Chris in China

Blogging from Baoding

I never did leave Cambodia

Posted by chris g on April 18, 2012

Ok, just kidding.

please check out http://www.blogtheberkshires.com/chrisinchina

 

cheers!

 

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Stuck in Sihanoukville

Posted by chris g on February 12, 2008

On a peninsula on Cambodia’s south-western coast is the town of Sihanoukville, a conglomeration of three towns really, Victory Hill, Serendipity Beach and the Downtown Sihanoukville area. I arrived at the Downtown bus station on Friday night, the night of the Lunar New Year, around 7:30. The five hour journey from Cambodia’s capital,Phnom Penh, saw vast tan fields, tiny stilt-house villages and more than a handful of those full-bodied white cows roaming randomly.

It was dark. After picking up my pack, I busted through the throngs of tuk-tuk drivers to a nearby phone stand to make some calls to various guest houses around town. All were booked. So I walked around the downtown area, where firecrackers popped and trucks full of people sped by, apparently this was a celebration, but I was not in the mood to celebrate. I was tired and I wanted to find a place to sleep.

I searched everywhere, but could not find a thing. Every moto driver and tuk-tuk operator assured me that there were no vacancies in town, and I should have believed them. Finally, after nearly two hours of looking, I found a moto driver and asked him to find me a place, anywhere. He took me to Victory Hill, and after going to a few places we found a guest house with only one room left, for $20!

Damn, that blew my $20 per day budget very fast…but I had no choice.

Later, I bought the driver a beer for helping me out.

The next day I found another place that had a room for $5 per night, and that’s where I’ve been since. But also, on that same day, I started to get sick. First it was a stomach thing, I’ll spare the details, but after two days it became a full-blown fever and headache. Now, I’m still sick and I don’t want to chance a long day of travel in this condition. Hopefully by tomorrow I’ll be well enough to move on. Four days of sitting around in misery certainly put a wrench in my plans, part of which was to volunteer at an orphanage in Takeo, a small town to the south-east of Sihanoukville. But Cambodia feels good, I’ll surely return.

-chris

ps: I found an interesting website with good travel writing. Read this one.

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In Cambodia

Posted by chris g on February 6, 2008

Getting into this country was confusing and frustrating, one of the most trying parts of my trip. The border guards at the overland crossing at Poipet will do anything to extort a few extra dollars from would be visa-seekers. The signs are clearly marked, but that doesn’t stop them from demanding $5 to $10 more. They show no shame.

Once passed the border, travelers are confronted by mobs of ‘taxi’ drivers offering trips to Siem Reap, some 150 km down the road. That was to be my destination, but I didn’t want to pay the taxi drivers for the ride. I was hoping for a public bus or something, but after walking around for nearly two hours looking for the bus station, we gave up called it a night. We found a hotel and crashed, only to wake up early the next day and do it all over again.

 We found the bus station, and we found the bus going to Siem Reap. But the driver went right by, without even a glace at my frantically waving hand. This birthday was turning out to be a tough day, and it wasn’t even 9 a.m. yet.

Finally we took a taxi, which ended up costing $12 per person, the most I’ve ever spent on a taxi since I’ve been in Asia. We had not choice after-all, and in the end I was glad to have A/C and be on the road, bumpy and dusty as it may have been. 

I spent the evening of my birthday with a bowl of curry with coconut and a few Angkor beers. I later found a bar with a Foosball table and played a few games with some random friends. After a few more beers, I headed out and met more drunk friends on the street (aptly named “Pub Street”). I finally passed out around 3 a.m. It was the first birthday that I spent with people I’ve never met in longer than I can remember, but it was good.

I next day I slept in ’till noon. Then I met up with some friends who arrived in Siem Reap that day. We didn’t stay up too late because we had all planned to go to Angkor Wat for sunrise the following morning. (I didn’t get up in time, but I looked out the window in the small hours of the morning and it was cloudy, so I felt justified).

When I finally awoke and made my way to the temples area it was nearing 9 a.m. I bought my ticket and began the trek around the temple grounds. The place was huge.

