bingo bingo bingo!!!

OK, been away for a little while – had a WONDERFUL holiday – sorry to anyone who expected me to blog while I was away… that was just not going to happen! Still, now I’m back and there’s no excuse, so here’s the first installment of a few retrospective travel posts – hope you enjoy them!

We were very worried about Swine Flu. Not catching it, but being forcibly quarantined because of suspected contact with it. We already knew it was a mild flu, because our daughter had, a fortnight earlier, had a confirmed case and had recovered within days. No, paranoia was definitely our biggest fear, especially during our two night stopover in Hong Kong.

This fear snapped into sharp reality almost as soon as we arrived… we were walking up one of the labyrinthine ramps in Hong Kong airport, somewhere between disembarking and baggage collection when we found ourselves being checked on an heat-sensitive camera. Imagine my horror when the girl watching the screen leaps up, gesturing to her offsider, and shouting “bingo bingo bingo!!!”, and she was pointing… at ME! Yes, I was stopped mid stream and taken aside because apparently I was giving off more heat than everyone else. I’m sure they thought they’d caught a live one. Hard to say, but I choose to believe she was crestfallen when an in-ear thermometer check revealed the heat went no more than skin deep. Survived round one!

Next hurdle, the taxi from the station to our hotel. Very friendly and happy local with only a very little english. Seemed quite animated when we told him we were heading for the Metropark Wanchai, a lot of misunderstanding before we finally realise what he’s trying to tell us. The Metropark had just reopened after being sealed off with all guests in quarantine for a week! What can you say? We just hoped Swine Flu was a bit like lightning in never striking twice in the same spot. Sure enough, the hotel was adorned with photos and newspaper articles describing the events of the prior week. Looks like they made the best of a bad situation. Glad we weren’t there!

masking the problemBy this time, we were quite used to face masks. I’d say about a third of the people on the street were wearing them. Even the hosties on the plane were wearing them! It was all a bit disconcerting. In true Hong Kong fashion though, this was not seen as a downside, but a business opportunity – they were for sale everywhere – in bulk!

The other side effect of the war on Swine Flu was an almost religious cleaning regime. Hong Kong people seem to be very civic minded already – cleaning up after their dogs – holding handrails – keeping clear of the edge… there are reminders everywhere, but hygiene was the new fashion. There were public advertisements, television spots. The one we really liked though was the notices in many public places to the effect of “This button (door handle|toilet seat|etc.) is disinfected four times daily”, accompanied by an army of helpful and motivated hygiene enforcers. It was great!