Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Shanghai and Hong Kong - Too far behind in blogs to come up with clever titles
Shanghai - One of the largest cities in the world () Shanghai is an oasis in China. Its modernity rivals Seoul or Tokyo. The people are far more civilized. All the things that make backpacking in china tough but fun do not exist here. People obey traffic laws (more so), many areas are built up with sky-scrapers that put our own in Canada to shame. In short, it is a place where you can finally let your guard down a little, and just have some fun. The city is not full of temples or shrines to see, there are ex-pat bars and great restaurants. The hostels are full of kids that spend their first couple of days there adjusting to being in a place in China where you do not have to simply accept that you will be stepping in phlegm on the streets.
I met awesome people, stayed drunk, toured the nicest parts of town and got a rather expensive flight to Hong Kong.
Hong Kong was not what I was expecting but there are many reasons to go there. The district my hostel was in is not one of them. Hong Kong is an Island with a district called Kowloon right across the water. It is one of the most densely populated neighbourhoods in the world and I hardly saw 5 hong kongese people there. It is almost entirely made up of tall buildings built god knows when and have yet to have any maintenance done. These buildings are all called mansions and have the various floors used as hostels, sweat shops, markets full of god-awful shoddy products etc. Almost everyone living/working/hanging out in this area are africans and indians. As you walk down the street you are accosted from all directions with business cards for people wanting to make you a taylor made suit or sell you fake rolexes. When i awoke on my second day with a hangover, I set out to find a bank and the first thing i experienced on the street was an indian guy jumping up in my face and yelling at me to buy a suit. Completely involuntarily i just blurted out "Fuck Off! and pressed by him. It took me a moment to realize what i had done and I was worried it might have been rude until i heard him say "Same to you, buddy". Then it all made sense. If people treat you like a cornered animal, you will eventually lash out like one. I felt no guilt whatsoever. The hostel itself was a new low for me but the shittier the place seemed, the more i enjoyed it. The island of Hong Kong is another story all together. The rolexes are real, the cars are all Bentley, BMW, Mercedes etc. The skyscrapers are state of the art and the business that ticks on inside them has profound affects on the prices we pay our useless shit at home. Each night there is a light show that goes on set to music. I met up with two very nice Americans staying in the same hostel and checked out all the sites together. You can ride a tram to the top of the mountain at the centre of Hong Kong island and look down at one of the most busy and modern cities from above. Outside the city we took a cable car for a 25 minute ride through the surrounding mountains resulting in a new winner for the "most beautiful scenery" contest. Atop these mountains is one of the highest and largest Buddha statues in the world. We managed to find a filipino cover band, playing in a german bar not far from where we were staying. They had better covers of queen and led zepplin than anything I've heard at home.
anyhow, I had become quite adjusted to the worst china could throw at me and was able to relax in the two most modern cities there and see some incredible architecture (both antique and ultra modern). China was challenge after challenge and these challenges were some of the most fun ones I've had on the trip. How does one book a train ticket when no one around speaks english? good question. you just show up and make an idiot of yourself and eventually it just happens. if you don't try though, you sit around getting anxious about what to do next. Garbage, excrement and smog compete prominence in your nostrils but you don't stop inhaling for fear of robbing yourself of an experience you've flown tens of thousands of kilometers to have. Counterfeit products represent i think 92%* of the economy in Beijing (*statistic may have been invented). Watches? Fake. Leather? Vinyl. Books? Photocopies. Designer clothes? Knock offs. Orgasms? Poorly faked.
There is much I wanted to see and do in China that my time and budget didn't allow for. That is how like to leave a country. Always a reason to go back.
Next up: Vietnam, one of the coolest places I've ever been to but will never in a million years go back to. Find out why when I get around to posting my next blog.