I saw the temples and later will go into detail about them, but for now you should know that you MUST see this to believe it and appreciate its grandeur.

So far, Cambodia is more good than bad. Angkor is mind blowing, and the people have a familiarity with foreigners resulting from many years of dealing with them, and as a result, don’t treat us much different from other people. That’s refreshing, but sometimes it’s not always like this. Sometimes the ‘hard sell’ tactics of tuk-tuk drivers and ‘tour guides’ gets to be a little stressful, especially for a traveller on an extremely tight budget such as myself.

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Not in China–so I can blog, for the moment.

Posted by chris g on January 28, 2008

Well…

 Since I’m not in China at the moment, I was able to finagle a way to get back to posting on this here blog ‘o mine. It’s been a very long time due to inaccessability issues, and it might be a long time from now because I’m traveling.

So where am I?  Well, right now, I’m sandwhiched between an Australian gentleman with silver hair and a Czech girl wearing a National Geograhic hat.

Got a clue?

I’m in Huay Xai, on the Mekong river in Laos. It’s a border town with tons of guesthouses full of foreigners traveling around south east Asia. It’s a little surreal to see so many non-Asian people, but it’s cool to meet new friends and relax a little bit.

I’m on a month-long journey (hoping to end up in Cambodia). It’s been eye-openning so far and truly amazing. There are some stunning views along the way from Baoding to here. And the people have been more hospitible than you can imagine.

Soon, I will add photos to my Flickr account and try to blog about what’s been going on during these past 2 months. But right now, I must go. (This is costing me 250 kip per minute)

Peace,

Chris

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Playing catch up

Posted by chris g on December 3, 2007

Considering the lack of blog entries during the month of November–due to the Great Firewall, I will try to summarize the month in the next couple of entries, and although it will be difficult to include everything that happened, I think it will be the most effective way to get you, the reader, caught up on my latest excursions and experiences.

 

As I said before in the ‘I have to thank Yusi’ post, China has slowly become my life. Many people have been asking me how I’m doing with the language and the food, to which I usually say, “Ok.” The truth is the adjustment has been more difficult than I anticipated in some aspects, but in others, it’s been a breeze. I’m used to the food, the stares and the routine, but I have yet to solidify any sort of routine for myself, and I think most of my problems are because of this failure. The problem is time, or lack there-of.

I don’t teach class at the same time everyday, so it’s difficult to schedule a specific time to do school work, exercise, or, most important, study Chinese. I think this is my biggest issue at the moment. I have a tutor who spends 3 hours per week with me, teaching me basics, but as soon as our class is over, I’m back into other activities. I thought having the blog blocked would give me more time and help me manage the time more effectively, but in fact, it’s been just the opposite. I feel like Im constantly playing catch-up on my extra-curricular activities due to my work schedule and all the time I devote to prepping and grading for my classes. In fact, since I’ve had the blog to write in the past few days, I’ve noticed my productivity improving. I’ve spent time writing, but I’ve also planned the next few weeks of lessons ahead of time, designed the Final Exam for my classes, and even did some research for vacation plans. But I still have not had th! e chance to study Chinese.

I have made some good friends here, but they all speak English. I think I’ve fallen into the tendency to seek out comfortable situations while giving up perfectly good opportunities to practice Chinese. This, coupled with the fact that I’m not devoting enough time to study, is detrimental to the learning process. So, to answer the question, I’m not doing well with Chinese, but now that I have the blog again, I feel better. It’s true that writing is a sort of therapy, and writing for an audience, especially for an egomaniac like me, is like psychotherapy with good drugs.

To the issue at hand

Since October 26th, the day of the last blog post before it went dormant, a lot has happened. I’ve visited the Great Wall, the Ran Zhuang tunnels, Lang Ya mountain, Beijing (three times!), and taught nearly 50 hours of classes. In that time, I’ve learned how to order a few more things at restaurants, learned how to get back to my home by taxi, and learned the days of the week. I’ve also discovered a Salsa-Music club in Beijing, a techno-club in Baoding and a snack stand that sells fried mushroom and tofu sandwiches at 2 a.m.

I’ll start from the beginning of the middle.

