And we’re off! Again.


Kowloon
Originally uploaded by Natmandu.

Where to start? It’s been a busy, busy few days. I left Suffolk after a much easier packing experience than the first time around, mainly because most of my stuff was already packed. One difference this time was a bit of a ‘Sunday night’ feeling about going back – looking forward to it, but with trepidation, and actually having got to feel settled in the UK, a bit of reluctance to leave the old home comforts. Maybe that’s not too different from the first time round after all.

The flight out to Delhi seemed to take even less time than the last flights to India and back… and any more flights to or from India and I’d be in danger of feeling like I was commuting. I got out of Delhi airport at about midday to be picked up by a driver from the guest house I’d booked (and I am SO glad I did – Nathan’s definitive travel advice no.1 – always have your first night’s room booked ahead in any new destination).

The temperature in Delhi from late morning to early evening is above forty degrees centigrade at the moment – disgustingly, unbelievably, debilitatingly, clammily, painfully, crotch-rottingly hot. The taxi from the airport to the guest house had the windows open, but all that did was let scorching hot air blow in, like someone had erected giant hair dryers either side of the car and pointed them inwards. The guest house had all fans blowing, and AC in my room, so I stayed there virtually the entire time until it was time to leave India this last Tuesday. I stayed at the Master Paying Guest House in the green belt about 5km from Connought Place and the central area of Delhi – I suppose it’s the Delhi equivalent of Clapham. The Master was fantastic – Ushi was a great hostess and unfeasibly chilled out in the heat, my room was roomy and comfortable and there was a stunning roof terrace that felt like a little oasis – and I got to meet the lovely Mariana, a Spanish girl buying goods to sell in the UK and Spain. Just like when I stayed in Panjim and Hampi, I found a great place to stay and met great people – and felt like staying longer.

Leaving India this time round had a note of finality to it that it didn’t when I came home the UK last month – I felt more like I was saying goodbye to the place this time. In the car to and from the airport, and walking around the place, I saw all the things and smelt all the things that made me feel at home again – the dogs lying on piles of sand, the stupid traffic, the people crowing around Chai stalls and dhabas, the sachets of various things on sale in tiny shops, bottles of warm mineral water covered in dust, cows idly chewing the cud, chipmunks chasing each other round in circles.

There’s nothing I can say about India that hasn’t been said by hundreds of other people – insane, beautiful, frustrating, happy, clingy, friendly, curious, tragic and funny. I will go back, I love it, but I was relieved to get away.

So after an uneventful flight from Delhi to Hong Kong (other than gazing at clouds and getting irritated by the guy sat next to me), I ended up in the Imperial Hotel in Kowloon – on, appropriately, Nathan Road (there’s even a Nelson Street off Nathan Road!). It’s a fifteenth-floor room with a toilet that doesn’t flush, but apart from that it’s pleasant, with a great view down to the hustle-bustle of the street below – a street that is lit up like daylight until at least one in the morning.

After dealing with the striking change in architecture and layout of the place, after the flatness of India, from the stunning airport at Chep Lap Kok to the dozens of homogeneous skyscrapers of Hong Kong and the ramshackle mess of buildings in Kowloon, I’m really enjoying the place. I’ll be here for a few days, and then moving up into China.

I’m starting to get back into the swing of things travelling-wise, nevertheless I think I just paid way too much for my new sunglasses…

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