After flying in from London, British journalist Marisa Cannon is confined to her hotel room in Hong Kong, navigating patchy wifi, work-outs at the foot of the bed, cockroaches and online food orders…
According to the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, travellers who are eligible to enter Hong Kong need to take a mandatory medical coronavirus test and quarantine in a hotel approved by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government for 14 days at their own expense. They will also be required to wear a tracking device.
For a full review of the flight and arrivals process at Hong Kong, including one night and day in quarantine at a separate government-sponsored hotel, click here.
Editor’s note: At the end of December 2020, Hong Kong increased the quarantine period to three weeks.
The adrenaline of the last 48 hours has kept my energy levels up, but now that I’ve reached my hotel room, and home for the next 12 days thanks to Hong Kong’s hotel quarantine policy for inbound travellers, I feel like I’ve been hit by a freight train.
It’s been a whirlwind of stimuli, and after being processed through a scrupulous tracking system, a 12-hour flight and multiple Covid tests, coupled with the eight-hour time difference, I’m dead to the world.
So dead that I pay little attention to the size of my room, which is so small that when I lie on the double bed, I can just about touch the opposing walls with my hands and feet. I booked this “economy” room figuring that I’d be able to fritter away more cash once I was allowed out in the wild again. An error – 280 sqft (26 sqm) sounds a lot bigger than it is.
I console myself with a £20 takeaway and settle in for an afternoon of napping and Netflix. Sleep comes easily at 7.30pm.
It’s Monday and I’m awake by 4am. I’ve come to an arrangement with my UK office that I can keep Asia hours as long as I arrange a call schedule that suits my clients, which means my first call of the day isn’t until 5.30pm.
Until then, I work. I’m hungry, but only a few restaurants are open this early on Foodpanda – a local delivery platform – and only ones that list their menus in Chinese, which I don’t read. Friends and family will drop off supplies outside my room before heading to work, so till then, I make do with hot water and a Kitkat saved from the flight.
Within a few hours, I’ve discovered that the wifi signal is strongest on the left side of the bed. I designate that region of the bed “the office”, and the right, “the bed”. The room has a chair and a wooden shelf jutting out from the wall that could double as a desk, but I’ve always preferred working cross-legged on soft furnishings, so my new “office” suits me fine.
Pleased to report that the dodgy wifi held out for my afternoon calls, but not enough to let me stream Schitt’s Creek without buffering interludes so erratic I would describe the experience as millennial Japanese water torture. I figure I should aim to be less sedentary today, especially as I’ve been given a yoga mat by a friend who lives near my hotel.
YouTube is ripe with hotel room work-outs, so I give one titled “20 minute Full Body Hotel Room Workout” a go. I complete five of the 20 minutes before getting bored, and swap it for Louis Theroux’s Grounded podcast, to which I jog back and forth between the door and window, a distance of about 2.5 metres. I do some high knees and 8 1/2 squats and call it a day.
One of the great delights in booking a cheap hotel room that you can’t leave (or face a HKD25,000/£2,400 fine and six months in jail) is realising how utterly at the mercy of the hotel staff you are. If they decide not to help you with whatever you might need help with, there is literally nothing you can do. I realise this when the wifi drops completely in the middle of the working day.
I call reception repeatedly, only to be met on my fourth attempt with a virtual shrug and the vague suggestion that housekeeping might reset the router, soon. It recovers an hour and a half later. To be fair, I used the time well, spritzing the room with anti-bac and laying cockroach traps – I discovered a baby one exploring my shower drain one evening – so all was not lost.
It’s the weekend and I can no longer rely on the distraction of work to while away the hours. A friend brought a bottle of wine over earlier in the week, and I’m considering getting involved with that, though I have reservations over being drunk in solitary confinement.
Later, another friend suggests that I might develop Stockholm syndrome from my captivity, and that they’d find me absent-mindedly etching the pattern of the room’s Gothic wallpaper on stray bits of paper, or co-opting one of the baby roaches as a pal for life, as Tom Hanks’ character in Castaway does with the volley ball Wilson.
It’s possible. I don’t mind the room as much as I did at the start of the week, and have developed a routine of morning rituals (tea making, yogic stretching) and ways to spend the day, dipping in and out of novels and podcasts, writing, Zoom calls and trawling Twitter.
The restaurants that deliver in the area are a dream too, I’ve had Vietnamese, Korean, Cantonese and Japanese this week, though have made an effort to curb my deliveries to one a day to mitigate risk of gout.
Inching closer to freedom. I get a call from the Hong Kong testing lab that will deliver my final Covid test, they tell me that a courier will drop it off sometime between 10am and 6pm tomorrow, and collect it the following day. I decide to hold off washing my hair until tomorrow for the benefit of my visitor.
Wifi is so awful that I’ve resorted to watching the TV in my room, a news segment on loop describing the chaos that Brexit is about to unleash on the UK. It makes me feel grateful to be sequestered on the other side of the world.
Last day – I can leave the room tonight at the stroke of midnight, and I intend to. (The quarantine period is a bit confusing but basically you have to show a booking for 14 days but it depends on what time your flight lands – for me, I was able to leave this hotel at the end of the 12th day – I had already spent one night quarantined in a government hotel.)
A welcome party is assembled outside – thank God for good friends – with chilled beers at the ready.
Final lessons from this time include:
1) Two weeks with no physical human contact can actually be enjoyable. Come prepared with books, Netflix, a yoga mat, and swathes of lounge wear
2) Get your heart rate up for at least ten minutes each day. It’ll make a difference, probably.
3) ALWAYS check hotel wifi reviews.
For up-to-date travel advice on journeys from the UK to Hong Kong, visit the FCO.