Every one of my trips has a first memorable moment. In ’02 it was sleeping in Birmingham Airport, in ’05 landing in the stunning delta at Faro. Last year it all started in Zhuhai, watching Brandy have her contacts fitted and buying a turtle for a girl who never contacted me again for some reason.
This year’s travel begun with a sad goodbye to Veronique at the passport control, followed by a 25 hour train journey to Hong Kong, most of which I slept through. I’d had a total of 8 hours sleep in the previous three nights.
The point of coming to Hong Kong was very much chores rather than pleasure, so it was fitting that I was greeted by grey skies and English drizzle. The following two days were very busy indeed, but too boring to recount. In short I learned that
* You can’t open a bank account without proof of address, no matter how hard you try.
* Storage depots in HK are money-grabbing bastards, just like the ones in the UK.
* South-East-Asian visas are very easy indeed.
* Tiger Airways are perhaps the least helpful airline in the world.
* I.P. Phonecards are a scam
…and many more even less interesting things.
I did at least get to take the double-decker tram everywhere.
I didn’t meet anyone interesting while in HK, but I did at least meet one of the most stunningly dull men in the world. Most Germans I’ve met over the years have been nice, interesting, arty Berlin types, but this guy could be enough to undo years of goodwill. Here he was, in Asia for the first time in his life, refusing to go to any restaurant except McDonald’s because “the food doesn’t look like the Chinese food at home” and he was “happy with the Chinese food in Germany,” and constantly complaining that he “didn’t understand why it had to be different.” On my last night there he told me he was off to have a beer and then look at the red light district – just to look, you see, not to buy anything of course. He then came back at 3am, five hours past his usual bedtime.
When all was done in HK I took the usual boat back to Zhuhai. After the passport control woman took ten minutes to examine my visa with a magnifying glass and quizzed me about what I’d been doing in Mongolia I was free to enter the equally drizzly city again.
A couple of hours later I met Doug and Jeremy in a cellar-style wine bar. They jammed on the piano and guitars and we chatted about old days over a free bottle of wine.
A little later my old Chinese teacher Anny turned up with her Italian boyfriend. Great to see her too, of course, but there was no sign of Brandy or Amanda. Still, it’s not a bad place to meet up, which makes it almost unique in Zhuhai.
After we’d finished there we left Doug and his wife (!?!?) behind and moved on to the other halfway decent place in the city, Live Bar, to have a few beers and try to play the dice game. A little later Brandy turned up from Guangzhou with her new boyfriend. From that point it all got a bit drunk and messy. A sleazy guy we used to work with turned up and decided to kick one of the feral kittens across the floor. What a twat. That was the sign for me to go and sleep on Jeremy’s sofa.
After very little sleep I was off round Zhuhai for a fairly boring day. I’d meant to go up to Guangzhou with Brandy but couldn’t get through to her as (I found out later) she’d lost her phone. At 4pm I was on my way to the bus anyway when I bumped into Amanda. Over a coffee I reprimanded her for being impossible to contact and met some nice new TPR teachers.
I got into Guangzhou fairly late, and went to find a youth hostel as i still couldn’t find Brandy. The next day it was fairly hot, so I went for a wander.
Guangzhou isn’t really anything special, so far as I can see, but unlike Zhuhai it does at least feel like real southern China. There wasn’t anything I wanted to do particularly, so I just let myself get lost for a while before getting back to the train station to catch my train to Guilin for travel proper.