Going to China

The closest I’ve ever come to visiting China was spending a few days in Hong Kong, back in 2008, documented here and here. It was at the end of my big trip to Europe, and I thought a few days at the end might be a good way to end the trip and to “acclimatise” before heading back to Australia. At the time I noted…

As with London, there are people EVERYWHERE. But unlike London, I haven’t felt crowded in today. I guess with a population of 7 million on a small (and previously limited) amount of space, they’ve learned how to get people around. The train system is great (and easy to use), and there are pedestrian walkways everywhere which mean you can cover large distances quickly (and often in air conditioning) without having to cross the roads.

But to be honest, I didn’t really like Hong Kong all that much. I suspect part of this was because I was a little tired and just wanted to get home. Part of it was also, possibly, that I had very little money left and was skimping and saving wherever I could. There again, my sister lived in Hong Kong for a while back in the late 1960s. In fact, two of her children were born there. And she didn’t like it much either. I think she found it all too busy. That said, I LOVED Kowloon. I thought it was interesting, amazing, totally fascinating. The rest of Hong Kong was, to me, like any other modern city: too many shopping centres and too much air-conditioning for my liking. And there was the constant stream of people trying to sell me things, as I also noted…

As I walked around I was also constantly approached by men. In fact, I’ve never been approached by so many men in such a short period of time. “No I don’t want a suit. And I don’t want a watch. And I don’t want to have sex with you”. These are the phrases that have been going through my head over the last few hours since arriving earlier today in Hong Kong. Honestly, I’ve lost count of the number of men (all of them Indian looking) who have come up to me today offering all sorts of things. Don’t they know I’m an Australian at the end of a 10 week European holiday, barely able to afford breakfast, let alone buy a suit?

I’m hoping other parts of China aren’t like Hong Kong, because tonight I’ve booked a flight to Beijing in October, and I am so VERY excited.

Catherine Croll and her Great Adventure

Catherine Croll and her Great Adventure

First, my friend Kate lives there, and has been working there on and off over the last few years. As well as being great to see her, it will be wonderful to have someone to help and guide me, as she leads an interesting life as an arts worker there. Second, I’ve never really travelled extensively in Asia. Asia has always been a “stop over” for me on trips to Europe. And although I live and work in a part of Sydney with a very large Asian population, and know quite a few people with an Asian background, I’m quite excited at the prospect of going to a part of the world where I won’t immediately understand the culture. It will be quite a contrast to my trips to Sweden over the last few years, I guess.

Over the next few months I’ll attempt to learn a tourist version of Mandarin and will start to scope out some side trips (outside Beijing) to undertake while I’m there.

  1. I lived in Hong Kong 1997-80 and then cross posted to Beijing 1980-82 and enjoyed both places immensely which in those days were very different cities. From what I see on television, Beijing has changed completely since those days.

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