Travelling's come to an end and we're back in Yihuang now so I need to backdate my blog. After Hong Kong, Rob and I travelled to Shen Zhen, on the Chinese side of the border between the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong and China. Hong Kong was insane and wore us all out so Rob and I had 4 days in Shen Zhen of being lazy. The girls were travelling back to Jiangxi to wash their clothes and repack for the cold weather then meet our travelling group in Jiujiang, spend a couple of days with them at Ella and Nicole's place then head to Shanghai. Originally, Rob and I were just going to stick with the girls but booking train tickets became a problem and the girls could only get tickets to Nanchang for the two of them. So we sorted ourselves out and decided it'd be stupid travelling all the way home again when we could just spend some time exploring a new place. So on Monday the 4th of Feb we woke up to say goodbye to everyone - the girls had an earlier train to catch and the HK boys had to get back to work. We showered and packed leisurely then got on our way as well. Funnily enough we ended up travelling with the girls anyway; we stopped at a bus stop and saw them sitting at the bus stop on their rucksacks. We called them on this bus and found they'd got the right bus all the way to Sai Keng and then got on the wrong bus which just took them back the exact same way they'd just come. Once they'd realised they had got off and sat by the road until we picked them up. Probably for the best that we did…
Made our way back across the border (more passport stamps!) and after changing our remaining dollars back into yuan (I spent a long time with three different currencies in my wallet which felt cool) we went our separate ways. Well Rob and I suddenly realised we weren't sure where the girls had gone so we just left for a McDonalds and a very long taxi journey with a driver who didn't know where the hostel was. Found that the hostel was very nice indeed though, comfy beds and a nice little outdoor garden where you could sit outside. Rob tried out the beds and took an afternoon nap while I sat outside and wrote a postcard. The group of Chinese people that had been on the bus in HK when I got lost were in the same place and I chatted to the guy who had lent me his phone for a bit, they had stayed in the same hostel but were now waiting around to leave for the airport. Small world! Then I met a nice Spanish guy and we ended up having a deep religious discussion. He had lived in Beijing for a little while and he told me about a scale used to measure pollution. Apparently, in Europe, countries aim to stay below 150 on this scale and if it reaches 300 or more they have to issue safety warnings for people to stay inside. Well he showed me photos from his apartment window when the pollution levels hit 900 on this scale. I saw comparison photos from the day after when the wind changed and you could see miles of city with skyscrapers just in front of his apartment. In the other photo you could not see a thing. Yeah, China's pollution is bad… Then I met an Argentine woman who complained about their terrible president and insisted I take her email address and to get in touch if I ever go to Argentina. So if I ever do go - free accommodation at Fabiana's place! Although she said to email first with my name, what country I was from and where we met because she invites a lot of people. A very trusting woman. She then outlined why she was in China; setting up a business, and why she was in Shen Zhen; she made an appointment to look around a factory then arrived here and found she was in the wrong city entirely. I was beginning to doubt her business expertise but I was polite and asked her about her plans. She then explained that she intended to set up a company to import goods to Argentina from China and all she needed to think of was a gap in the Argentine market that could be filled with something from China (but not clothes or electronics). Rob and I are pretty sure that's a winning business combination wherever you are in the world but I wished her luck anyway. Oh, if anyone has any brilliant ideas about this potential Argentine/Chinese business then I'm supposed to email her…
Then Rob reappeared so we went for a walk to find some food; we later found that we chose the only direction that didn't have restaurants in close proximity. The pizza place we found made up for it though, it was a Chinese rip off of Pizza Hut and it provided my food for the day after as well. The guy brought the wrong pizza so we got a free one (I ordered bolognese and the second one that came still didn't have bolognese but ah well, it was good). Whilst eating the first two we got pestered by two Chinese midgets to give them a couple of slices of pizza, I think making them go away would have been harder if they'd seen we had three large pizzas between the two of us. Full up and tired we went and had a proper night's (and morning's) sleep - I slept for a straight 14 hours.
Woke at 10:30 the next morning and had cold pizza for breakfast then decided to explore. So we got on the first bus that got to the bus stop to find a very bemused bus conductor. I don't think she'd ever had anyone not know where they wanted to go before, or not even know what bus they were on. Eventually we remembered the Chinese word for centre and she was very relieved to be able to rip off the relevant ticket. She chuckled at us for the rest of the journey. We were dropped off at the centre which was in fact just another very large main road with absolutely nothing to see or do anywhere. So we walked for a very long way and found nothing until we came to a nice park, walked barefoot in the grass, watched the kites and had a photo with a dubious looking cheery snake statue for the New Year then got the bus back. At least we got outside! Went for a meal at a restaurant and had spag bol, or at least a revolting substitute for it. A tiny portion of cold rubbery noodles with a little dollop of a disgusting excuse for bolognese on top. Of course I still ate it but then we finished off the remaining pizza. While sitting outside the restaurant Fabiana walked past and proudly showed us her purchases from the famed electronics market. Nobody was around at the hostel at all so we went to see what was in the scruffy complex next door and discovered a huge room with an insane amount of shiny flat screen computers sitting in rows upon rows upon rows. So we spent the evening there, I wrote my blog for HK and then watched Arrow. Had our first run in with the old computer lady - the most incompetent person I've ever met in my life. We had to wait ages to get our cards to use the computers then they gave us the wrong amount of time, charged us the wrong amount and gave me the wrong password for my computer. She made me pretty angry.
