We had just arrived in Hong Kong from Yangon Myanmar, our flight had been cancelled and then rebooked. This was early days pandemic, February 19th 2020. We landed in Hong Kong, and made our way through the abandoned customs, taking the airport train to Hong Kong City Centre. The train was deserted, the streets were deserted. Everything felt weird and wrong. We had an 18 hour stop over in Hong Kong, and I would be lying if I said we weren’t a little afraid, and anxious about returning home. Wuhan was in lockdown, but cruise ships all over the world were finding so many cases on board their ships. As far as we knew (and we were probably wrong in hindsight) Canada had no confirmed cases of this scary new virus.
We wandered around the streets of Hong Kong Island, with the intention of making our way to the Victoria Peak Tram for Victoria Peak. There are so many lovely pathways in Hong Kong, connecting lovely shady parks. For a huge concrete jungle, Hong Kong sure knows how to make you feel like you are in a tree lined jungle most of the time.
We wandered up the hill, stopping to take way too many photos, and reflect of how bizarre it was that we were in Hong Kong, a hugely populated city, almost completely alone.
We made it to the Peak Tram and bought tickets to board. Last time we were in Hong Kong it had been 2016, and during the Lunar New Year. The streets had been PACKED and the queue to ride the Peak Tram was hours long. This time around, in 2020, it was also the Lunar New Year, but we had the tram to ourselves. No one was out celebrating, and everything felt wrong.
We took the tram to the top of the Peak and wandered around a few of the malls at the top of Victoria Peak, before discovering a few hiking trails, and walking around the lush forests. I’ve always loved Hong Kong, but discovering all of these natural areas for myself, with basically no one around, really made me fall in love with this city all over.
After a few hours of hiking and wandering the Peak, we took the tram back down the hill, once again we had the entire tram to ourselves.
We then decided to explore Hong Kong Central Park… the gardens here were gorgeous! There was an aviary, a waterfall and so much to explore.
After wandering the park for a few hours, we stumbled upon a thing that I will never forget. In the middle of Hong Kong Park there is a little memorial to the nurses and doctors that passed away during the SARS epidemic in 2002- 2004. I remember this outbreak so clearly, it had hit Hong Kong incredibly hard, but it had also hit Toronto badly. Thankfully this SARS epidemic had only really impacted Hong Kong, Taiwan and Canada. Such a weird connection we had with Hong Kong during this time. There were busts of these doctors and nurses that had died, mostly in their 20s and 30s. They all would have been around Jives’ age if they had survived.
This new and scary virus in 2020 had not yet been declared a pandemic, we had no idea what awaited us in the years to come, but I could not help but feel incredibly emotional as we stood in front of this SARS memorial, alone in Hong Kong as it was virtually shut down over fears of a repeat epidemic. It turned out to be so much worse than we ever could have imagined.
There wasn’t much time left after we explored Hong Kong Park, so we found a place to eat dinner (another Genki Sushi), and headed back to the airport for our flight to Toronto. This would be our last flight for over three years.