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Archive for July, 2007

A Korean interlude

One of the good things about my job is that it's taken me to places that I probably wouldn't have put the effort into visiting myself if I'd been left to my own devices. I find some of the most satisfying new experiences come out of things that were not planned, predicted or even organised.

This time I'm off to Seoul, Korea for a few days and I'm quite looking forward to going. The schedule is hectic but hopefully I'll manage to squeeze off a few photos along the way. There's been a typhoon off the south coast of Japan this week that has killed a few people and caused mud slides. An earthquake has also caused a fire and a radioactive leak at one of Japan's nuclear reactor plants, apparently the largest in the world. Hopefully that's all cleared up by the time I get to Korea.

Maybe I need to change the title of the blog from 'Andrew and Gail's China Adventure' to 'Andrew and Gail's Asian Adventure'?  Suggestions welcome.

The dumping ground

I am no longer surprised by some of the more unusual sights and sounds here in China, but this one rates a mention.

We boarded the KCR rail at the Luo Hu border crossing to go into Hong Kong last night. As we walked through the carriages, vainly hoping for a seat, we came across two vacant seats. As I sat down I noticed a very bad smell and Gail pointed at something on the floor, like footprints that had trodden in something they shouldn't have. I turned around and on the floor behind this seat was a horrid pile of yellow industrial waste poo all over the floor. Needless to say, we changed to another carriage, carefully dodging the mess on the floor.

The most probable cause would be a Chinese toddler with split pants (the Chinese don't use nappies) who simply couldn't hold it any longer. 

This begs the question, how does the KCR deal with this sort of thing? The trains simply run back and forth, back and forth. At the terminal stations a few cleaners with a broom and dustpan sweep the train but they don't have the capabilities to deal with this sort of mess. Every time the trains are stopped there are passengers getting on and off and then the trains are off again. The schedules are so tight there's no room to delay a train whilst a mess is cleaned up. The only thing I can think of is to pull the train out of the system at a terminal station and replace it with another train.

As it was, passengers riding in that car had to put up with this steaming pile the full length of the journey. 

HK Exotica

Back in Australia, have you seen sometimes how a car is put in a shopping centre or airport to promote it? Usually it's something like a $30,000 Mitsubishi or a similarly priced Holden. "Please madam, whilst you're buying pumpkins please consider to do likewise to our car."

Gallardo Spyder Brera

Maserati Ferrari

In Hong Kong it's different. Whilst visiting the Festival Walk shopping centre at Kowloon Tong they had a very different line up of cars on display: a Ferrari 599 GTB, a Maserati Quattroporte, an Alfa Romeo Brera and a Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder. Tax on these imported cars in HK can be as high as 100%. This is a shopping centre that blends all the big name clothing brands, high-end audio, imported food (the reason we were there!) an indoor ice rink, a good cinema and plenty of restaurants all together. If you're young, trendy, brand conscious and suffer from status anxiety then Festival Walk is the place to go.

All the cars

If an expensive car manufacturer did the same thing in Australia I can imagine the cars being surrounded by lots and lots of admirers but not by anyone who could actually afford to buy one. Unless they did so in Burnside… 


Our return journey to Shenzhen was relatively uneventful, except for a bit of flight shuffling. Our change-over in Sydney was always going to be tight and the delay leaving Adelaide meant that we were not going to make it. You have to take a ride on a bus to change terminals in Sydney which adds considerably to the time required to change from domestic to international flights. Fortunately there were two flights going to Hong Kong that day and we were transferred to the second one, leaving about 4 hours after our original flight. 

Regrettably, our re-acclimatisation to China started even before we left the airport with a number of Chinese guys snorting and spitting in the bins by the boarding gate. Furthermore we were seated right at the back of the plane and in the thick of a group of loud and somewhat boisterous men travelling together. I was quite tired all day which made me easily annoyed. These guys seemed to be pushing all my buttons. Several of them came on board with thick Australian wool quilts as hand luggage, in addition to their regular carry-on bags. This quickly filled the overhead bins completely. If the plane had been full we would have been nursing our hand luggage. The guy directly behind me felt the need to get up several times every hour, putting his full weight on my backrest without warning and jerking me backwards each time he did so. One of the other guys stopped to talk to his friend across the aisle from me, his backside about 10 inches away, whereupon he farted right in my face. More than once. Another guy decided to take a walk around the cabin during take-off(?!), only sitting in response to shouts from an air hostess.

Due to the later flight we were on a tight schedule to catch the last KCR train to the Luo Hu border crossing. We took the A43 Airbus to Sheung Shui and, as we were walking to the train station, saw the last train for the night departing. Missing the train, the sudden adjustment to the high humidity and temperature and worsening tiredness were all taking there toll and we were both feeling depressingly flat, so we downed a bottle of water and took the N76 night bus service to the Huang Gang crossing, which is open 24 hours. After crossing the border and dishing out a few 'bu yao's (don't want) to various private car taxi drivers we made our way up and over the Huang Gang foot bridge, past the women selling drugs and joined the enormous taxi queue, where we tried to dodge all the smoke from the 1am smokers. Yep, definitely back in China now!

As we crashed into bed I realised that it had been a 22 1/2 hour long day. No wonder we were dog tired. 

Well, this is just a quick post to let you all know that we're back safe and sound in Shenzhen. There weren't really any mishaps as far as travel goes, unless you count our schedule having less than an hour between alighting in Sydney and then boarding. Our plane to Sydney was slightly delayed due to fog at Melbourne airport, so the lass who checked us in at Adelaide used her nouse in an admirable way and simply checked us into a second flight from Sydney to Hong Kong that afternoon. So apart from killing 4 hours in Sydney International airport (housing only 2 food shops), we were fine. 

We had the privilege of flying in an A330 Airbus, which had an admirable amount of legroom and the joy of only being about 50% full. We were spoiled by individual movie screens where movies could be played on demand. I chalked up a movie record consisting of Meet the Robinsons, a film made genuinely for kids with much less adult focus than is usual these days but was nonetheless most enjoyable; Being Jane, which, to avid Austen fan, seemed a bit too modern especially in the area of attitudes and actions; and Driving Lessons, starring Rupert Grint, Julie Walters and Laura Linney, which I thoroughly enjoyed on the basis of character development, intertextualty, good acting and the fact that all loose ends were tied up (a little too neatly, if it must be admitted). It was nice to really enjoy a well-written, thoughtful and non-blockbustery film. I anticipate schools will make it a core film text in months to come. Ok, it has a fair bit of swearing from one lady, but that itself is unimaginative and I didn't feel it distracted from the film's ideas. It was also quite funny, which is not surprising given Julie Walters was involved, and her own personal history is interesting given the role she played. 

But there were mishaps with the 2kg of honey we brought. Somehow about 500g of it went awry, we suspect due to de-pressurising of the containers. They were packed in plastic bags, of course, but not sealed completely, so there was honey through clothes, paper notebooks, DVDs and the travel case, both on top of and under the plastic lining of it. We managed to salvage a good half of both 1kg containers, but will know for next time that it doesn't travel well in the original plastic tubs. )  

So after everything, we got home safely and went to bed 3:15am Adelaide time, after a 4.45am start. And are skypeable again. )  

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