I first went to Beijing at the end of October (I believe it was on the 19th) for a job interview with a travel magazine company. I can’t remember the name of it, and frankly it’s not that important, but the company was a Mauritius-owned company that was starting a new section and Internet site about traveling in Beijing. I went to the interview to see what it was all about. They were looking for a journalist with some French-language ability and knowledge of Beijing, both of which I possess in a limited amount. The job sounded good, it was a part-time position and I would have had to spend 3 days per week in Beijing and write 6 articles and translate some French into English. But, considering my limited knowledge of Beijing, and the fact that I teach 4 days a week, I decided not to pursue the position. It would have been a pretty good job, in fact, and might have led to more in the future. I don’t regret my course of action, but I sometimes wonder what might have b! een…what do you think?

Beijing and the Wall

The next weekend, I went to Beijing for two days. I ended up running into Yusi at the train station (a VERY random encounter, considering there are thousands of people at the station), and he agreed to let me crash at his and his mother’s apartment (they rented a place for a short time in Beijing while a family member was staying there). I met some Americans, who helped me find my way as I was wondering the streets. To be honest, I liked getting lost in the big city. I hopped a bus and rode it to wherever it was going, and ended up near the Beijing Worker’s Stadium, which was being worked on by a bunch of construction workers climbing rafters and scaffolding made of bamboo. I also found a number of new hutongs (new to me at least) to explore–they are my favorite parts of Beijing.

That evening, Yusi and I got together with some foreign students, who I met during the trip to Inner Mongolia,and who were having a birthday party for one of their own. The party was going on at their campus, in a Muslim restaurant and it was to move to a bar somewhere in the city. Yusi and I had already eaten, so we met up with the group towards the end of their meal. At the restaurant, they were accompanied by a veritable United Nations, with students from Angola, Mauritius, Canada, Brazil, Costa Rica, Japan, and the birthday girl, Kimiko, is from Portugal. It was a thrill to be here with all these new faces, and it was even more thrilling to go out with them in Beijing.

Kimiko took us out to a dance club in the Sun Li Tun section of Beijing, but it was not just any dance club, it was a Latin dance club with live Salsa band. It was cool and rainy outside, but steaming hot inside. The place was pulsing with sexy dancers with sweat pouring down their faces as they moved to the sultry music. The band’s energy was infectious, and I soon found myself doing the Salsa with a girl from the group. I haven’t salsa-danced since my days in Texas, but the steps came back to me as the percussion pounded and the horns blasted. I was also encouraged by the attractive girl dancing with me. We did not join the dancers on the dance floor, that was reserved for those with a few more skills, but we watched as Chinese couples, black couples, mixed couples and others spin and salsa as the night evolved. Yusi had a great time, he said, and so did I.

I got up early the next day for a trip to the Great Wall. I decided to try the slightly less commercial, according to my guidebook, section of the wall at Mutianyu. It’s located 90 km north of Beijing, and to get there, I took a couple of busses. I wasn’t interested in taking a tour with a group, or hiring a taxi; I wanted to try to get there for as cheap as possible on my own. So I left the Beijing long distance bus station around 11 a.m. headed north on Bus 916 to Huairou. I took my shoes and socks off to let them dry during the journey and sat back and watched the scenery pass my window. During the trip, a student named Shawn sat next to me and we chatted about his hometown in Liaoning province, his school and his new radio. He was very proud of his radio, although this was the second one he’s gone through, and he was actually returning from returning the broken one he bought last week. He said he liked listening to the Voice of America, an English-language radi! o station that broadcasts throughout China, to practice his English. The VOA is a propaganda station started during the early Communist years in an effort to subvert the new government in China, but has since become a source for English-language learners throughout Asia. Shawn was wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt and jeans, and he constantly pushed up his glasses as they fell to the tip of his nose as he talked. He talked a lot.

