A funny thing happened on the way to India. The plan had been that after Bhutan we were going to go up into Kashmir, the Himalayan region in India. So we’d fly to Delhi, spend a day or two, and then head back into the mountains. But, as it became clear Mark’s knee was an unsolved problem, we decided instead to go from Delhi right to Hong Kong to confer again with Dr. Tong. We’d already booked the flight from Paro to Delhi, one of the few places you can fly to out of Bhutan, and decided we could manage it for just two days despite the forecast highs of 107 degrees. Seriously, the forecast was for 107 degrees.
Mark was up early our last morning in Bhutan and he had a thought. “I wonder if we need a visa to get into India?” Now, you might think that experienced travelers would ask that question before they were ready to head out to the airport. It turns out Americans do need a visa to enter India and you need to apply some measurable time in advance; there are no visas on arrival for Americans. Huh.
This was a time we were distinctly happy to be staying where the staff would go above and beyond to help us figure it out. One of the women in the office called a friend of hers with Royal Bhutan Airline to see what our options were. Getting on the flight to Delhi was simply not one of those options. In short order – a hectic and scary 60 minutes or so, but short order in the scheme of things – we’d rebooked for a slightly later flight to Bangkok, booked a night in a hotel there, canceled our reservation in Delhi, and changed our Delhi-Hong Kong flight to a Bangkok-Hong Kong. Remarkably there was surprisingly little hassle with the various airlines and hotels involved.
So instead of a night or two in Delhi, we had a night in Bangkok. But then a funny thing happened on the way to Hong Kong. Somehow, somewhere, I ate something I really shouldn’t have. By the time we were up the next morning to go to the airport I was miserably sick. Just awful. And this as we’re taking Bangkok’s elevated subway system to the airport in the intense heat with few elevators or escalators to ease the burden of traveling with luggage. Pure misery. How did that happen? Our lodge in Bhutan was totally First World quality – and really good First World. I’d eaten one meal on Royal Air Bhutan and then we had dinner at a top-notch steak house in Bangkok. That was it. One of those, though, was a killer.
Thus we were quite the couple on arrival in Hong Kong. Mark was probably there to have surgery on his knee (and indeed that’s what the doctor ordered) and I was as sick as I’ve been in a number of years. The result of all that misery is that the pictures we have from our first 10 days back in Hong Kong are pretty much all from the inside of our hotel room looking out. Looking out at rain, I should add. A typhoon apparently passed by the region and for pretty much a solid week it was either raining or getting ready to rain. As we sat in the hotel, Mark nursing his knee after the second arthroscopic event, me staying close to the bathroom. It was lovely.
The good news is we’re both on the mend, we think. I was down for nearly two weeks, sometimes better, sometimes worse, but sick enough that I haven’t had a cocktail in 12 days. That’s serious. Finally, though, I’m confident the worst is over for me, at least. It’s too soon to know yet whether Mark’s surgery fixed the pain he’s had walking pretty much all year, but I’m an optimist.
There were a couple bright spots in our otherwise bleak time in Hong Kong. One night our friends Lars & Shideh invited us to tag along to a little party they were going to with a bunch of artists and architects (recall that Shideh is an architect and Lars is building a huge new modern art museum in Hong Kong, what is described as the most important new museum project since the Pompidou Center was built in Paris 40 years ago). It was fun hanging out with this artsy crowd of European ex-pats and Hong Kong locals. One of the young women there, who works with (and claims to worship) Shideh, is Victor Hugo’s granddaughter. How cool is that?
And then on our last night in Hong Kong Shideh & Lars invited us and two other couples to celebrate – a week late – midsummer’s eve, a big holiday in Lars’s native Sweden. One of the other couples was Mark’s knee surgeon, whose wife just happens to be one of Shideh’s closest friends. Such a small world. Suffice it to say that a Swedish midsummer feast includes more varieties of pickled herring than you’ve ever imagined, free flowing aquavit, and Lars teaching us Swedish drinking songs accompanied by some crazy dance moves.
We’re continuing to lie low while Mark’s knee heals, but we were bored beyond words hanging out in our hotel in Kowloon, across the bay from Hong Kong city proper so Mark came up with a crazy idea. We crossed over the “border” with China – Hong Kong is of course in China, but the border between the two is just like an international border with visa requirements, passport control, and customs – and are going to hang out for a week in Shenzhen (if we can stand it that long), a city that’s sprung up in the last few decades to link China’s massive workforce with Hong Kong’s access to global finance. We’ll report on this odd place soon.