I was lucky to join my husband Bill on a business trip to Hong Kong for a few days and tag on a 5-day adventure to Siem Reap, Cambodia with 2 other couples.
Bill had planned the entire Cambodian itinerary for our group of 6 and all we had to do was show up.
After a fantastic four days of biking through rice fields and villages, exploring jaw dropping 12th century temples – my favorite being the Buddhist temple of Angkor Thom (for us a notch above Angkor Wat) and eating local food, I got slammed with a stomach bug and very quickly I wasn’t feeling so adventurous. The 92-degree heat now felt thick and overwhelming, the smell of Cambodian food nauseating, the idea of getting on a bike or even out of bed impossible. Home suddenly seemed too far away.
My husband totally responded to my need to get out and was able to switch our flight and leave a day early for Hong Kong and we would then try to get an earlier flight back from there the next day.
As I lay in our hotel room, bummed that I had saved the “shopping” piece of the Siem trip for last, he offered to explore the stores (not his favorite activity) with our friends to find a few things for us to bring home. He emerged victorious (with a little input). He proudly presented me with a small haul of local finds. I must have been delirious because I loved everything.
My body cooperated for the flight from Siem but I couldn’t get into bed fast enough once we got into our Hong Kong hotel.
In the middle of the night I started feeling worse and elbowed Bill, “I really think I better call the hotel Doctor – I feel like I’m getting sicker – not better.”
He grunted from his sleep – he’s not the anxious type but he gave me a supportive smile and agreed I should make the call.
At 3 am the concierge hooked me up with the hotel Doc who rang me back immediately – he would be over in a few hours.
The Doctor was at least 30-something years old, which, was a relief. I was praying he wouldn’t be my kids’ age.
After a no-touching exam –thermometer in my ear (slight fever), tapping on my stomach (through my t-shirt) and never taking a pulse — he assured me I was not jaundiced nor was I de-hydrating. He handed me a few packets of “medicine” neatly marked in little Ziploc bags with typed out, labeled instructions and told me I’d be fine. Clearly, he’d been through this drill many times and was prepared.
The 15-minute consult cost us $400 cash — $300 for the visit and $100 for the Imodium and other CVS type products. My husband was happy to pay for peace of mind.
Bill spent the next 2 hours trying to reschedule our flight back home to Boston. No luck. All flights were full to NY that day and there were no direct flights to Boston so, we would keep our original plan and hang out for another day.
I stayed in bed watching some fabulous tennis matches (The Australian Open) between naps and runs “to the loo.”
Bill busied himself at the hotel gym and explored the underground shopping mall in our complex.
He returned from his reconnaissance mission with a smile and a plan.
“The Revenant” is playing at 4:30 – I think you should try to go. You don’t even have to go outside – it’s just an elevator ride to the mall. We can walk around for a bit or, have tea at this amazing tea cafe before the movie.”
“Adorable – the man is adorable and forever hopeful,” I thought.
I rallied, unsure I’d make it through the movie but wanted to be a “good date.” It was Friday after all and our last night in Hong Kong.
My Bill is not a consumer and a bit retail phobic. He tends to get moody and nervous when he walks near expensive shops with me. Luckily window-shopping was about all I could muster to his relief. Every single top brand from Madison Avenue to Beverly Hills was spectacularly showcased. The place was packed.
Hong Kong women know how to dress – and they clearly spend a lot of money. Despite the tumbling China stock market all week long – the stores were hopping.
We wandered by a handbag store, Bottega Veneta, where there was a pod of women hovering at a counter examining the same bag in multiple colors. I thought there must be a great sale in progress. Curious — we stepped in. The bag was indeed gorgeous.
“How much is that doggy – oops – baggy in the window?” I asked.
“$7,000 US dollars,” according to the saleswoman as she eyed my purple parka. “The purple bag would be nice for you.”
“Oh really, is that the sale price?“ I asked, trying not to look like a cheap American.
“Oh, so sorry madam,” (“…you sick looking tourist,” I imagined her adding).
”All sales ended in December.”
We wandered into Bill’s tea shop. We each selected a delicious tea from over 100 choices and he excitedly ordered a few pastries which I watched him eat with a big grin. There is something so “civilized” about having tea – it put a bit of structure in our day and pepped me up. We then headed over to the luxurious AMC movie theatre – an escalator ride away – where we were escorted to our “assigned” leather seats.
We watched the goriest movie ever, The Revenant, and when the grizzly started mauling Leonardo DiCaprio, my nails dug into Bill’s arm. He gently removed my claw from his skin and placed it back on my lap. I was transported by this physically exhausting story and miraculously my stomach settled. For 130 minutes my discomfort was suspended and felt minuscule next to Leonardo’s epic ordeal.
We headed back to our hotel and wandered through the lobby and found a restaurant with a children’s menu featuring plain spaghetti with butter, I was ready for my first meal in days.
Bill and I listened to a Jazz trio and watched the buzzing Friday night après work bar scene of expats – totally entertaining. I ate my simple noodles and Bill enjoyed a scotch and a steak.
The next morning, CNN was warning us we may not get home today. The noodles hadn’t sat well and I’d had a rough sleep. We were both ready to get home. Winter storm Jonas was pounding the East Coast with predictions of 40 inches in Virginia and heading north. Flights would be canceled up and down the east coast.
I’m lucky enough to be married to a weather aficionado who has all the best weather apps. He assured me the brunt of the storm would be south of Boston. He was right.
We landed without drama after 16 hours of smooth airtime. Sadly, we had to sit on the runway for another 3 hours as there was no gate available, which was trying, but an insignificant detail given our adventure.
I’m convinced being out on the road in unfamiliar places is a great test for a marriage. Blizzards, heat exhaustion, food poisoning, unforeseen expenses and endless time together, is a microcosm of a good marriage.