An hour after getting on the bus, I arrived at my first destination, Huairou. Shawn was gone, and I was alone to find a way to the Wall. The guidebook told me to take a minibus, but all the minibus drivers were asleep. Taxi drivers offered me a ride, but I knew their prices would be too high. The city of Huairou was an oasis of modern buildings and old structures in the middle of crop fields at the edge of a mountain range (part of the Great Wall was somewhere in those mountains). Eventually, I met another man, named Richard, looking for a cheaper way to the Wall, and together, we found, and woke up, a minibus driver willing to take us there for 10 Yuan a piece, which I considered a real bargain (the taxi guy wanted 50!). So we hoped in, waited for a few more people to show up and a few minutes later commenced the trip to the Wall. It took about 45 minutes for us to get there and the hills were steep, but the views were amazing. My excitement and anticipation were gettin! g the best of me, and I gawked at every hill-top pagoda along the way hoping it was part of the Wall. Finally, after a number of turns and one windy road after another, we reached the Great Wall at Mutianyu parking lot.

There were a lot of tourist stands selling postcards and other souvenirs, but I was not interested in shopping at that moment. I was more interested in seeing the wall.

Richard and I decided to ascend the many steps (there were over 400) to the Wall up the side of a mountain. There were a few stops along the way, which Richard, a young, well-dressed Chinese man who had never been to the wall either, had to make a few times to catch his breath, but my adrenaline carried me to the top bursting with excitement. Richard joined me a little later. When I entered the guard tower, I couldn’t believe where I was, and when I finally emerged from the tower’s stairs, I was on top of the Great Wall of China.

It’s one of the most beautiful places on Earth. I can find no words to describe the views, the feeling, the mystery and the majesty of this place. It’s just so..BIG…and LONG…and I wanted to stay there forever.

I took many pictures, but they don’t tell the whole story. It’s magnificent. The views go on in all directions revealing jagged mountain peaks and distant villages. The wall climbs in both directions until it disappears into the distance, and, on this day, into the puffy snow-capped mountains to the north.

There’s a reason for the popularity of the Great Wall, it’s beyond any experience a human can imagine. It’s still hard to believe. Take my advice: see it before you die.

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Hong Kong part 2…finally.

Posted by chris g on December 2, 2007

The second day of our Hong Kong excursion was dedicated to two things: getting our visas and sightseeing. At the crack of 7:00 a.m., we awoke. Natty and Alex headed to the airport to get started on the task of finding their missing paperwork. The remainder of the group headed to the China visa office on the main island of Hong Kong.

A subway stop located near our hostel provided access to one of the most modern and impressive mass transit systems in the world. The Hong Kong metro line is fast, clean, safe and efficient—much like the express train that brought us in from the airport. We took the metro to the nearest to the visa office we could get, to a stop located about 4 blocks north. When we arrived, the visa office had not yet opened. We waited.

It took about two hours before we made it to the visa kiosk, where we spent a total of four minutes. They told us to come back in the afternoon for our completed visas…ok, no problem.

The five of us decided to split up and explore the city on our own or within smaller groups. Sarah and Katie went shopping in Hong Kong’s most celebrated shopping districts, Phil went back to Kowloon to take it easy in a coffee shop and to do some sightseeing, and Mr. Kim and I planned a sightseeing adventure of our own.

Climbing the steep hills of Hong Kong Island gave us a rigorous workout–legs were burning, sweat was pouring and, after a 30-minute hike, Mr. Kim was standing fresh-faced and full of energy at our destination waiting for me, who lagged behind. He works out daily, including a daily 800-pace run in place, innumerable push-ups and a special brand of Korean Tai chi. The middle-aged man is a model of physical fitness. And on this climb, he showed me up.

Our destination was the Hong Kong zoological and botanical gardens. Included in the gardens are over 1500 different kinds of plants, while the greenhouse boasts 150 separate species. They are meticulously cared for by a skilled staff, which has lovingly planted the plants to achieve a beautiful harmony with the surrounding city and the natural topography of the park. The park also houses a variety of animals, from ring-tailed lemurs to Chinese alligators, flamingos and even a jaguar. Mr. Kim and I walked the grounds for a few hours, checking out the animals and plants. I was struck by the amount of school children I saw, all dressed in the same identifying bibs and, along with Mr. Kim, screaming with delight when a primate would swing from one place to another. I think it’s quite endearing to see an old man giggle and making noises at monkeys. In him, I sense a certain youthfulness that seems absent from most adults concerned with facts and figures that are, essentially, inconsequential.

