09.01.2011 - 16.01.2011 10 °C
Marije and me arrived in Hong Kong yesterday and just had a great first day! Kenji Wong, a friend of my friend Sjoerd, showed us around town. We took a bus to Victoria Peak where you get an amazing the view of the harbour and the city. Before that he lead us through many gigantic shopping malls and through the central university district. The sightseeing was concluded viewing the nightly lightshow at the harbour, colourful patterns moving across the skyscrapers accompanied by otherworldly music, an interesting spectacle. Afterwards we dined near our hostel. As probably everywhere around Hong Kong the locals receive a differently priced menu, something we noted as two British men got seated. Fortunately we were locals today.
Tomorrow we are going to apply for a new China visa so we can travel back on Wednesday to Guangzhou and fly on to Nanning from there. Next we can hopefully arrange a bus to bring us to Hanoi after taking care of the Vietnam visa. We hope to have some time in Nanning to finally wash the clothes we've been wearing for three weeks and in addition I need to take a last look at my thesis. Did you hear that right? Yes, you did! I heard two days ago that my thesis is sufficient(!), but in order to turn a six into a seven I need to take a last look at it, something I can hopefully do there as internet is very expensive here in HK! At the moment we are in a very crowded, warm network bar in a huge flat filled with hotels, shops, and restaurants. The ground floor is crowded with Indians and Africans selling their goods and food and approaching everyone with their best deals. We sleep somewhere in this huge, dirty building in a very small room which we share with a nice Australian couple. There is hardly space to walk between the beds and the shower is above the toilet, well you get the picture! Welcome to Chunking Mansions! It’s maze-like building with absolutely no regard for fire hazard or safety regulations, a place throbbing with vibrant life, exotic chaos and some very tasty Indian curries! By the way, the Australians already offered me a couch in Sydney and Hobart, so that sounds good! Since our first great experience with couchsurfing I would love to give it another try!
Before me and Marije arrived in Hong Kong we couchsurfed for the first time at Joey Cheungs place, a very friendly and hospitable teacher living near the city centre. She was a warm, caring person and we feel very fortunate to have ended up on her couch. The first night she took us to the belly-dancing class she visits three times a week. Great fun, but very difficult! The other girls were very happy to see us join in and wanted to make lots of pictures with the clumsy newcomers. After that we cooked a good Chinese dinner and swapped travel stories and pictures. The second day we accompanied her to the English class she gives to three to six-year-old children at a little nursery school she runs nearby her home. We played some games with the children, for example, we would show them a picture of an apple and they would say the word or the other way around. It was great to be able to really join in her day to day life, we learned a lot about the changing way of life for the younger generation in the big cities. One difference, one also commented on by Kenji, was that most of them don't spit in the streets (or anywhere else) anymore!
After the toddler class we went to the railway station to buy tickets for the train to Nanning and waited for nearly four hours! After that endless wait the guy at the counter told us that he only sold tickets for 'today and tomorrow' and that we should go somewhere else! Later Joey checked for us at another desk and all tickets were booked up because of the approaching Chinese New Year. Therefore we decided the best option would be to fly to Nanning. Expensive, but at least we save ourselves a very tedious bus ride of more than 12 hours!
When this was done we returned to her high up apartment (she even gave us a key!), cooked pasta (so nice after three weeks of noodles and rice!) and saw a movie.
Our last full day with Joey was Friday the fourteenth. After a good night’s rest Joey showed us Chen’s Ancestral Hall, a beautiful old mansion that houses the Guangdong Folk Arts Museum, and lead us through the main shopping streets. We also tasted some local dishes and at night went to dinner with Joey, her friend Carol, and nephew Johnson, who also lives with her. Later Johnson's girlfriend, Candy (!) also joined us and we went to a club. The music was great and the people were a mix of locals and Western expats. An interesting difference with a club back home is that here each group is urged towards a specific table where you are expected to stay near at all times. Later on, Johnson, who drove Joey's brother's car, brought us home and we slept like roses. So, yesterday after a goodbye lunch with Joey (amazing pizza!) we took a quick train from Guangzhou to Kowloon HK and arrived here! We've been busy! I now realise what a difference it is to see the sights with people who actually know the place instead of being just tourists! We hope to couchsurf more in Vietnam and Kenji told us he also knew some people in Bangkok we could meet up with, so that would be cool!