Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Emails from China (2005)

Email 1 – Travelling Trav up to his old tricks (21/11/2005)

Hi all,

Well I'm on the move again.

Last Thursday my plane was leaving from London to Hong Kong at 6pm. But it got delayed so it was leaving at 6:30pm, then 7:15pm then 8:00pm then 11:00pm. At 10pm I was told it was definitely leaving tonight. But at 11:30pm the flight was cancelled. It wasn't all bad we got a 10 pound voucher for Starbucks. If only I drank coffee. Then we got to stay at the fabulous Holiday Inn all the way back in the city. I was in bed by 1:30am and my wake up call was set for 6:00am to get the bus for our rescheduled flight of 11:00am.

The flight was largely uneventful apart from the fact that the inflight entertainment kept breaking down. If anyone can tell me what happens in the last 10 mins of "The Island" it would be much appreciated.

Cathay Pacific "airline of the year" my ass. I think it was best summed up by the captain "I apologise again for the severe delay in the flight and the interruption in the inflight entertainment. I guess it's just one of those days."

One good thing about all the hoopla is the passengers managed to bond a little. So in Hong Kong I hung out with a Blue Haired hippy chick from Melbourne called Fiona. (I apologise Fi if that's not how you'd like to be refered. I'm using a certain artistic licence in these emails). We looked at the main tourist sites in Hong Kong which include some big escalator, a very steep tram and a night market.

Fi lashed out and stayed in a fancy hotel. I was in a dorm room that cost 60 HKD or about 4 quid. It was reasonably clean apart from the cockroaches that had made the fridge their home. I requested that the fridge be cleaned. It seemed a good idea until I started about where the cockroaches were now going to live.

The next day (Sunday Hong Kong time) I headed to Guangzhou (formally known as Canton) where I am emailing you this message. I saved money by training it to the border then walking across and taking another train in Mainland China. The border crossing was pretty freaky with cameras eyeing you up and down as you stand in line. Felt like I was in the not too distant future.

Meals outside touristy restaurants are pretty cheap. Especially when there's no English menu. However that causes some problems. All I know how to say is San Chow Bow (which is a fancy meal I remembered from Chinese Restaurants in Oz) Dim Sims (or Dim Sums) and Won Tons. Unfortunately not many places have San Chow Bow, Dim Sums here is a generic term for all types of rolled up snack foods. So that leaves Won Tons. I had Won Ton Soup for Breakfast and Dinner, and this morning I had them for lunch. Won Tons are nice but so is variety so if anyone knows some more Chinese meals please let me know.

I watched some TV in my room in Caton before venturing out. About half the channels were advertising breast enhancment, drugs, teas and potions. Apparently you just sip the tea, you wake up the next morning and "wow I've got great bazoongas". It looks like it's not just Coca Cola and McDonalds that have taken over China. Our highly advanced western ideals are also creeping in.

Last night I wandered around the city and found a Spa, Sauna and Massage place. Now I know what you're thinking, but it really was a legitimate establishment. You could have a Spa and Sauna then sit in front of a TV on a comfy couch and drink tea while you wait for your massage. I ordered a 2 hour full body massage that only cost 20 quid. She was very professional and it was very relazing. I spent most of the time wondering what "extras" or "happy ending" was in Chinese. Turns out I didn't need to worry. A full body massage in China really is a full body massage and a quick rub and tug is included in the price.

Tonight at 9pm I'm taking the 13 hour night train to Guilin. I thought I'd bought a bus ticket. I was a little embarrased when I asked where the bus left from and she told me, this is a train station, you're taking a train. I said "yeah that's what I meant".

Bye for now,

Email 2 – Hi from Honkers (29/11/2005)

Hi all,

Last time I left you I was in Guangzhou (formally Canton). A lot's happened in the last week. On the world scene that is, I've just sat around a lot.