We left the zoological and botanical gardens for our next stop: the peak tram. The tram is a cable car on tracks that climbs Victoria peak, offering an amazing view of the city and surrounding area. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the view was shrouded in cloud cover. It seems Hong Kong is notorious for its subtropical fog. I took a few photos anyway. We spent an hour or so at the top, part of that time simply standing near an observation point looking at the city and the surrounding area. It was such a mountainous island; it was like nothing I had ever seen before.

Later, we took an open-top double-decker bus tour of the city and I almost lost my hat.

For lunch, Mr. Kim and I found a Mexican restaurant in SoHo. Soho (South of Hollywood Road) is an area on the Island with many bars, restaurants, shops and the longest escalator in the world, the mid levels escalator, which brings people from the lower levels to the mid levels of the settled mountain area in the part of Hong Kong. We ate burritos, and I can say with certainty that these burritos made both of our all-time top five burritos list. It was my first in nearly six months, and Mr. Kim’s first ever. Thinking about them now makes me very hungry—I miss Mexican food.

That evening we decided to walk around Kowloon in search of a decent place to eat and an outdoor market to shop. North of our hostel, Nathan Road gave way to several markets and outdoor restaurants, many of which sold ethnic food from different regions of the world. Many of us settled on an Nepalese restaurant with moveable tables and folding chairs that could be placed on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant (it was either that or sit in the alley next to the restaurant). The spicy vegetable curry with nan satisfied my hungry and warmed my core. After dinner, we all went separate ways: Natty and Alex to the airport to pick up the lost paperwork, Mr. Kim and Phil headed to the boardwalk on the southern tip of Kowloon, and Katie and Sarah did shopped in the markets nearby. I bought a bottle of scotch and found a park to write and take photos. It felt good to be off, alone with my thoughts and a brightly lit skyline to gaze at. The park was busy with people doing Tai Chi and other exercises, a three-piece band playing traditional Chinese music and a handful of individuals simply sitting and chatting with each other. All the while a series of soaring buildings loomed overhead, most likely the apartment homes of many of these park goers. This, I thought, was their front yard, and they were enjoying a Friday evening with the neighbors. At first I felt a little guilty about barging into their community, drinking scotch and observing their surroundings like a tourist. But I soon realized that they weren’t really paying attention to me; I wasn’t going to ruin their relaxation. Nevertheless, I gathered my things after writing few notes and started on my journey all over again. Eventually, I got lost and had to ask for directions to the nearest subway station. When I arrived back at the hotel, where I was sharing a room and small bed with Mr. Kim, it was past 2:30 in the morning, and Mr. Kim was up studying Chinese. He said he hadn’t been waiting up for me, he said he just woke up to study, but I found it peculiar that he would be studying at this hour. It just added to the mystery of this funny Korean man.

I spent the next day with Natty and Alex exploring Hong Kong Island and finding tucked-away places to visit. We visited a small bookstore and the mid-levels escalator before Alex left to meet the others. Natty and I found a great place for lunchtime sushi thanks to my guidebook and after lunch we visited the Sun Yat-sen Museum. The museum, located up the hill from the end of the escalator, celebrates the contribution Sun Yat-sen, a peasant-turned revolutionary, made to ending imperial rule in China in the late 1800s until the Qing dynasty was final deposed in 1911. The museum is housed in Kom Tong Hall, a British era mansion built by a wealthy Chinese businessman that was sold to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, who restored the mansion and kept it up until they sold it to the government of Hong Kong. The building is an impressive four stories of natural hardwood, stained a rich amber-brown, with marble and granite stonework throughout the building. It’s a nice place to live, but an even nicer place for a museum.

After the museum, we explored the western part of the Island, looking for a more authentic view of Hong Kong, and we found it in the imperial relic of a sports complex, complete with rugby and cricket matches being played when we arrived. I’ve never actually seen either sport in person, and it was very exciting to see, especially on the sidelines, within a few feet of grown men grabbing each other’s shorts and slamming into each other during a “scrum.”

