So two weeks have passed since our last blog post, but don’t worry! We have two for you!
This weekend saw us, a few thousand miles apart; Callum in Shanghai and I in Hing Kong. Now, those of you that know me know I am as ditzy as anything, and therefore will be worried about how I travelled a thousand miles, on my own. Don’t worry, I am all in one piece (and safely back in Fuzhou).
After work I jumped in a hired car and was chauffeur driven to the airport. It was lovely and quick, as I fell asleep, and with no baggage to check in I was swiftly on the plane worrying when I was likely to go wrong and how I would eventually find my way to my hostel. To the left of me was a Chinese couple, not much older than 20, who (through our little knowledge of each others common languages) told me that they were going to Hong Kong to buy themselves wedding rings after getting married last year. Hearing such a gorgeous story calmed my nerves, but when she went back to her movie (which apparently was not as good as her husbands) I started to fret again.
But not to fear! From my right came a familiar accent – man these chairs are as hard as a Chinese bed! – and although I didn’t know them, I was glad to see two English lads sat on my right. From Bournemouth they were, and they were in Fuzhou to teach, same as me. They were going to Hong Kong for a “lads weekend” and (thankfully) would happily help a damsel in distress find her way to the hostel, in exchange for a copy of the metro map I had brought with me.
We left the plane together and when we were separated they waited for me. We boarded the metro system together, and they woke me up when it was time to get off. They found me the correct tube, pointed me in the right direction and we said our goodbyes. My luck was in; I was only a handful of miles away from my hostel and the end of my journey, and I hadn’t yet gone wrong. Maybe travelling on my own wasn’t quite so difficult. On the tube I swapped maps; shoving the metro-system map back in my bag I pulled out the map showing me the way from the tube station to my hostel. Alighting the train, I found the correct exit, turned left and walked. 10 minutes later, I realised that I had gone in the wrong direction.
The hostel was wonderful. They checked me in quickly, advised me of how to use the keys and the lockers, told me briefly about the check out procedures. I had never stayed in a shared room before, but this one was pretty good.
Day two and I awoke, left the other 20 people in my room sleeping soundly, and – following the map – left the hostel in search of the Visa building. A mile later I again realised that I had turned the wrong way, and I thanked the sky that I am an English teacher, not Geography.
The Visa process was simple, I handed my documents in, and they told me to come back tomorrow. it was now 0900am, the day was mine. I decided that firstly I needed new shoes (what girl doesn’t?) and set out in search of shoe shops. For a place that felt like, looked like, and even sometimes smelt like, central London, it was incredibly difficult to find shoes. I eventually asked at a hotel reception. “Three blocks down,” she informed me in broken English, “But it’s only 10am; they will not open until 1030 or 11.”
All the shops I looked in, shoes were expensive. Central London. I remembered that Hong Kong is The Capital. I resigned myself to not buying any shoes. UNTIL – There I saw, a shiny red sign….. SALE… it read. In I went. I did not have to look far until I found them, the ones I had been looking for since the first rain three weeks ago. I looked at the size (habit) “37” (I don’t know what that means!?) I tried them on. CINDERELLA! They fit. And at only £8, they were the ones. Bought, I slipped them on outside the shopping mall.
Don’t worry, I didn’t spend my one day in Hong Kong on my pitiful shoe obsession (woe, if only my bank would allow me to…), I started to walk, no care for direction. I happened across a beautiful old Chinese building, the only one, amidst a crowd of skyscrapers. It stated – in English – that it was a museum and so I entered. A museum it was, dedicated to the charity Po Leung Kuk, the first and only charity that finds, reclaims, and rehabilitates women and children from kidnapping and human trafficking. It is still an active charity and the museum is on the grounds of their headquarters. Also there is an orphanage for stolen children, a school for their children and others, and homes for the women they rescue. The charity survived the war, and the Japanese occupation of China, all because of one guy, making his money in medicine/cosmetics and donating thousands and thousands of (Juan) pounds to this charity. Realising that the children outside were probably rescued from kidnapping, and the women in the hallways were also rescued from trafficking; it was a very moving place to be standing. I left a donation.
