and whose children are unregistered, and spend only three months a year at school. It was an eye-opener: Hong Kong isn't just a city of rich people.See more photos of the village
Ladies' Street. The market here is clothing (and electronics, and food), not humans.
My mother's ankle was rather badly swollen at this point, and so she decided to remain in her hotel room at dinner time, leaving me to gallivant on my own. Found a toy store selling action figures and collectibles at ridiculously low prices, and did myself proud by managing to carry out an entire conversation
with the shop assistant (who was dressed as Sailor Moon) on the subject of Star Wars - in Mandarin
. (Or should I say Mangledarin?)24 DEC: HONG KONG - DISNEYLAND
IN WHICH TWO SENIOR LADIES PROVE TO BE EXTREMELY SPUNKY
My mother's left leg had become worryingly swollen and bruised, and so it was decided: (1) the tour operator and my father would take her to see the doctor, and (2) we would all go home on the next available flight. Thank the Force for travel insurance.
Because it was also determined that I would be of more hindrance than help, I was promptly dispatched to continue the day's tour with the rest of the group. Everybody else of my age in the group was paired up and I didn't want to be a third wheel (or worse, a lamp post!), so I wound up with two of my mother's friends, both of them senior citizens. Of course, age is never an indication of compatibility, and the minute I discovered one of them was a video games nut, we just totally hit it off.
Arrived at Disneyland at lunchtime (made two stops at two Sponsor Shops first) - and, because a number of people in our group were massively smart enough to bring food to the park only to be stopped right outside, there was a fifteen minute picnic just outside the gates. We wandered around Main Street for a bit, watched the Christmas parade, and then I made a beeline for Space Mountain - which my two elderly companions, in spite of their enthusiasm, were unable to ride due to medical conditions. (So while I was zooming through the darkness of space, the two old ladies went and had themselves a grand train tour of Disneyland). Because wild rides were out for them, we went to It's A Small World and two shows (Mickey's Philharmagic - a grand 3-D experience, complete with gusts of wind, splashes of water, and the welcoming smell of pie - and The Golden Mickeys)... before one of the women spotted the Jungle River Cruise and exclaimed, "Hey, let's go on THAT!" ... only to spend the better part of an hour in the queue, due to technical faults. We did eventually get our ride.
Bambi, Thumper and Flower.
The Little Mermaid float at the Christmas parade.
Space Mountain boarding area.See more Disneyland photos
Returned to the hotel with Disney merchandise and a grandly pounding head to find my mother in bed, a walker jammed in the corridor of the room, and a doctor's report that said she had not one but three fractures - which meant absolutely no weight on that foot, or it's surgery for you!
The tour operator was looking decidedly ragged around the edges from running around making travel arrangements and insurance claims for us (he managed to book us a flight out of HK on the 26th - and
messed with the accounting a little so that my ticket would be covered by my mother's travel insurance), so we took him out to dinner by way of thanks.
Memorised William Ernest Henley's poem, Invictus
, because I had nothing better to do.25 DEC: HONG KONG
IN WHICH FAR GOES EXPLORING, AND FAILS TO FIND EGG TARTS
Our tour group left for Shenzhen in the morning after breakfast, leaving my family to spend Christmas in Hong Kong. Because my mother was immobilised and my father was in no particular mood to go out, I went out to explore the neighbourhood alone, armed with my reasonable(y atrocious) Mandarin and a smattering of perfect(ly hideous) Cantonese. Walked several blocks north of the hotel, across the highway, to get the folks lunch, then walked a fair way south, where I stumbled upon just about the most amazing thing: a Park. In the middle of the 7-million-people insanity that is Hong Kong, there was a walled-in Park. With gazebos, and artificial rock formations, and huge trees, and waterfalls. And clusters of old men playing (or watching each other play) chess. It was just amazing.
I stood there, staring at them for a long time, then sneakily took the shot - and ran.
Came back, reporting to my mother that I'd spotted a banner advertising Portuguese egg tarts around the corner. She was absolutely delighted, and dispatched my dad and me to buy a couple of boxes to bring home. So we went after dinner, discussing exactly how many we could fit in our carry-on luggage (and each probably entertaining the idea of eating a couple at suppertime)... only to discover that what I'd mistaken for Portuguese egg tarts were actually... Pacific abalone. EPIC FAIL. >.< 26 DEC: HONG KONG - HOME
IN WHICH FAR'S MOM RIDES A WHEELCHAIR, F1 STYLE
Aside from a number of minor snags we ran into at the airport (delay in locating a wheelchair, in fixing a minor booking problem, and getting hold of our tour operator for the check-in staff to verify his credit card info), the trip home was largely uneventful. My mother warned us that riding a wheelchair might become a habit, given how comfortable it was being waited upon hand and foot - although she had to remind me at one point that she was neither a trolleyful of goods nor a Formula 1 car. The airport service staff did just about everything for us, right up to the door of the airplane, where the flight staff took over and totally indulged my mother. Thank the Force for business class.
The rest of the family wasn't notified of our premature return until this morning. My mother's plan was to sort of keep the whole thing a secret for a while... only we know all too well what happens when you try to keep things from your own family. ;) But that's another story for another time.