Fabiana decided she wanted to go to 'Window of the World' with us and at first I accepted from pure surprise but after a beer with Rob we told her she was waking too early for us (she wanted to be there well before the park opened to get a full day). So instead the next morning we leisurely got up when we wanted and went to 'Window of the World' around midday. It wouldn't surprise me if Fabiana managed to spend the entire day there lost in her own little world and attending a thorough schedule of every show going. But Rob and I had a good enough time on our own wandering through the park and leaving when we got bored; after about 3 hours. 'Window of the World' is a Chinese theme park which basically packs the entire world into one place. They have scale models of all the world's most famous landmarks, the biggest being an impressive 3:1 model of the Eiffel Tower at the entrance. After deciding against hiring an electric scooter/buggy we strolled through some unknown South American models and reached Asia where we posed for photos in front of the Taj Mahal. Rob bought crepes and we watched an odd traditional Chinese dancing show before headed off to Venice and the St. Peter's Square in the Vatican. On the way we ignored pestering Chinese stall sellers and checked out some of the other landmarks including some Spanish castle and the Sydney Opera House. We entered the European section surrounded by Dutch flowers and windmills and (apparently) a model of Kings Cross station. It just looked like a metal garden gazebo strewn with an unconvincing array of flowers and a clock. At least they tried. We continued our tour and passed a cool wall we were certain was Aztec but according to the signs was Egyptian and walked past some waterfalls which were claimed to be Africa's finest but really could have been any waterfall on the planet. This led us into some bad statues of Savannah animals including a crocodile eating a deer but unfortunately in the process their heads had become inexplicably molded together. We left quickly and had more photos in front of the pyramids (which were cool) and then looked into an African village where I bought another bracelet. It was getting hot now so we sat down for a while before venturing into the Grand Canyon. We exited into a jungle filled with dinosaurs which were terrible to the point of just being funny. The jerky movements of an attacking T-rex were priceless but we got out quick because A) the chorus of dinosaur sounds made your ears hurt and B) we'd seen a water ride and wanting to find its entrance. So we left the dinosaur infested jungle and walked straight into New York city complete with the 4 faces in a mountain overlooking it (we still have no idea who they are…). More importantly though we found the water ride and much to the shock of all the Chinese people in sight refused the bin bag cagoules they hand out for free. Chinese people ride water rides hidden under a cagoule then get off and dry any spots that may have got through with the freely provided cloth. I wrapped my valuables in a cagoule and we passed through the Grand Canyon and around the top of Niagara Falls. We didn't even get that wet and it was so hot we dried off quickly anyway. Despite the weather I'd have put money on not seeing anyone else in shorts. We thought it was the height of summer. We resisted the temptation to pay for the rock climbing wall (guaranteed we'd have beaten the small Chinese people!) and went and queued for a free bobsleigh run. Which was awesome. Although it was designed for Chinese people and I think we looked pretty stupid crammed into a two man sled with our backs hunched over and legs hanging out. The run was basically just a metal slide through lots of greenery but it went fast with lots of twists and turns. Then we paid a quid for archery, checked out some Inca statues and a big rock which is apparently famous in Australia. I'm sure the Australian one is cool but this literally was a bad scale model of a rock. We saw the last remaining things including a disappointingly small Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and Tower Bridge but some impressively big statues and buildings from Italy or France or somewhere… And then went to the hostel! All in all a pretty good day and at what I reckon is the only place in the world you can have your photo taken in front of the Pyramids of Giza with the Eiffel Tower and a block of Chinese flats looming in the background.
We went to the internet café again for late afternoon and the old woman again screwed up. Her husband was nowhere to be seen and she just kept saying she couldn't register me without him and telling me to wait one moment. He returned after 20 minutes. She's a pretty useless receptionist if she can't do the basics of handing someone a computer card with a set time on it. We went back to the hostel at about 19:30 and had a couple of beers in the garden. Well, we were intending it to be a couple of beers but we got talking to a Chinese woman who was then joined by a Chinese man who joined us in drinking beer. This guy was a ridiculous lightweight. After half a bottle of beer he was singing Gangnam Style and doing the dance standing on the bench and he kept on hinting that we should get some girls to join us at the table. Eventually his hinting turned to an order and Rob was quick enough to refuse, leaving me. So that's how we ended up drinking and talking until 1 in the morning with 3 Chinese girls, a crazy Chinese man, a French girl and us two Englishmen. A surprising outcome but an enjoyable one.
The next day we headed to Shen Zhen's famous electronics market hoping to pick up some bargains to send home. Unfortunately after walking around looking for ages we discovered that the electronics market was literally just a street of electrical shops. So we consoled ourselves in Burger King where we met a very nice American guy who talked to us about living in Shen Zhen although seemed very keen on being invited to do something with us. I think I'm missing a couple of days (around half way through Shen Zhen my well intended travel diary started to fail) but I can't for the life of me work out what we'd have spent them doing because there really wasn't that much to do in Shen Zhen. It was a very pleasant city though, perfect for our rest and recuperation. While walking about you could literally have been in any European city, everywhere was clean and ordered with lots of trees and vegetation and even a couple of parks and lakes dotted around. And I'll leave you with one final note that I've just remembered - we found a B&Q ! Not particularly exciting I know. But we were surprised to see the orange and glass building in front of us. I bought a padlock to lock our valuables up in the hostel lockers - this purchase first involved drawing awful pictures of a padlock and key but we got there in the end. I think after this year I'm going to be exceptionally good at Pictionary…