Before taking the 13 hour train ride to Guilin I popped into a local restaurant and ordered a Szechuan Chicken. The waitress informed me "No you don't want the chicken. The chicken's in China are sick." I said, "Oh the bird flu yeah I heard about that I'm sure it will be fine". But she insisted I didn't have the chicken. She must have been watching too much TV like my parents.

I got to Guilin and it was supposed to be one of the most beautiful cities in Southern China.... It was alright.

I then went to Yangshuo which is about an hour bus ride from Guilin. It's the backpackers mecca, where you can stay in a hostel for just over a quid, just sit about and order pizzas, hamburgers and the like, (along with your fried wontons if you really want to do the Chinese thing) and drink the local beer (as cheap as 30p for about 600ml). So now you know what I've been doing for the last week.

But in more detail;

On the bus to Yangshuo. I met a Western Australian electrician called Cain who's been living in London. He'd done about a month in China. When we got to Yangshuo we sorted out a room at Lisa's cafe then went for a wander. We found some locals playing table tennis. I kicked some 14 year kids ass. The 60 year old woman however had my number and no amount of trash table talk managed to put her off her game.

The rest of the day was spent drinking and playing cards. I got so drunk I was in bed by 9:30pm. Also I was getting the begginings of a cold. Cain however (being a sparky from WA) kicked on with the drinking. He woke me when he got in the room about midnight. He said there was only him and the staff left downstairs and they were hinting for him to go to bed. They said "You're half drunk". His arguement was "Yes I may be half drunk, but I'm half not-half-drunk so what do you say to that." This he repeated several times before passing out.

The next day we went on a boat tour which was down a river which had very unique scenery. The hills are strange. It's supposed to be the most beautiful region in Southern China. So much so it's even on the 20 Yuan banknote..... It was alright.

Then it was back for more drinking. This time we hung out at the Amazing Roof Top Bar of Marvelous Monkey Janes Guesthouse. It's better up there as you don't get the local merchants hassling you every five minutes wanting to sell you a postcard. It's run by a 22 year old Chinese girl who we'd met on the boat tour. She "invited" us on a tour the next day to see some villages. However we soon became aware that a "small" tip was expected.

The village tour was excellent. There was supposed to be 4 of us but two girls pulled out because they were too scared of the electric bikes we drove on the tour. So it was me, Cain and Monkey Jane. We went to the dragon bridge across the dragon river (this Chinese obsession with dragon's really needs to stop). It's a bridge about 10 meters above the river in a small village. Cain and I jumped off the bridge into the manky cold river below much to the amusement of the locals. Then we had more local beers and some food at moonhill, another special Southern Chinese site.... It was alright.

That night I got to DJ at the Amazing Roof Top Bar of Marvelous Monkey Janes Guesthouse with my iPod.

The rest of the days there kind of mix together. The cold had hit me by now and some days I was too sick to do much and just slept a lot. Other times I just tried to drink through it. One of those times I spent at a Karaoke bar with some Chinese English students and some other backpackers. Jerome the french guy was impressed at how confidently and loudly I could belt out a song being fully aware at how attrocious I sounded. I believe I may actually be the worst Karaoke singer in the world, or as I like to think the best bad karaoke singer.

One time at Lisa's Cafe the streets were innundated with local kids on a school project. They were about 30 of them hassling all the foreigners they could find with such hard hitting questions as. What's your favourite colour, what's your favourite food , what's your favourite animal and what is the custom of your country. I said the green, san chow bow, kangaroo and drinking.

On Sunday night we took an 11 hour night bus from Yangshuo to Macau. Which was "11 hour" in name only as it actually took 15 hours. Macau was a miserable sleazy shithole. Enough said.

Now I'm in Hong Kong. Spending a night in a fancy motel before my flight tomorrow evening.

Stats for this leg of the tour.

Chinese words learnt 4 (hello - ni how, thank you - shi shia, bing - cold, pi jiu - beer)
Nightbus/train hours travelled 28
Postcards offered 1,023
Postcards bought 0

Travelling Trav singing off.