Sunday, September 09, 2007

On the road again (again)

Okay, so these next few are going to be retreads, going back over my hastily bashed out entries on the way south from Liaoyang, fleshing things out with further blatherings, inanesights (like insights but not) and pictures.



So as mentioned, I went through the ritual harrowing of packing all my wordly goods back into the pack whence they came, with the help of half a dozen large rubbish bags, and a few chinese friends onto whom I could offload various appliances, musical instruments and bottles of undrinkable chinese liquor.

I flew down to Beijing, dumped my stuff in a corner at a friends house, and booked my passage on an overnight train to Hong Kong the next day. Just to recap, this was all necessary because my Visa expired the day my teaching contract ended, and the Liaoyang authorities refused to extend it, possibly due to being unable to comprehend why anybody would stay in Liaoyang any longer than strictly necessary.

Of course, having to stay overnight in Beijing meant that I was already a day over my visa (and liable for a 500 yuan fine) when I went through customs to board the train to Hong Kong (its a little weird being stamped out of a country when you've still got to do 24 hours of rail travel within its borders). The matronly customs lady studied my visa, then asked me if I spoke any Chinese. I gave her my best "wo hui shou yi dian dian", which prompted her to tell me (in English) that I was a day over my visa. However some combination of my winning smile and endearing mangling of her national tongue must have melted her cold bureaucratic heart because she stamped me and waved me through.

I was travelling hard sleeper on the train, an open arrangement of six bunks to a berth, which I shared with an American teacher and two Chinese ladies, Ms Yu (heading to Hong Kong for the first time to visit family) and Ms Teresa Lee, manager of the Lucky Cloud International Cultural Exchange Company. We struck up a conversation of sorts, with Teresa playing interpreter between the two Chinese-poor Laowai, and the elderly Ms Yu, who spoke no English.

We had a 24 hour journey ahead of us, so decided to pass the time by teaching our Chinese friends the game of Hearts (or Black Bitch if that's your fancy). Its kind of a difficult game to explain, particularly with a language barrier, but Ms Yu soon began to display a pretty crafty knack for the game, prompting me to mention to Teresa that she was definitely the one to watch. This was conveyed to Ms Yu who replied, with a glint in her eye: "You've been in China too long".

Anyway, after 24 hours of this (barring those hours that it was dark):


We arrived at Hong Kong, the transition from Mainland to Special Administrative Region made immediately apparent by the sudden appearance of graffiti on the railway sidings, and the slatherings of (correct) English on signage and advertising. Of course, if you really want an illustration of the "One Country Two Systems" policy, you need look no further than the first thing you see upon exiting the train station:


In China, claiming that Fulan Dafa is 'good' (in fact claiming that it is anything other than a dangerous subversive and evil cult) is liable to get you a couple years of 're-education' that you may return from a couple of organs shy of a full set.

Following the lead of Will, my American train-buddy, I dragged myself and pack through the unbelievably sweaty streets of Hong Kong, dodging touts and sellers of fine suits and fake rolexs, to arrive at the Cosmic Guesthouse, situated in the euphemistically titled Mirador Mansions.



Apparently a good place to stay if you think you're going to need to get any of your Ethnic Minorities serviced.

After ditching our burdens, we headed out into Hong Kong, in search of visas, train tickets, and beer. The last item on the list was stymied by the fact that everything in Hong Kong is absurdly expensive, especially on a Chinese teacher's salary. It is pretty by night though.




No comments: