Travel days can often be long and boring. That’s why having to return to Dalian after an amazing week in Hong Kong ON MY BIRTHDAY wasn’t an ideal situation. But that’s just how the cards fell.
However, some cosmic force must have caught wind of my special day because it took mighty good care of me (with the help of Rose, of course).
We had planned to do some shopping on our last day in Hong Kong before our evening flight, but because of the ongoing protests, the city had effectively shut down. We decided to head to the airport early and get a bite to eat with our remaining HKD.
When we arrived, we went to one of the few restaurants in the airport and were delighted see that they had a special on red wine with one bottle being cheaper than almost every drink we’d bought the week prior. (Pro tip: Hong Kong cocktails are very pricey but maybe a little worth it.) Birthday surprise # 1.
After we savoured our bottle of Rioja over talks of future travel plans, we decided to head to our gate and hang out until it was time to board.
However, on our way to the gate we were handed two coupon booklets, complete with mini Kit-Kat bars (orange-flavoured) promoting the various airport shops. Inside the booklet we found a free drink coupon just for going to the duty-free at Gate Five–nowhere near ours, but with a little decision-making help from the Rioja we figured it would have been silly to pass up a free beverage. So we began our journey to (as it would come to be known) the Golden Gate.
With a little bounce in our step, we found Gate Five and–I kid you not–the clouds parted and through the glass ceiling of the airport came a single beam of sun illuminating a gauntlet of tray-laden, duty-free employees. (Play this sound effect as you picture it). I couldn’t tell you the exact number, but they were equipped with free samples of all the cognac, whiskey, and scotch you could lay your eyes on.
The best part? These weren’t even the drinks promised to us with our coupons! That counter, coincidentally, was located on the other side of the sea of free samples. How does that fable go? Can’t go over it, can’t go under it… You know where this is going. Birthday surprise # 2.
After making it through the sample-pushers, we found the free beverage counter which just-so-happened to be decorated in the theme of my favourite TV show, Game of Thrones. Johnnie Walker had released two new whiskeys as a follow up to their ‘White Walker’ blend and of course needed to go big on the marketing. Our free drinks were not those unfortunately, but we got to play on a fun touch screen while the bartender poured a hefty double shot for each of us. Birthday surprise # 3.
On our way out, we ended up passing the Jameson section. It’s one of my favourite whiskeys and they had some small batch blends on sale that we had never seen in Canada. Rose, with a little non-existent twisting of my arm, picked up a bottle (I think knowing full-well she’d be partaking in it as well), and with an extra ten percent off from our trusty coupon books, the bottle was bagged and we headed out. Birthday surprise # 4.
We made it halfway back to our gate before we were approached and given another set of coupon booklets and Kit-Kat bars from some airport staff.
“Should we try it?” I ask.
I had the “it’s my birthday” line all ready had the bartender cared enough to remember us (I don’t know how he’d forget the two giggling idiots). But unfortunately, we had lost track of time with all the fun we were having and our boarding call was going to happen very soon. Perhaps it was for the better.
We gleefully made it to our gate, got on our plane, and with the help of all our friends at the airport, slept peacefully on our three hour flight home.
People often take time to reflect on the previous year and ponder future goals when their birthdays roll around, and with that in mind, it seems fitting that I spent my 28th in an airport. We’ve succeeded in the efforts we’ve made to travel more this year and I hope it also signifies that the future will hold more of the same.
The airport ended up filling in nicely for my friends half a world away. It provided me with free drinks, some unexpected moments, and a fun time–things I could have expected with a celebration back home. Either way, I’ll remember this one.