Our final destination (haha) was South Africa; we transferred flights at Dubai. I don’t know if we had to stop at Dubai (though I doubt there are any direct flights from Hong Kong to South Africa) or if my dad thought we might as well stop there. Although the temperature in Dubai and South Africa were vastly different, it didn’t exactly cause a lot of problems when I was packing – after all, I was (and still am) pretty adamant on wearing shorts in the cold weather whenever I could. On a side note, this is the first trip I started using my phone to take photos instead – I found photos in this album starting with ‘IMG’ as well as ‘P’.
1. There were three main things I remember about Dubai. One: Dubai was, overall, just really hot, but not in a way that made you feel like you were suffocating. It was a dry kind of hot, unlike being in a sauna, also unlike being in Hong Kong. I liked the dry breezes there, even if the wind was hot. Two: the malls were super cold. It was essentially an escape for the hot weather outside. Three: the place was pretty dusty. It was hard to see the top of the skyscrapers (sometimes they were covered in fog!) and the visibility was low, even compared to some bad Hong Kong days.
2. On one of the four days we were at Dubai, we took a cab to tour around the desert. (By then, we’d already long gave up the dream of navigating around Dubai by ourselves. There was no way we could read the road signs.) We were taken around the sand dunes in a large-wheeled rover, which seemed to just crawl over the bumps. We tilted at a pretty ridiculous angle, but we never capsized. Later that day, we were transferred over to some camels (another bumpy ride), and had dinner in this square (pictured above!). I even got a henna there. I remember listening to the radio as we headed back to the hotel late at night, and I also remember thinking about numerals, because something about the day trip had gotten me wondering about them.
3. I can’t put into words what a relief it was to see this. After enduring what seemed to be hours of waiting at the airport in Dubai, then flying almost half a day to South Africa, it was an understatement to say that I was happy to be done with air travel for a while. It was also a huge shock for me, because I had no idea how South Africa would look like, for it to remind me so much of New Zealand or Australia – the huge parking lots, the rental cars, the clear blue skies… I’d been there for all of 2 hours, and I already loved it.
4. These photos are a little out of place among the many I have of scenery, but these are the true gems of the trip. It’s a pity that I don’t have a lot of photos of us as a family, be it lounging around at night, going around to landmarks in the day, just… doing our thing. I never really recorded how our domestic life was during vacation, but this photo proves something that makes me very happy (all the more now, because whole family vacations seem to be fading to become a thing of the past) – home is wherever we are, together.
5. We drove off pretty far to what I think is the edge of something… somewhere around the Cape of Good Hope. I just remember seeing a huge stretch of ocean that extended to the peripheries of my vision, nothing but oceans for miles, just… a lot of ocean. As my dad was driving us to the next location, we passed by a wild emu (pictured above) and also saw it pee right next to us. It was an experience truly like no other. I still laugh a little every time I think about it.
6. We went shopping around that day. There was a three story mall, where I found a post office and mailed letters (to my favourite people back then), where I bought my first (and cheapest) Owl City CD, where I had a really tall ice cream… Those were some good times.
7. The place we stayed next was amazing. We were driving along the road from Cape Town down south when we stopped there. I remember the place as Three Flavours (it’s Kapensis Guesthouse – I Googled hard to find this) and we were pretty much the only guests there during our stay. The hospitality was great, the rooms were so uniquely themed (my sister and I had towel animals on our beds!). We drove to a nearby village for dinner, where the soup was really thick and flavourful, where I first encountered the other meaning of ‘game’, and where I tried ostrich for the first time.
8. We went around Cape Town via rental car (road trip, woohoo!) so I looked out the window a lot. I don’t remember when this was, or where we were going, but we passed by this slum-looking area, which was intriguing because of how normal it made everything seem. In Hong Kong, we also have a mixture of these crowded areas as well as better developed buildings. Another thing I remembered seeing that piqued my interest was the road signs, and how many different languages there were in South Africa.
9. I don’t think I ever went canoeing before this. I’ve been Kayaking during our school camps, which was pretty similar, but not exactly the same. Seeing these photos reminded me of something that gradually stopped as we grew up – when it came to two-person activities, it was always my dad paired with my sister, and my mom with me, partly so we’d weight-balanced, but mostly because I wasn’t grown enough to deal with a still developing kid. Now, though, it’s mostly my sister and I together, and my parents together.
10. On our last day in South Africa, we went to have Greek food, on my request. I was trying to learn Greek that summer (didn’t get very far), and I’d never had Greek cuisine before. Not that this itself was a memorable experience; I didn’t exactly order a meal that was super Greek. I did have baklava for the first time, though. It was really nutty and chewy, unlike the soft and fluffy desserts I was used to. All in all, this trip hit a lot of firsts for me.