Day 133: Honkers
I hadn’t thought about it before, but Hong Kong is a fitting place to finish my Silk Road trip. The trip began in Istanbul, that great city where “east meets west”. Hong Kong, as a city where “west meets east”, neatly bookends the trip (while not having a think to do with the Silk Road!).
It was a long road from Lanzhou to Hong Kong though, but I made it. It took me one flight, five buses, a train and finally a taxi ride to get here. I woke up early in Lanzhou and caught a shuttle bus out to the airport. The flight was uneventful, but I read with dread in the in-flight magazine that Guangzhou’s annual Canton Fair was starting that day! Aaaargh! This is the expo where the world comes to see what China has to offer…
Guangzhou’s brand spanking new airport was chaos. People everywhere, and definitely more Westerners than I’ve seen over the last three months combined. Fortunately there was a lot of help at hand and I was able to work out that I needed to catch a bus to one of the city hotels, and then change onto a Hong Kong bus (HK is a couple of hours away). Of course that hotel turned out to be enormous Dong Fang Hotel (Dad can you believe it – again?!) right over the road from the fair’s exhibition halls. The traffic was a nightmare and there were tens of thousands of people cramming the streets and the hotel. But sure enough my bus was there so it wasn’t long before I was on my merry way.
A few hours driving through the “new China” of Guandong’s Shenzen Special Economic Zone and we arrived at the border. In my ranking of shitty border crossings this one really takes the cake. It was chaotic, disorganised The scale of it was incredible, and every couple of seconds another bus pulled up with a fresh load of people trying to get over the border. xxxxxx
I’ve been staying with my mate Sung from Berkeley, who’s started his job with Lehman Borthers here. He’s working investment banker hours (2am and 4am finishes?!?!) so I haven’t seen that much of him, but he’s given me the run of his great little apartment that has some cool views between the skyscrapers towards Kowloon across the harbour.
I’ve been here a couple of days and while he’s been at work I’ve been doing a few of the sights and experiences that I missed last time I was here back in 2001. On that trip I stayed in Tsim Sha Tsui, the tourist dstrict of Kowloon, so this time I’ve been spending more time on Hong Kong island soaking up the sights and the atmosphere here. Yesterday was my Hong Kong day (sadly too smoggy to bother going up to the Peak) and today is my Kowloon (and shopping) day.
Man this is one cool city… It’s hard to put a finger on it but there’s something about the effortless mix of cultures and ethnicities here and the comforting British legacy left behind, the steep and narrow San Francisco-style streets, and the feeling that there’s always something new around every corner. In the future I’d definitely consider a stint here for a couple of years (although I say that about around half of the places I’ve been!).