23:45 pm, GMT + 5
‘I feel weird.’
Weird doesn’t cover it. It has been 34 hours since we’ve slept, and our bodies are starting to protest. Everything, from our limbs to our speech, everything feels slow and out of our control. Just one more five-hour flight to go.
‘Ooh look food!’ I gasp dramatically, mouth wide open, having never seen airplane food before. Myrthe bursts out giggling.
‘My bread is squishy.’ Fingers slowly press down on little piece of dough, and the plastic crackles softly. We burst out laughing. Never before has bread been so funny. Good thing the plane has provided us with endless sources of entertainment. Pillows, stewardesses, passengers, noodles, orange juice- our night is made.
Somehow, our bodies don’t seem to realise that sleep might be a sensible idea. And the more you mentally urge yourself to sleep… well it wasn’t going happen. By the time we begin the descent, we’re almost delirious. ‘Is that a boat? That’s a weird looking boat. Oh no wait that’s a building.’ ‘Look at those clouds! Oh no wait that’s a mountain.’
7:30 am, GMT+6
‘NO.’ The man vigorously shakes his head, putting his hands up to shield the entrance from us.
What do you mean no, this is our AirBnB! We hold up Myrthe’s phone defiantly, showing him the address. 26 Man Wui Street. Come on you little… let us in. It’s now been around forty hours since we’ve slept, and I’m quite genuinely considering a fight with the guard.
Of course we only found out later what we must have looked like. Unwashed hair slick with sweat, twisted into limp pony tails. Bodies swollen from the plane, to the point where both of us have gained another pair of ankles and a plane food pregnancy. No make up on our slightly yellowish faces, dark purple bags hanging lifelessly under our eyes. Besides, we stunk.
‘NO!’ After looking again at the address he hasn’t changed his mind. He shakes his head and argues vehemently in Cantonese. Realising we don’t understand, he rolls his eyes and beckons us. We follow him round the corner. There’s nothing there.
’26 Man Wui Street!’
We shake our heads in exasperation. After another heated exchange during which neither of us understood a word the other was saying, we gave up and decided to call the AirBnb owner.
All that gave us was a more high pitched rendition of what the little shit of a guard had told us earlier. ‘Wa mome plis!’ One moment please? We weren’t sure. Again the squeaky voice prattles on in Cantonese. ‘Ok?’
‘No not okay we don’t understand! Where are you?’ The line goes dead.
If we don’t get in to this building soon there’s a 50% chance of one of the three of us dying. Myrthe, me or the guard.
‘Austin?’ A more friendly voice asks. The voice belongs to a fisherman, with glossy silver hair.
‘Yes, Austin! Austin’s guest house! Do you know it?’
‘Sorry, no english.’
That leads nowhere, all he does is point up and yell ‘Austin’ with confidence. After twenty more minutes of fruitless exploration and being yelled at by the guard and the fisherman, we seem to have attracted the neighbourhood. All of them know what we should do. A new guard yells that we need to get money, and points us to an exchange bureau. A man tells us in broken English that we need to wait till two to go in. Wan-mome-plis keeps telling us that we’re okay, then hanging up on us. The fisherman still thinks our Airbnb is somewhere up in the smoggy Hong Kong sky. The old guard just wants us to fuck off.
Finally a guy speaking English comes to our rescue. The poor man gets instantly roped into calling Wan-mome-plis, who shows up a while later. The tiny little lady attached to the high-pitched voice is vicious, rolling her eyes and stamping her feet and squeaking insults at us in Cantonese. She beckons us to follow her, which we do blindly. We’ve not got much in the way of options. Still fuming, she flings a door open, which we enter. ‘Wan-mome-plis.’ She snaps before disappearing.
A good fifteen minutes later she returns to find us sitting in her office, heads between our hands, collapsing slowly. I’ve found just enough energy to download google translate and suddenly we’re saved. I think she even smiled at us at some point.
And, at nine-thirty in the morning, we find ourselves in a room. With beds. With a shower. I want to hug Wan-Mome-Plis but she mutters something in Cantonese and is gone. We look at each other, the soulless shells of who we were two days ago.
We made it.