What was that I said about getting the hang of things travelling-wise? Pah. Spoke too soon. I still feel like an idiot tourist stumbling his way through a different culture hoping his clumsy English foppery and winning smile will get him through. China so far is attempting to humour me but it can only do so much, and it certainly doesn’t understand my attempts at speaking Mandarin.
Hong Kong was great fun, but after a while, you notice how Westernised it really is. All the signs carry English translations of the Cantonese, most people speak English, and all kinds of food, all kinds of everything, are available. Hong Kong sometimes seems like one giant shopping mall, there are so many malls. As for the MTR, the Hong Kong Metro – it’s brilliantly intuitive, simple, efficient and clean, kind of like London Underground might be in thirty-odd years. Ex-pats float around the place with something of an air of detached superiority, and go to ex-pat bars where they listen to cheesy Western music, and the older men mix with childlike Filipino girls with unfeasibly short skirts.
I had a great time in Hong Kong, but it was all down to Iris, my buddy from the India Aidcamp back in February. We went to some great places to eat, had a some great nights out, saw Hong Kong from the Peak, and her sister even had me round for dinner with the family. Iris is sadly not taking bookings for further tours.
Now, I’m in Beijing, after a twenty-four hour train ride from Hong Kong, and it seems like a different world. I got into Beijing without a place to stay, a foolish thing to do, but have found a hotel, though it’s pricy, and am moving on to a youth hostel tomorrow. I’ll be following Janet’s recommendations, trying out more Mandarin, and probably getting ripped off by taxi drivers who can see me coming a mile off.
See Flickr for more pics as I post them…