We have really put in some miles since our last post. In one day, we;
- left Tumbling Waters,
- wandered around Darwin killing time (shopping, movies, eating etc),
- flew to Singapore (1am to 3am)
- entered Singapore
- changed planes and flew to Hong Kong
- entered Hong Kong
- caught the subway train to Kowloon
- changed trains to Wo Lu (Chinese border)
- entered China
- caught fast train (200km/hr) to Guangzhou
- booked in to hotel
All this meant that we had spent more than enough time standing in queues at immigration, customs and train stations. It is always so much worse when you don’t really know what you are doing.
We caught up with Bill and Mary Dawson in Singapore. They had been to Hong Kong and into China before so they had some clues but there was still a lot of guess-work involved.
The train trip on the fast train was terrific. It was like travelling to Bunbury in 45 minutes. The only indication that we were doing 200km/hr was the speed readout in the cabin because it felt like 40km/hr.
Guangzhou (Canton of old) is a sprawling city of around 4 million. It is difficult to get an idea of its size because the air quality restricts vision down to a kilometre or so. There is the usual Asian mixture of the old and the ultra modern, with urban renewal programs very much in evidence.
We shopped a lot, ate even more, drank lots of beer, walked about 500km and collapsed in complete exhaustion each night. It is great having another couple to share things with and keeping Bill in sight is always a challenge when we are out shopping.
The “Chinglish”signage provides much amusement. We went to a huge memorial park one day (along with about 300,000 others). Everywhere we went there were signs with incomprehensible English translations.
Language is a real issue for us. Very few people have any English and those that do seem limited to a few phrases. When we go into a restraurant, the waitresses tend to run away. The prospect of getting a good tip from a tourist is overshadowed by the embrarassment of having to take out orders. I am happy to point, nod and take my chances but Christine likes to ask questions like, “Can you explain the sequence of spices use to create this dish?” We are working on her.
The crowds are also difficult to deal with. Our first full day in Guangzhou was a National day so things were even worse. Trying to move in the main shopping streets became near impossible. Once day we went off to the zoo to visit the new marine centre. I couldn’t believe just how many people would go to a zoo on one day. I estimate that the main arena for the performing seals, dolphins and beluga whales held 3,000 or so. With the show over, the whole crowd surges forward into the underwater viewing tunnel and main exhibit area. Somehow, the facility dealt with the crowd and we could view most parts in reasonable comfort. However, the noise inside the exhibit was beyond belief.
After Guangzhou, we caught the train back down to Shenzen on the border. This is a city of 8 million and has only existed since 1980. Everything is new, clean and enormous. The city exists for shopping. The crowds are huge and the selling pressure unrelenting. Once you learn to join in the bargaining and walk away when you have to, the whole thing becomes terrific fun.
This morning we leave to return to Hong Kong and board the Virgo for a 4 day cruise. More immigration queues and lots of waiting around. I can’t wait.