On the road again

Kowloon, Hong Kong

Wed, 4 Sep 2002 04:54:11 +0100 (BST)

Hello from Hongkong! After a long time making new
friends and having a good time in Chengdu, I'm back on
the road and what's more, I'm making quite a balls of
it so far!! Maybe you could say I left my heart in
Chengdu but you could definitely say I left my
sunglasses in the back of a taxi and had my mobile
stolen in Zigong! Arse!! I have a new mobile now and
luckily my Irish SIM card was not in it at the time,
so I'm still SMSable.

Spending almost 6 months in China was a very
interesting experience and despite the many
frustrations of being a foreigner in China I'm very
glad I did it. I'll write more about that in some
other email, not sure when. Right now I'm knackered
and sick. I've had a really stressful week, up at 5:30
everyday (except for the time I spent 7 hours not
sleeping on a rock hard train seat). Most of the
nights were in freezing cold air-con rooms so now I
have nasty chest cold.

I've been travelling lots and I've seen some beautiful
places, met some lovely people and some not so lovely
ones!

I left my nice appartment on Sunday afternoon to head
to a guesthouse for 1 night and lost my suglasses
shortly afterwards! The next day it was the final
emotional goodbyes and I was on the bus for Zigong, a
town famous for dinosaurs and salt. They have a big
dino museum there and it was on the way to that that
someone slipped my phone out of my bumbag thingy.
Double arse!!

I spent a good chunk of the afternoon reporting it
stolen with the help of a lovely girl called Gu Ning
from China Mobile. She even bought me lunch - what
more could you want? (apart from your mobile of
course)

In Zigong they have been mining salt for thousands of
years. There are massive underground reservoirs of
salty water and natural gas there and in the 12th
century they had mines over 1000m deep! Pretty
impressive.

Next day it was it was on to ChongQing and the start
of my trip down the Three Gorges. I also signed up for
a tour of ZhangJiaJie but more about that later...

The Three Gorges are on the Yangzi river and it's
quite a nice trip. I got myself the cheapest tourist
ticket (there are cheaper ones but they go throught
the gorsges at night, I met a few people who were
stung by that one!). Which meant I was in a tiny 6 bed
room with 5 other Chinese and a loud, spoiled kid who
was very fond of screaming and slamming the door.
There were 2 Germans on the boat, everyone else was
Chinese.

There are a few interesting towns to see along the way
although they charge unreasonable prices to get in to
see the stuff. It was also interesting to see the
empty derilict towns along the banks. They are nearly
finished building a massive dam and they are going to
flood the 3 gorges in the next year or so. So there
are lots of towns along the way that have been rebuilt
a couple of hundred metres higher up the mountains and
the old towns are falling apart down below.

After 3 days sleeping in that cabin, my chest was
rather poorly but instead of getting a good night's
sleep, I was heading off on the 3:18am from Yichang to
Zhangjiajie. There was a bit of a ruckus at the train
station, I didn't see what happened as the people from
the tour company didn't want me to go over and look
but there was lots of shouting and a crowd building up
at the entrance, followed by a bit of running away,
after which some people came back with shovels and
bits of wood to sort things out! or at least to keep a
bit of order.

I was on the train with 5 other young people, 3 girls
from Yichang, a Taiwanese and a Hongkonger. They're
English was poor. Well actually it wasn't so bad but
many Chinese are quite afraid to speak English to
foreigners in case they make a mistake. So I spent the
next few days speaking Chinese and a little English.
After just 3 days with them, my Chinese is 100% better
and now I'm in Hongkong where they speak something
completely different!

The tour of ZhangJiaJie was mixed. The second day was
cool, we were in the national park and the scenery is
stunning. I took lots of photos and video, including
some video of yet another upset involving a sreaming
woman having ago at another woman with a big wooden
chair! I also got a bit of a shouting match in Zigong,
they know how to have an argument over here!

The first day "in" ZhangJiaJie was a disaster. We
spent 2 hours in a huge cave - that was fine - but we
spent the rest of the day going to expensive
restaurants and being offered incredibly expensive
Chinese medicine and jewellery. It was fairly obvious
that the tour company is on commission for all this as
the guide was quite unhappy when I walked out of the
jewellery shop before the hard selling started. My 2
day tour was 1 day in "the most beautiful place on
earth" and 1 day in an ugly, concrete, brothel-filled,
rip-off town beside it. I was not happy. Complaints
are in progress, I might even get some money back, who
knows.

I had yet another interesting experience with a
beautiful young girl! I decided I could do with a
massage so I headed out to one of the many massage
parlours and bargained a bit until I got them down to
about 2.5 euros for an hour - seems cheap but it's
about average. Off I went upstairs - which I thought
was a bit odd as they had lots of massage tables free
downstairs... and off we go for a massage from a very,
very beautiful girl who wasn't very good at massage...
after a few minutes she asked me a question, do I want
something but I coulnd't understand what the something
was. So she tried a few more words until we got to
"XiaoJie" which means "Miss" or "young lady". No
thanks. A bit more massage and then a very cool trick
involving stopping the circulation in my hand and then
tickling it with her hair - hard to describe the
feeling but it was fun. Then back to more questions.
When I said I really didn't want to do anything she
was not happy. The massge ended quite quickly after
that. I gave her the money and a tip and out we went.
The manager was waiting outside and he wasn't happy
either. Apparently I owed them moe than tripple what
we agreed! He brought me down and showed me the
ridiculous price list and after a few minutes arguing
(in Chinese!) I told them where to stick it and walked
out, much to the amusement of the large crowd
listening outside! That was the end of it.

For the curious, it would have been 300 Yuan - 40
euros - for something more than a massage.

So after about 30 hours of trains and a lot of hauling
my ridiculously heavy bag around, I'm in Hongkong.
Happily the 2 young guys from the tour were going too
so I'm going to be spending a few days here with them
while I recover from whatever it is I've caught.

Hongkong is an intense place, or at least the tourist
part is. I'm staying in the famous (among tourists)
Chungking mansions, in a room smaller than most
toilets and with a toilet almost smaller than me! The
owner is a nice guy, rather frantic and speaks at 100
miles an hour in a strange mixture of English,
Mandarin and Cantonese. Nice guy though.

I've never seen so many camera/video/computer shops in
my life it's crazy. I don't have much to do here, just
want to buy a Japanese guidebook and plan that part of
my trip and get rid of this cold.

If you want to see some more pics of Thailand and some
Chinese ones too, have a look at

http://www.fergaldaly.com/travel/waffle/photos.html

Hope everyone is well and having fun. I look forward
to hearing from you. See you soon,

F