Thursday, May 15, 2008

Hong Kong - Xian

Some of the delights of Hong Kong which Chyn introduced me to were:
-all kinds of local food from outside noodle store to local yum cha (pork knuckles???) to Hainanese coffee shop with egg tart smuggled in (no, Chyn asked for permission)

-high class Scotch whiskey drinking at the Mandarin Oriental, with a special long leather cushion on the bar to lean on, then cruising around most of the local clubs
-dragon boat racing with other ex pats - you even get to race the second time you do it!
-public holiday junk ride out to one of the outer islands, then a swim to shore amidst debris to play volleyball
-as a send off meal, Indian at the 'Khyber Pass Mess Hall' (great name) in the unspeakably decrepit (on the outside at least) Chungking Mansions, a high rise from the early 60's.

Amidst all this I got my Kazakh visa (no hassles, 20USD) and a train ticket from Shenzhen to Xian (soft sleeper 770RMB). I had to be at Shenzhen by 8am.

The next question was: how to get from Hong Kong Island across to Kowloon at 6.30am? No ferries at that time. Bikes prohibited in metro. Road tunnel - bikes no doubt banned, and for good reason.

At the metro there was a man in his little box. I showed him my bike. He said, 'no, no, no' emphatically. I just shrugged my shoulders and said, 'Well, I have to take it over.' He thought for a little bit and said, 'Hmm, OK, you take it down in the lift.' Suits me!

Over the border in Shenzhen the luggage check in building was closed. So I had to take my whole bike through security. Luckily they didn't want to xray it, they were too busy giggling! They were thorough enough to xray my water bottles, though...
When I got down to the platform a senior railway guard tried the 'no, no, no' thing on me again. Again I just shrugged my shoulders and started taking my bags off the bike. (see photo of despondent guard being counselled by colleague.)
Eventually he took me up to one of the spots between wagons and got me to jam my
bike in there. I was pretty happy with that, considering I got to pack it myself! And no charge.

The trip to Xian was cruisy with the same old communication frustrations. It seems 18 year old students still speak appalling English even if they study it. There were plenty of rugged rolling hills and rural scenery with the odd belching concrete factory and a uniform haze. My train companions were busy playing with Chinese iphones, and if they wanted to listen to a song, they used them like transistors - why bother with headphones?

Here in Xian the internet drops in and out a bit but you can get the ABC and BBC websites, not that they are very critical. Particular links make the connection drop out - you can guess which.
I got my next ticket to Urumqi tomorrow (490RMB) easily, at the main station.

I can't see any evidence at all of the earthquake here. The word is that 4 people died in Xian when things fell on them.

View from the train en route to Xian.

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