China day 1
It’s quite a mess getting out of hk. After 4 changes of metro and asking in 3 places at hung hom station for a train to Guangzhou, I learnl that there are no trains running and my best option is a bus, crossing town on the 87d, I text Kk to confirm that I have to get to some place near Mong kok. The guy at the China travel service gets me on the bus which arrives almost as soon as I get my ticket. Not much to report until d where we disembark to walk through immigration them onto a new bus which passes through a mile long tunnel under Shenzhen. The landscape is flat, the air grey and colourless with smog. Endless monotonous identical tower blocks. Busy highways, flyovers, underpasses crisscrossing and weaving together a dense claustrophobic urban sprawl. Hard to see where one city ends and another begins. There is no countryside. Guangzhou is huge and the traffic crawls very slowly towards a forest of ominous towers. The drivers seem affluent or are indicating status, as there are many Lexus, Mercedes, mazeratis, all of them texting at the wheel.
When I finally disembark its at the luxurious China hotel and I feel a bit of a fraud speaking to the bellboys, entering the rotating door and into the plush lobby to use the atm. Nice English spoken here. There is security at the metro, where guards use hand scanners to check bags. The system is cheap fast and efficient. The people are shabbier than Hong kongers, less smiley and seem more inward. The streets where I’m staying are of oven temperature, the thick air made more oppressive by fag smoke. A common sound is men expectorating. The streets are worn and a little frayed, compared to hk. Trash on the ground. Bikes and motorbikes using the covered pavements as their freeway. Crossing the road is less disciplined than in hk. I see a tower of flattened boxes being loaded on a truck, over the height of a double decker. It’s a relief to get to the lazy gaga hostel, which is cheery and communal, the total opposite to my anonymous room in hk. Oh and my room is 4 times the size and half the price. Everything is much cheaper. I have a bowl of rice, endless tea, fried lotus roots and asparagus tips and 3 fried meat ( nice English menu!) which is 3 types of mock meat with chilli. I recall and use some mandarin. Whenever you order spicy food in China the waitress seems to think you have made a mistake and double checks in astonishment that this is really what you want. The food here in zen vegetarian is plentiful and tasty. The vibe very relaxing.
I stroll back and take in the neighbourhood some more. It’s dimly lit. Street lighting is not abundant. It’s so hot that going topless at 8.30pm is the norm. I see many skinny shirtless guys who look as if they live on the streets. On the same block, an expensive modern piano shop, several green grocers with hanging paper lanterns, and nail bars. The streets are enmeshed by hutongs where men play Chinese chess and I even see a craft beer bar. This place is stimulating and I decide I should stay a day longer to explore in some depth.