After months of planning, and a detour via Brisbane for a family BBQ post-ceremony, we were finally there: embarking on our honeymoon! We were in for a heck of an outbound journey, two flights and one stopover flying Australia to Israel.
Flight CX156 was due to depart Brisbane Airport at 12:55AM; the journey up to Queensland before departing was worth it in that regard alone (as the Sydney Airport Curfew Act restricts any departures/landings after 11:00PM, effectively canning your night-flight options). My parents very thoughtfully dropped us at the international terminal around 10:00PM, and away we went.
We strode in: determined, strong, prepared. We knew that this was probably our best shot at attaining that ever-elusive dream of the Honeymooner Perk. It was late at night, after all. We looked tired, and happy. Our rings were only marginally more sparkly than our smiles. Who could resist our charm?
We very deliberately bypassed the self check-in option (robots tending to be more difficult to goad into discretionary upgrades, duh)… only to have a very efficient Cathay Pacific staffer stride over to us, remove us from the line, and forcefully oversee our self check-in before returning us to the end of the queue. She had no truck with our impertinent questions or our wheedling smiles – she advised us, with a curt smile, to direct all questions to the staff member managing our Bag Drop. Bum!
The wait in queue felt interminable. I felt the newlywed sparkle wearing off us by the minute. My husband disappeared for what I was sure was about an hour (he insists that it was no longer than 10 minutes) to find a bathroom. I chatted to the people in queue ahead of us; they were headed to London, to visit one of their children. They’d been married for 20 years, they told me. I was pretty sure, I thought but didn’t say, that Rowan and I would reach that anniversary before we actually got to drop our bags.
When we finally made it to the front of the queue, we shook ourselves off, clasped hands and approximated two “we deserve an upgrade!” smiles, as best we knew how. It seemed to make no impression upon the customer service representative tasked with checking our bags. She motioned for our passports and paperwork, barely glancing up over the counter. My valiant, brave, wonderful husband took charge:
“You know, this might be the only chance we get at this – we were married yesterday, this is the first leg of our honeymoon and we’re totally exhausted. Could you please… I mean, is there any chance of an upgrade?”.
We’d heard stories of this happening – kindly check-in staff taking pity on beleaguered honeymooners. We stared at her. We thought at the time that we looked hopeful and unassuming; in retrospect, we may have looked slightly psychopathic.
“Ah,” said the staff member. She gave the briefest of smiles. “No,”.
Well, then. That was that.
We waited for her to finish checking our bags, patiently and silently, feeling desperately sorry for interrupting her efficiency with our politeness. When she handed us our boarding passes, I noticed that we’d been given a window and a middle seat. Bum, again! I’m one of the very rare breed that prefers an aisle seat at the very back of the plane. Window seats freak me out: the idea of having to wake up 1-2 people (at least one being a stranger) just to go to the bloody bathroom makes my stomach do a weird clenchy thing. And that weird clenchy thing was set to play on a loop for the first 24 hours of my experience as a honeymooner. Excellent!
It was at that very moment that my valiant, brave, wonderful husband asked another crucial question: “I notice that there’s nothing here about a gluten-free meal. My wife needs a gluten-free meal; can you make sure that that’s all set, please?”.
The staff member bit her lip. She click-clacked away at her keyboard, frantically. In the distance, sirens.
“I’m sorry, no. There is no gluten-free meal recorded for these tickets,”.
At this point, declaring “bum!” for a third time didn’t quite cut it, but I’m pretty sure I made a very unladylike sound, out loud. The Cathay Pacific staffer directed us to the Customer Service desk, and we strode on over – crossing all of our extremities in the hope that there was something they could do.
More waiting. A rather impressive lady manning the opposite side of the desk was dealing with what seemed to be a rather hectic visa/passport situation, telling a father that there was a chance that his 12-year-old daughter might not be able to get back into the country if they got on their flight that night. Hats off to this lady, in all seriousness: she had that shit on lockdown. Watching her manage his entirely-understandable reaction while simultaneously co-ordinating some kind of work-around over the phone was enough to keep us entertained for quite a while. I silently hoped that she would be the one to handle my comparatively-paltry dietary requirement.
She was not.
The lady that we did deal with was nice enough, but she told us in no uncertain terms that there was no way to arrange a gluten-free meal for the initial flight this late in the game, and there were “no guarantees” for the subsequent flight either. She assured us that she had marked the request for the return journey, wished us the best of luck, and sent us right on our way.
