The mood turned from jovial to sour in an instant. One minute, we were sitting by a pay phone, joking away as usual, and then Thom's face dropped as he read a text message saying, "London's been attacked by terrorists - 6 bombs".
We both lived and studied in central London, and this was a little close to home. We went straight to the nearest hotel and got ourselves a room. "Does it have a satellite TV?" BBC News gave us all the latest information and soon set our minds at ease.
Feeling slightly better about things but unsure what to do next, we ventured out into the Hong Kong night scene and found ourselves a curry in the weirdest department store I have ever visited before hitting the sack.
We had instructions to rendezvous with our new hosts at a 'parking shop' in a nearby shopping centre.
"What the hell is a parking shop?" I asked Thom as he relayed the message to me.
"I dunno. That's what she said: par-king-shop."
We wandered the complex, but there was no sign of anything like a parking shop. What exactly we were looking for, I don't know, but I assumed it would involve cars--maybe paraphernalia for them or something?
"You sure this is the right place, Thom?"
"Yeah, yeah, this is it."
We walked out to the neighbouring shopping centre and back, but there was still no sign of it.
"They said 'down the escalator to the parking shop'."
We went up and down every escalator we could find until finally we saw a big sign above the supermarket.
"Ohhhhh," we both realised out loud, "the Park 'n' Shop!"
Taken back to our host's place, we once again had accommodation far beyond what we were expecting: a luxurious house with air-conditioning, plasma-screen TV, and a view out over the sea.
We were driven into town the next day and set about our tasks. We picked up our plane tickets to America, got a ride on a double-decker tram (as it happened, it took us farther away from our destination than we had been when we got on, but it was still another method), took the funicular railway up to The Peak, and even managed to get a photo in an old-fashioned rickshaw. Thom was keen to get away from the crowds around the funicular station, so we hiked out and found a quiet peak with a commanding view. We decided we'd walk back down the hill instead and set about the trek down. It was quite a long way down, and the intense humidity wasn't helping matters.
"Shit," Thom broke the silence, "I left my camera in the toilets at the funicular station."
The funicular station was at the top of the hill. Luck was on our side, however, as the camera was still there after a taxi ride up. We decided to take the bus this time, only to realise we'd left our guidebook in a cafe and had to run back for it.
We did eventually make it back into town with a feeling of car-sickness after winding in circles on the bus. We used the world's longest outdoor escalator (a bit of a con, since it is in fact just a series of short ones) and rode the Star Ferry across the water. It was dark, and after stopping to do some leap-frog on camera in front of the skyline, we decided to head home. The metro took us as far as it went and deposited us at the bus station.
"What was the number of the bus we were supposed to get?"
I made a point of remembering it when we were told earlier in the day. Unfortunately, there was no K21, but there was a K23 that went to a road name that we recognised.
As the K23 flew past our exit on the motorway, we knew we'd done something wrong. Dumped somewhere that was a mystery to both us and our hosts who we phoned for directions, we jumped in a taxi and eventually made it back.
The next day, our bus usage didn't get any better. It started off quite well when the hourly minibus had no room for us, and we managed to find a bus on our own that took us to the metro station. We spent another day enjoying the delights of Hong Kong (which for me was primarily cheap CDs) and then decided to go home when it got dark. Apparently there was a bus that would take us all the way from the centre, right back home, without having to get on the metro as well.
The bus pulled into the bus station, the terminal stop, and we weren't where we wanted to be. The road name matched the one we wanted, but a passerby said we were a half-hour drive away. A half-hour drive? How long was this road!? With little other option, we bit the bullet and got another taxi back, arriving home with our tails between our legs as we confessed another public transport blunder to our hosts.
Now, dropped off at the airport, there was little room for any more cock-ups. Right?
We had hours before our plane was due to depart, so we thought we'd go check out this giant carved Buddha that lurked somewhere in the woods. We took one bus and then another (we were even directed by a local who pointed out the right bus to get us to the Buddha). Once again, we arrived somewhere distinctly different from where we wanted to be. We weren't amused. It was hot, we were tired, and all we wanted to do was see a big Buddha.
Since we'd come all that way, we felt obliged to look around the town for a bit, but it wasn't long before we were back on the same bus, heading to the airport again. Yet another failed attempt to read the bus timetable.
As I leant my head against the bus window, trying to get some sleep, feeling sorry for myself in the heat, Thom tapped me on the shoulder. "Look," he said and nodded over to the other side of the bus. I looked out the far window and up to the top of the mountain outside where, rising above the trees, was the clear outline of a large, carved wooden Buddha.