We met up with the rest of the group, who, except for Mr. Kim, had taken a late afternoon tram to the top of Victoria Peak. We split up again, but this time Alex, Natty, Phil and I went to a vegetarian Buddhist restaurant called Kung Tak Lamb on the west side of H.K. Island. It was fabulous.

That night I found a bar district filled with expatriates from all over the English-speaking world. It was a Brazilian celebration (although I saw no Brazilians), and the atmosphere reminded me of tamed version of Mardi Gras. Needless to say, I stayed out late, again, and had to take a cab back to the hostel. Luckily, I shared the cab with three women who were also on their way back to Kowloon. The cab took the tunnel connecting the two cities, and ended up costing nearly HK$50, which is the equivalent of about $7 or $8 US. Although that sounds cheap, compared with China prices, that’s highway robbery. But of course, Hong Kong is a lot more expensive than the mainland (I paid 3 times more for a beer in HK than I would have for the same beer in Baoding).

With the many incursions into my wallet, my funds were nearly depleted by the end of the trip. I gave Natty and Alex some money as they would have to stay an extra day in order to obtain their visas, and I saved a little for snacks and such during the travel back to Beijing. I bought next to no souvenirs; I don’t like to buy useless things anyway. And I spent most of my money on food (and the occasional drink), travel, accommodation and admission charges.

Hong Kong is a breathtaking city, which offers a palate of multiculturalism that I have not seen before, and Kowloon is especially diverse. Near our hotel was one of the largest mosques in southern China, and, since it was the end of Ramadan when we arrived, it was packed to the gills.

Amid the crowds of men dressed in white Salwar kameez outfits and Taqiyya hats, Indian salesmen and tailors pushing “Rolexes,” and silk suits, white accent-carrying English speakers and a multitude of other ethnic groups percolating the streets, I felt like I was in everywhere at once. Hong Kong, or Xiang Gang, which means “fragrant harbor” in Chinese, lives up to its name. There are a plethora of smells emanating from the city’s 10,000 restaurants. And it’s thanks to its diverse atmosphere that it is a must-visit city, even if you just want to grab a bite to eat in an Eastern Nepalese Vegetarian restaurant.

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I have to thank Yusi

Posted by chris g on December 1, 2007

Thanks to my good friend Yusi, I am finally able to post on this blog. After over a month since my last post, and thanks to the help of “Gladder,” Yusi’s software suggestion that circumvents the Great FireWall, my blog will finally be updated with stories and links to my Advocate articles.

The past month has seen quite a few changes in my life and a number of excursions that I’m anxious to talk about. Now that I am able to, I will write them for the blog and post them this weekend (so keep checking back for updates). In the meantime, you can read my latest Advocate Article here.

China is no longer a “trip,” in has now become “life.” What I mean is that China has become a home of sorts, and although I suffer from homesickness often, I’ve come to accept and embrace my position and lifestyle here in China. I’m happy to be here, and I can’t wait for more.

More soon… I really hope.
Chris

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Latest Advocate Article

Posted by chris g on October 26, 2007

Hello,
Thanks for stopping by. Here is my latest article from the Advocate Weekly.

Let me know what you think!

-chris

Posted in Personal Impressions | 3 Comments »

The flashy lights of Hong Kong city–Part 1

Posted by chris g on October 24, 2007

This was from day one of our excursion to Hong Kong… more to come later.

Entering Hong Kong by airport express train is like entering the future. The city’s skyscrapers disappear into the clouds, the train whisks passengers around the city at super-high speeds, and everything is modern, streamlined, clean and efficient.

