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October 7, 2001
Hong Kong to Mauritius: a different world (Russell)

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A weary arrival: 4:00 AM at Mauritius airport

Our transition from Hong Kong to Mauritius seems like it should have been one of our most jarring.  We were leaving Australasia and crossing the Indian Ocean to a completely different part of the world.  We were taking our last Business Class flight for the next seven months.  But overall, everything went relatively smoothly.  Perhaps we are just getting used to the whole routine.  

On October 6th, our last day in Hong Kong, we had to vacate one of our two rooms by noon, but we were allowed to stay in the second until 2:00 PM.  Real estate is precious in Hong Kong, and our rooms were not large to begin with (about big enough to walk around the furniture, but not by much).  It was a good thing we'd had a lot of practice on the Chinese trains for the task of squeezing everything into one tiny room.

We bid goodbye to Hong Kong -- and Asia -- with a one-hour taxi ride to the airport, arriving at 5:00 PM.  We headed directly for the Singapore Airlines Business Class Lounge, where we parked ourselves and ate the free food until our departure at 7:30.

This was our first major airline flight since September 11th, and it is truly a different world.  Check-in time has been expanded from two to three hours.  We had to remove all nail clippers from our carry-on bags.  There was an additional metal detector at the departure gate.  For our onboard Business Class table-clothed meals, we were given metal forks and spoons... but plastic knives.  But the most striking change was at Singapore airport, where we saw a half-dozen military soldiers in full attire standing guard at the entrance.  They weren't just carrying guns -- these were fully-automatic assault rifles.

Singapore Airport was a stopover between the two legs of our cross-Atlantic journey.  On the first leg, we were able to sit upstairs in our biggest plane yet (the first time that Russell's feet couldn't reach the seat in front of him).  The boys stayed awake playing onboard video games all the way until our 11:00 PM arrival in Singapore.

We had a 2-1/2 hour layover at Singapore airport, on familiar ground in the same lounge we crashed at a month ago.  By the time our second leg departed at 1:20 AM on October 7th, the boys had fallen fast asleep.  Joss had a fitful night on the plane, crying in his sleep several times.  Gail ended up having to carry him up and down the aisle of the plane to calm him down.  As a result, by the time we arrived in Mauritius at 4:00 AM (7:00 AM Hong Kong time), Joss was well-rested... but Gail hadn't slept at all.

Mauritius airport is on the southeast side of the island, so naturally our villa was on the northwest side.  We had no idea how we were going to get to our accommodations at 4:00 in the morning, so we were gratified when we were approached immediately by a taxi driver.  It wasn't until he was in the process of transporting our luggage that we spotted a second gentleman holding a sign: "Welcome Mr. & Mrs. Lee."  It turns out that Gail had arranged transportation months ago and nobody had remembered it.

Another hour in the car and we arrived at our Ocean Villas bungalow.  (Poor Cameron got carsick on the way -- the first time since New Zealand.)  Our bungalow was different from our expectations, but actually very much like our previous rental in Rarotonga -- down to the ants crawling around on the floor (the salamanders on the ceiling were new).  On the other hand, our "sea front bungalow" was actually nowhere near the sea (as the host pointed out, if you stand on the front porch and lean, you can indeed see the shore somewhere off in the distance).

According to our bodies it was 9:00 AM, but the sky and clocks said 6:00 AM, so we all tried to lie down and rest for a bit.  Thanks mainly to Joss, this turned out to be rather futile.  Our Mauritius adventure had begun.


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