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Friday, Dec 04, 2020

Sad Layover In A Subtly Unfamiliar Hong Kong

With everything going on in Hong Kong, what is it like to travel through the airport at the moment? Here's my experience.

I wrote about my misadventures during a Singapore layover, though that wasn’t my only layover in Asia on this trip. I also had a quick 10 hour overnight in Hong Kong, as I arrived at around midnight and left around 10AM the next morning.

Even though I didn’t enter the city, the layover made me sad…

Hong Kong Has A Special Place In My Heart
Hong Kong has long been one of my favorite cities in the world. It’s the first city in Asia I ever visited, and to this day it’s a city that I could see myself living in (and there aren’t many cities I feel that way about).

I truly love Hong Kong, and find it to be such a dynamic, international, approachable city.

Hong Kong’s Sad & Inspiring Few Months

As probably everyone knows, there have been huge protests in Hong Kong for months. On the one hand it has been heartbreaking to see, though on the other hand it has been inspiring to see the level to which the people of Hong Kong have come together to fight for what they believe in.

I feel like in the US we constantly have protests with very little follow through. We act outraged about something for 24 hours, and then drop it. In Hong Kong they maintain the outrage for months, and get things done.

Prior to today I hadn’t been in Hong Kong since the protests started. Personally I’d have no qualms visiting the city, and haven’t even avoided it. Rather it just hasn’t been in my travel plans.

My Emotional Hong Kong Layover
Passing through Hong Kong Airport, and even flying Cathay Pacific, felt different this time around, to the point that it made me emotional, and I had to hold back tears this morning (in fairness, I’m also deliriously tired after this travel week, so that might have something to do with it).

What I can’t figure out is if my observations are simply reflecting how I’m feeling about Hong Kong, or if the energy has in fact different than usual.

For one, I stayed at the Regal Airport Hotel connected to HKIA last night, and this morning when I went to the airport I had to show my passport and boarding pass to even enter the terminal. That’s not a big deal, but that oddly resonated with me and made me sad, because that didn’t used to be thing, and we know why it’s now the case.

So, what was actually different? I couldn’t help but feel like the energy of everyone was just a bit off. It wasn’t extreme or readily apparent to someone who hasn’t been to Hong Kong many times before — there wasn’t a huge walk-out, people weren’t crying, and there wasn’t chaos.

Rather there was just this subtle feeling in the air.

From Cathay Pacific cabin crew, to ground staff, to security agents, to many passengers, the vibe that I’m used to feeling in Hong Kong (yes, even at the airport) just wasn’t there.

It really felt like everyone was trying to take a “business as usual” approach, which is all you can do. But across the board people just came across as subtly defeated, tired, and scared.

Bottom Line

Hong Kong is a city like no other, with some incredible people. It has been both sad and inspiring to see what has unfolded there the past several months, and I was curious to see what passing through the airport would be like.

I’ve always thought that Hong Kong had a unique and indescribable energy (yes, even when just flying through there), and that seemed to be missing this time. Now, it’s possible that I have some level of confirmation bias — I was expecting things to be different, and maybe picked up on some things more than I previously would have.

But I most definitely felt that the Hong Kong spirit that I’m used to was missing this time around. I don’t know to what extent that was me reflecting my feelings, or to what extent that was really there.


Quote of the Day

It always seems impossible until it is done.

Nelson Mandela
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