From here I walked North (haha, who am I kidding, I walked straight) and found myself in Times Square. There, another museum, this time called a “living room museum”. Amused by the idea of Chinese people looking around English armchairs and coffee tables, I sneaked in for a closer look. The line was huge, it stretched all around a large glass room, it’s white frame standing out against the concrete of the buildings behind it. The front of the queue held a sign – WATERPROOFS AND SPORTS SHOES – as inside the room there was snow. An actual room that was being described as “living” – a room that was alive – with real (?) snow, real children, and (not-so) real polar bears. Snowballs were being flung, snow men had been made, and against the 23degree heat, children’s Christmasses had become white.
Further from here I wandered down an alley and discovered their market street. So compact, stalls literally touched. The smells (in parts) were amazing, with people cooking fresh meat on barbecues, noodles in large vats, and with fresh fruit on offer. It led me in the direction of the park. Victoria Park is the largest green-space in that area of Hong Kong, boasting full sized football and tennis courts, a skating rink, and a swimming pool. As I arrived, I noticed that the six full-sized football pitched had been covered in what looked like a carnival. It was the 51st annual Hong Kong Products and Brands Expo. with the entrance fee at (the equivalent of) £1 I entered. It was HUGE. They were selling everything from miracle face creams, to pots and pans. There was chappy even selling honey right off the comb (minus the bees). I realised that I hadn’t yet eaten breakfast and went in search of some food. I passed by the fresh squid kebabs, and the mushroom soups, and I found an icecream stall that sold fresh “iced fermented milk” – frozen yogurt. No word of a lie, the mixed berry jumbo cone was as big as my head. Now that was a good breakfast.
Two and a half hours later I decided that I had seen all I could see of Victoria Park in the Expo area and left in search of more peaceful reclines. The other half of the park was beautiful, boasting huge fig trees, avenues of other trees, 21 full size tennis courts, a bandstand, a boating pool, a laughing corner (?), a couple of large old cannons, and a red-clad monk in a green sunhat. I spent an hour or two wandering, sitting, and taking in the peacefulness of it all; it was incredibly quiet for a park that was in the middle of Hong Kong, surrounded by traffic filled roads, and next door to a super-shiny Expo. I did, indeed, fall asleep a little, and awoke feeling hungry. It was now about 6pm and I felt that food should be sought.
Hong Kong, as you’d assume, has no shortage of restaurants from all over the world. I walked and walked, and yet still couldn’t decide what I wanted to eat. 8pm, and I settled for an English-style pub, on the second floor of a building. Here, I drank a cold pint (my first in 6 weeks) of San Miguel and, not wanting to eat English food whilst in China, ate noodles, beef, sesame and soy sauce. Splendid. On my own, I sat in the corner near the bar, away from the Chinese drinking party across the room (we will inform you of Chinese drinking culture another day maybe), almost on top of the dart boards. On my second pint, a couple of lads came to play darts. Turns out they were Spanish and only one (who was losing at darts) spoke English. They were footballers, no older than me, and it only occurred to me after they left to get their names (and maybe an autograph…. ). Oh well.
I chased my tail back to my hostel and promptly went to sleep. Day two was less eventful. After picking up my visa I ate an English style “mushroom set” breakfast in a restaurant called Asian Twist. The twist was that it wasn’t an english breakfast at all – smoked salmon, egg mayo, a croissant, white sausage, scrambled eggs, baked beans, and ACTUAL bacon (a rarity here) – and it left me feeling quite unwell. A bit more retail therapy was in order I felt; I had been informed that there was a bookshop stocking English books (also a rarity here) on the 9th, 10th, and 11th floors of a department store. I found it, and spent two (maybe three) hours browsing, and reading, and deciding which books to buy. They were expensive, but worth it.
The metro station I needed to embark on my home-bound Journey was in the basement of the shopping mall and so after a quick break in the not-quite-rooftop-more-like-sixth-floor-outside-terrace-thing rooftop garden, I found my way back to the airport and had an uneventful journey home. Walking through the front door, 11pm, after travelling solo for 5 and a half hours, I was met with “WOW! You actually made it?! Did you even go to Hong Kong?” My boyfriend has so much faith in me 🙂