It's history, right? And whether you're going to celebrate the red dawn with Tung Chee-hwa at the handover ceremony in the Convention and Exhibition Centre, commiserate the loss of colonialism with Chinese characteristics at the Long Bar of the Hong Kong Club, or traipse the streets (while dodging hordes of journalists) to get a feel for the atmosphere, June 30 and July 1 are two days you probably don't want to miss. Unless, of course, you're Jonathan Collins. Or Julia Tso Yei-mei. Or Henrietta Summers. Or the mother of six who was so concerned about publicly speaking her mind - 'How can I celebrate the end of personal freedoms and democracy?' - that she pleaded for her name not to be used. For a variety of personal reasons, they and thousands of other Hong Kong residents have scheduled their leave to eschew the fireworks and speeches, to avoid the outpourings of patriotism and pessimism, and fly far from the territory-cum-Special Administrative Region during its transition. 'With all the public holidays, the place will be shut down, anyway,' said one Chinese-American. 'It'll be like Chinese New Year, but with many more tourists.' Travel groups including Westminster have been cashing in on the sentiment by promoting 'handover holiday' packages, though many more people than usual are determined to stay put in Hong Kong for a string of public holidays. 'There's not been a huge demand compared with our usual long weekend in June, but we've still been able to attract good business,' said product manager, Eldrick So. 'A lot of our competitors are doing the same thing. 'Bali is still the most popular destination for people who don't want to see the handover. I'll be going to Thailand - but I'm waiting until July 2. I can't go any earlier because seats aren't available. And I also wanted to see the handover. It's good for Chinese people.' But Mr Collins, a British lawyer with a penchant for golf in tropical climes, reckons the events happening around June 30 will all be a crushing bore. Ms Tso, 35, of Mei Foo, a travel sales executive with Air New Zealand, believes that whatever she misses during a break on Australia's Gold Coast, her maid will have captured on the video tape recorder. Ms Summers, an analyst, decided that with two kids on her hands and the amah on leave, she would not have been able to get into one of the better parties anyway. And the anonymous mother of six - 'don't say where I'm from or where I live because my husband is very well-known and people will figure out who I am' - says her conscience will not permit her to remain in Hong Kong as the Legislative Council is dismantled and replaced by the provisional legislature. Even the Democrats are not going to such extremes. 'If you are a Democratic Party person, you're a patriot and an anti-colonialist - you've been waiting for this date for years - so you're definitely not going anywhere,' said Minky Worden, a special assistant to Democratic Party chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming. 'I'll probably be in the office. But I'm sort-of hoping that the air-conditioning in the convention centre will go off during the ceremony,' she said with a laugh. Mr Collins planned his excursion with friends to Phuket months ago. He hopes to be punting on a typhoon blowing through Hong Kong on its auspicious night. 'Some of the shrewder members of our golfing party have got a bet on that the signal three will be hoisted, thereby screwing up the entire ceremony,' he said. 'I've got $1,000 on at the odds of 9-1, so I have a keen interest in the matter. 'It is five days of acute liver poisoning for many. I think we generally believe that there isn't really any good reason to be here and to celebrate. And being overwhelmed by a sea of journalists is not my idea of atmosphere. 'We don't fancy being asked a million questions by the usual tourists about what we think of the handover, which is really one of the most boring subjects imaginable. But sitting by the clear blue waters of Phuket and golfing, now that is a little bit more special.' Mr Collins, 30, who lives in Mid-Levels, has not decided whether to watch the television news in Phuket about midnight on June 30. His feeling of being underwhelmed by the occasion is borne out of a belief that the event is little more than a formality. 'I think the real feeling is that it's already happened - it's been happening for years - and the little bit of showmanship that is going to go on by the harbour is really rather an expensive excuse for a drink-up,' he said. 'How would I mark it if I was staying in Hong Kong? With a smile on my face, I say I'd perhaps be wearing a dark suit and a black arm band and enjoying a quiet drink. 'There is a certain amount of pride among some Englishmen who feel they are doing the right thing and acting in a gracious manner by handing over an asset with appropriate pomp and ceremony. 'I find it rather galling that the Chinese are determined, all the way through, to deny us any real dignity and any acknowledgement that, broadly speaking, we are doing the right thing. They begrudge us that very small privilege. Instead the focus will be on reunification. 'One hopes that privately, in smoke-filled rooms, there is a nod and acknowledgement and a certain acceptance that an honourable thing is being done.' Asked whether he expected any post-handover change in Sino-British relations, Mr Collins replied: 'My view is that there will be no difference. We're already treated with complete and utter contempt and I don't see how that will change as a result of the handover.' Ms Tso decided a month ago that battling huge crowds for a glimpse of handover events on June 30 and July 1 would be too much like hard work. 'I don't want to queue with two million other people to watch some fireworks,' she said. 'I was going to stay in Hong Kong, but my friends said it would be far too crowded with people. 'Everything's being shown on TV, so we can have it taped and watch the video when we get back.' On Friday, she and her husband and their seven-year-old son fly to Australia. 'Now is the best season to travel. If it was not for the handover this time would be much busier for travelling. We can still watch some of the highlights if they're screened in Australia.' Asked how she felt at missing an opportunity to witness history being made, Ms Tso appeared unperturbed. 'Whatever I'm missing out on, I'll get back.' But Australian Ms Summers is already having regrets. 'We planned the whole thing in January because we had to go to a family wedding,' she said. 'Back then, we said 'big deal, so we'll miss out on some fireworks'. But throughout the buildup we've realised that we will be missing out on a lot. Now we're forcing ourselves not to read about it. 'Our friends think we're mad. We console ourselves by saying that we wouldn't have gone to any of the big parties anyway, or that we would have been stuck at home feeling sorry for ourselves. I guess there's also the worry that people will go nuts and freak out - though I don't think so.' At midnight on June 30, police superintendent Lynn Edwards will be in Canada with about 30 colleagues taking part in a sporting competition between police forces from around the world. It was his choice to go. 'The last games we had were in Melbourne two years ago and we went with about 170 athletes,' said Mr Edwards, assistant manager of the team. 'The initial feelings were that we would not go for this event because it was straddling the handover, but then the powers that be decided we should take a select team with a good chance of getting medals. 'Personally, I feel that I would have liked to have been here on June 30 because it's historical. But the opportunity of competing in this is also a once-in-a-lifetime thing. I'm staying after 97, so the fact that I'm out of town for that 10-day period, missing the pomp and ceremony, doesn't mean that much. It'll be pretty chaotic with the crowds. And I'll be back to work after it's all over anyway.' Ms Worden of the Democrats reckons most expatriates are using June 30 as an excuse for a party. But there are numerous exceptions, including the anonymous mother of six who is going away through the handover because she's too saddened by the coming changes. 'I'm like a lot of people who would rather not say publicly: 'Look, we're not celebrating anything,' ' she said. 'I'm taking that one step further by deciding to stay away. People need to have a conscience. I don't think that to stand on the streets and watch fireworks is a demonstration of that conscience. 'I don't have a problem with China getting back what is rightfully theirs, but this is a sham. The way they want to swear in all these unelected members of the provisional legislature is so wrong. I don't want to be here to lend credence to a system that for me is undemocratic. And I don't think you people in the press will have the same freedoms after June 30. 'Some people want to be here to feel the atmosphere on the streets and to witness history. But my feeling is that history is not always pleasant. Sometimes you have to learn the hard way.'