Well. Fuck, I guess?
“You know what?”, we thought. “We ate a shit-tonne of food at our family barbecue. We can pick up some snacks at the gate, some nuts or something. We’ve snuck a couple slices of gluten-free wedding cake into our carry-on. This is going to be fine,”. That perked us up a bit, and we danced our way through Departures.
My mood improved even further when we completed our departure cards, and I got to note this – for the first time ever – as my occupation:
Sure enough, we found an open convenience store near our gate, where I picked up some gluten-free snacks for the flight: a couple of protein bars, some popcorn… coupled with the cake, it was a meal fit for a new wife with dietary sensitivities!
We parked ourselves on a rather comfortable lounge, and just tried our darnedest not to fall asleep. My new husband rolled on his compression socks, and pointed out (as kindly as he could) that I needed a mint.
Once we actually got on the plane, the flight itself was uneventful. We both got to have a bit of a snooze, but not as much as we would have liked. I snacked away on my popcorn and cake, saving the customs-safe protein bars for when they were more desperately needed. And so, we made it to Hong Kong! Stage one = complete!
We caught a train from Hong Kong airport into the city – very clean and well-maintained, as you’d expect. Our real married lives truly commenced once we got to the central train station; in endeavouring to figure out the fastest foot-route to our hotel, I had the pleasure of listening to my new husband mansplain to me the exact meaning of a “You Are Here!” mark on the station map. I managed to convey with a single look all the ways in which he could go fuck himself: my first wife-glare win!
Once we’d established that We Are In Fact Here (thank you, husband!), it wasn’t all that tough to navigate our way on foot to the Ovolo Novo hotel. We arrived pretty early in the day (our flight had landed at 7:35AM), and the hotel manager Ian very apologetically explained that he would have no rooms available until 2:00PM. We would have found a way to make it work, but we didn’t have to: Ian very kindly found us a room that would be available immediately at their sister hotel up the street, and even went to the trouble of having the building security guard escort us there so that we wouldn’t get lost. Most importantly, he reassured us that we were still more than welcome to join them for free happy hour drinks at 5:00PM. We liked Ian!
We freshened up in our hotel room (according to Ian, it was much larger than the one we were originally allocated, which was concerning given that there was barely room to swing a recently-married cat). My new husband used his now-legendary cartography skills to determine the location of the nearest dining district, so that we could venture out to find a proper meal for me to eat (by this point, I was so fucking hungry I would have eaten him and had no regrets).
We spent a couple of hours wandering the Soho district, looking for a reasonably-reliable gluten-free option. We had very little luck; either it was some kind of special occasion public-holiday in Hong Kong, or it’s just the land of the luxurious sleep-in, because we had trouble finding anything that was open, even as it approached 11:00AM, let alone something that wouldn’t poison me.
Ultimately, I settled for a bowl of very plain (cooked in water) rice noodles, with a drop of chilli sauce and two chicken wings.
As promised, we made our way back to the Ovolo Novo to join Ian for a G&T during Ovolo’s free happy hour, which perked me up a bit…
… and we made sure to make the most of it before sauntering back to our hotel room for a gloooorious hot shower and long-overdue nap.
We set multiple alarms to ensure that we were awake in plenty of time to hustle our way back out to the airport. Once again, navigating Hong Kong’s brilliant public transit was no problem at all (and my husband knowingly avoided any further mansplaining-incidents).
At the airport, I was eagerly anticipating the opportunity to wolf down an actual fucking meal… to no avail. My new husband (hmph!) ate like a king – a Burger King, actually – while I topped off a day’s worth of watermelon cubes, popcorn and plain rice noodles with… 6 mini-rolls of plain cucumber sushi, no condiments. I literally ate cucumber, rice and seaweed for dinner. It was the sole gluten-free option at the only Hong Kong airport restaurant that remained open by the time we got to the gate. To top it off, my feet were starting to ache, and there was not a single pharmacy or travel-essentials store in the entire airport from which I could procure an additional pair of compression socks.
Somehow, my husband – with his full belly and compressed feet – made it to the gate alive, dragging me behind him, and we boarded our flight to Tel Aviv. Israel and garlic hummus and sea level couldn’t come fast enough!