We arrived on a Thursday evening as the sun was setting over the western vista. The trip from the airport into the city lasts about 15 or 20 minutes–a train passing through the western islands and archipelagoes of the Hong Kong autonomous area. The trip takes us past lush green mountains rising out of the sea, cozy secluded lagoons full of skiffs and sampans searching for fish, and long stretches of white sand beach. The mountains cry out for hikers and climbers to explore their beautiful surfaces. They are very impressive. In the distance, residential buildings and hotels soar into the skies, like tall soldiers standing at attention. There must be millions upon millions of people in these buildings, and as we approach the main city, the buildings become taller and more numerous, until we’re surrounding by an army of towers. Mr. Kim, a Korean teacher that was party of our group, who speaks very little English, calls it “a forest of buildings.” To me, it represents a dramatic demonstration of the phrase “concrete jungle.”

This was a last-minute trip because our employer, unlike Hong Kong, has been slow to get its act together into any semblance of coherence with regard to communicating the necessary requirements for all our paperwork to be in order. The liaison told us that we needed a new visa, a foreign expert certification, more medical checks and what seems like dozens of 2 inch by 2-inch photographs for identification purposes. I’m still unsure about how many are needed. Two months ago, it was 8, then 4, and then 8 again. After the visas, 6? Why could they possibly need so many shots of my mug?

They said that we needed to leave the country and visit a Chinese consulate to obtain the proper visas. Hong Kong is the nearest, easiest place to do this, so the University sent us there for a four day mini-vacation. They paid for the flights, and reimbursed us for the visas (which cost 60% more for Americans than for Canadians and Koreans!). Everything else was our responsibility.

Arriving in any new city is a daunting task when you have had little time to prepare, or to study a map. If I learned one thing from getting lost in Beijing, it was to come prepared with multiple maps and a compass. The compass would prove to be a lifesaver in this metropolis.

The train dropped us off at a station where we hopped a bus bound for Nathan Street. We were ill prepared with having a guaranteed place to crash for the night, and being that it was going to get dark soon, we made finding a place our number one priority. Nathan Street seemed as good a place as any to start—according to many of the websites and guidebooks I researched, a large number of hostels were located here. Nathan Street, which happens to be the main street on Kowloon Peninsula, one of the major areas in Hong Kong, is lined with shops, restaurants, reputable Rolex salesman, and “Mansions.” The mansions I speak of are not really luxury homesteads, but rather, enormous apartment buildings that have been converted into temporary housing for transients like us, tiny shops selling cheap luggage and souvenirs, and custom tailor shops. Our first stop was Mirador Mansion, 16-floors of the most diverse array of businesses I have ever seen in one spot. This sprawling maze of doorways, gates, hallways and staircases is home to over a dozen hostels. Our first choice: Cosmic Guest House on the 12th floor. In a feat of pure luck, they had a room: a seven-bed room.

Seven silly tourists sitting in a small seven-sleeper make for crowded close quarters that can cause claustrophobia in even the most carefree comrades.

We were given a closet with seven twin-sized beds for one night, and only one night. (The next night would prove to be even more humorous.) It didn’t seem to bother anybody, and I got over it quickly, citing the fact that I would probably only spend a few hours at most in this room—Hong Kong was calling. But first, we needed to be sure that we had all we needed, including our bags, our visa paperwork and our toothbrushes. Phil, a Canadian English teacher, forgot his toothbrush…silly Philly. Oh, wait…Alex forgot hers’ and Natty’s visa paperwork on the plane! Oh no! What a disaster. (Not to worry, the next day, the airline had found the paperwork and it was back in Alex’s hands. Unfortunately, they were not able to get in on the one-day visa exchange, so they had to stay in Hong Kong an extra day, at their own expense. Too bad, but it surely could have been worse.)

The men of the group, Natty, Mr. Kim, Phil, and me decided to dine together at a Vietnamese restaurant. I had over-priced, but tasty, mussels. Mr. Kim had noodles.

That evening, Natty and I went out for a few beers that ended up being a few more. We met a pair of Australian fellas who were in town for a Technology trade show. They bought us some beers and we tromped around the Peninsula looking for trouble, which we never found. We ended our evening in an Irish pub, drinking Guinness and talking to a host on QVC, the home shopping network. From one place to the next.

Posted in Excursions and Experiences | 3 Comments »

Photos from Mongolia

Posted by chris g on October 20, 2007

I encourage you to check out a slide show of my Inner Mongolia pictures.

I hope you like them.

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