The best thing about travel in summer 2021? Seeing family and friends for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began, and new places - five Hong Kong travellers on their journeys
- Whether they left on business or to catch up with loved ones, our travellers have experienced similar, simple joys on their journeys out of Hong Kong
- They’ve seen new places, done familiar things for the first time in ages, eaten favourite foods, been able to relax – even if quarantine looms when they return
When was the last time you heard the phrase “doors to manual and cross check”? For the vast majority of Hong Kong’s population, it has been upwards of 18 months without getting on a plane or leaving the confines of the city.
Cabin fever has not only reached a peak but also led some to take the plunge and travel outside Hong Kong, whether for business, pleasure or personal reasons. That’s no small matter, but a number of Hongkongers we spoke to shared the same joy in getting up, up and away from it all – at least temporarily.
Nikki Pang, head of business development for Lightfoot Travel
Pang is visiting family in New York and Seattle in the United States.
Apart from seeing friends or family, what experience were you were most looking forward to? Eating! I have many little rituals that I’ve sorely missed – fresh Pacific oysters and clam chowder in Seattle, a particular brand of jalapeño chips you can only get on the [US] west coast, stack pancakes and bacon at my mum’s favourite brunch place, and a giant porterhouse drizzled in butter at Wolfgang’s Steakhouse, in New York.
How do US Covid-19 protection protocols compare with those in Hong Kong? There is no comparison! On arrival into New York, not a single Covid-19-related question was asked and no one asked to see my negative PCR test. The only questions I was asked at immigration were how much money I had – and, randomly, if I had noodles and beef jerky in my luggage. I did!
Holly Graham, beverage industry professional
Graham will soon leave Britain for a three-week trip to Spain to avoid a three-week quarantine on return to Hong Kong, which she has called home for seven years.
What have you missed most about travelling? Just getting outside the bubble, exploring new places and meeting new people. London may have been home once upon a time, but I feel like a tourist now and it’s unnerving but exciting. I had lost a lot of creative spark and I think the connections with family and friends and new people will really help.
How do Britain’s Covid-19 protection protocols compare with those of Hong Kong? Very different and loose. No temperature checks, masks only really worn on public transport and in some shops, less readily available hand sanitiser.
How did people react to you choosing to travel in the current climate? People that know me and the fact my mum has cancer are understanding, but some people assume I’m on a jolly, which I don’t appreciate, so I have to be blunt about why I’m here. Of course, I’m having fun catching up with everyone, going to new spots and making the most of it, but I wish I was returning under better circumstances.
Jessi Chai, director of project management, Greater China for Marriott International
Chai has just returned from a business trip that took in the Chinese cities of Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Qingdao and Yangshuo.
What has been the best thing about getting away? Meeting new people and trying all the local food! I have always wanted to travel through mainland China (a huge bucket list item!) and feel so privileged to explore so many beautiful cities while on the job.
How do China’s Covid-19 protection protocols compare with those of Hong Kong? There aren’t many differences in protocol. Masks and QR scans are the norm in public and everyone is respectful of social distancing, the rules – and are also considerate of each other.
Does the thought of quarantine loom large – or will you be able to relax? Well, I have done my fair share of quarantines. By the time you’re reading this, I am maybe just finishing my fourth. I think I’ve mastered the art of being with myself, allowing more time for self-reflection and yoga.
Anna Romagnoli, communications professional
Romagnoli has lived in Hong Kong for seven years. She is in Austria visiting her boyfriend’s family, before heading to Italy to visit her own.
What have you missed most about travelling? Everything apart from packing! On our way to the airport we got a bit emotional realising that we were actually going to fly again. I realised I even missed plane food!
How did people react to you choosing to travel in the current climate? Mixed reactions, and I understand all of them. Travelling nowadays can be stressful, and you are definitely exposing yourself to some of the risks – like getting stuck when borders close, having your plans changed or even getting sick.
All in all, we made the conscious choice to travel carefully (yay, masks!) and are remaining flexible in case of last-minute changes.
How do Austrian Covid-19 protection protocols compare with those of Hong Kong? The major difference is that masks are not required outside, but are in shopping centres and transport. Also there are no limitations in restaurant seating arrangements – however, they diligently check vaccination records of every guest.
Does the thought of quarantine loom large – or will you be able to relax? To be honest, it does loom a little bit. I am keeping my fingers crossed that it only stays seven days – I’m trying to think about it as more of a recommended staycation rather than a quarantine. I will also have to work off kilos of pasta, so it might be a good chance to detox!
Catherine Feliciano-Chon, managing director of marketing communications agency CatchOn
Feliciano-Chon, the agency’s founder, is in Los Angeles.
What has been the best thing about getting away? The best thing has been the simple act of just getting away. Let’s face it, as lovely as Hong Kong is, there’s only so many hikes you can go on and restaurants you can try. We haven’t been home in over three years and I just needed to be with family for my own mental well-being.
Apart from seeing friends or family, what experience were you were most looking forward to? It’s about the simple things we tend to take for granted, like watching a sunset while driving on the freeway, or sitting on the beach in Malibu and seeing the vast expanse ahead of you.
I had the habit of just cramming as much as I could and running around like a whirling dervish on trips. This time, I’m just taking it real slow and breathing it all in because it may be a while before I travel again.
Does it feel strange to be travelling in the current climate? Of course! Everything about travelling nowadays is fraught with anxiety. I was a wreck building up to our departure with all the tests, protocols and last-minute “what ifs”. But strangely, as soon as I got on the plane, it just felt like the good ol’ days, just intuitively knowing what to do.
Does the thought of quarantine loom large – or will you be able to relax? I’m trying to be present in the moment, though there’s no denying the unpredictability of quarantine measures is unsettling. But I remind myself that there’s no point fretting over something I have no control over.
It’s taken a lot for me to be here, so I really need to be “here” and not in my head worrying. I think the key word is resignation. But ask me again when I’m in quarantine!