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From the mouth of babes

One of the joys of being back in Australia has been seeing our very cute niece and nephew. The other day, they came by car to visit us at our house. Their mother (my sister-in-law) announced that they had arrived at Auntie Gail and Uncle Andrew’s house. From the back seat our 2 1/2 year old niece called out “China!”

This is Australia

Child with hoop

After returning to Aus we discovered that my Aussie phone was not working but Gail’s was fine. It seems that it was more than 395 days since I last purchased credit and Vodafone consider an account inactive after this amount of time.

After 3 visits to Vodafone, 3 calls to Vodafone service, the purchase of a new SIM card, the purchase of 2 different types of phone credit and $20 in fees my phone was working again with the old number.

I was astounded at the number of hoops I had to jump through to get my phone working and get my old number back. It was very time consuming when the only time I wanted to consume was the time surveying the back of my eyelids. At least all the Vodafone people we spoke to were very friendly and they all told me consistent information.

This situation reminded me that things aren’t always simple and easy here either. It’s just that we can communicate using a common first language to work through the difficulties.

In the office in Shenzhen we had a saying: TIC - This is China. It was occasionally wheeled out whenever something went completely awry or when a situation was completely incomprehensible.

TIA.

This post comes to you courtesy of the free WiFi in the Hong Kong international airport. We’re on our way home! We’ve spent more than 2 years in China (2 years, 3 months and 1 day, to be precise) and it’s been an amazing adventure. Like all good adventures, they must come to and end, and now this part of our adventure draws to a close.

There’s stil a few stories about things we did in China to talk about, so over the next few weeks I hope to add them to the blog, so that it’s more complete. There will not be any hidden posts, suddenly to materialise now that we’re on the outside of the Great Firewall of China, as some of the more cynical have suggested, just a tidying up of various loose ends or things I just ran out of time to blog about earlier.

See you all soon, in that glorious haven we call Australia.

Black Rain

HK Flooding 2

The other week in Hong Kong there was a Black Rain warning. We didn’t hear about it until we’d reached Tsim Sha Tsui, so we were in for a surprise.

Basically, Black Rain means that there’s going to be thunderstorms that dump so much rain that no drainage system in the world will be able to cope. That means localised flash flooding, lots of debris and all the Insurance companies take a holiday for the day.

HK Flooding 1

We arrived in Central, on Hong Kong island, surfaced and found the streets awash with drains that looked more like geysers, motionless traffic and roads that looked like rivers.

In any case, we had a destination to get to so, after a quick re-route through the MTR to a different exit, surfaced and braved the rain and the waters. With nothing for it, we rolled up pants, de-shod ourselves and plunged across the street at what looked like a good spot, despite a nearby hotel concierge’s kind advice that it wasn’t such a good idea. We waded between the motionless traffic that was bubbling away in the 8″ of rushing water and emerged on the other side, still huddling together under our solitary brollie. At least our heads were dry…

The rest of the morning was spent drying out, making our way around HK in bare feet, much to the amusement of more than a few locals, who knew better and were sticking underground or indoors.

HK Flooding 3

We took the MTR to the Festival Walk shopping centre and holed up in the AMC cinema where we could dry out in the over-zealous air conditioning in front of the latest Chronicles of Narnia movie, with dripping socks neatly laid out on the vacant chair next to us. We warmed ourselves afterwards with a tasty pork curry from the food court.

The effects of the Black Rain were quite widespread, with the highway to the airport being flooded and a few cars flooded up to their windows. The proprietors at the Landmark hotel were having a tough time dealing with water flooding onto a staircase from a cracked marble panel on an internal wall.

Yangtze River - Guilin #10

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We got up and packed, since it was checkout day. The previous night I’d heard the music playing at reception, and it was a gospl chorus. Very recognisable tune, regardless of the language of the lyrics. I asked the girl behind the counter if she was a Believr, and she responded in the affirmative! ) Another one in China!

We walked up to the top of a mini mountain which commanded a spectacular view of the city. We’d seen it from our viewing place yesterday, but we hadn’t found the entrance steps. It was a good place to chill and talk. Afterwards we moseyed around and had one last look at the town. And I got to answer a questionnaire about my stay! Great! I love doing those, because the feedback will help the next people who go through there.

We caught an air-conditioned bus back to Guilin. There was another Jackie Chan movie (how many has he made?!) This one was how he was twins, and what happened to one affected the other.

Guilin cityscape

In Guilin we stored our packs at the train station and then went to the big Guilin Palace, with gardens. It was Y50. We mainly needed somewhere to get away from things and to relax for a few hours before the 9:50pm train. It was quite nice and we strolled around the gardens. There was another mountain which commanded a good view of the city. They said it was 306 steps, but I only counted 275. It was very steep but at least we got a good view. Guilin and Yangshuo are like Halong Bay in Vietnam; limestone peaks amongst otherwise flat surfaces.

Guilin cityscape 2

We found some pineapple on a stick and had a pe-dinner munch. I’d been looking for some ever since Wuhan.

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Tea was very nice, and we learned the word for dried yellow tofu, but pronounced with a Guilin accent (ze2zhu2). Then we wandered down to the river and enjoyed ourselves by experimenting with long exposures on the cameras. They can go up to 30 seconds, which is quite fun, and useful for capturing the bright lights across the river.

Guilin waterfall hotel

As we wandered back through the Guilin central square we stumbled upon a pretty speccy water fall display that went over the front of a hotel. Water poured over the front of this 10 storey hotel in time to music and lights. The waterfall was divided into 6 sections which turned on and off independently. Apparently the hotel was quite dilapidated and the owner wanted to do something special that fitted with the local area. I can’t imagine there being anything like this in parched Australia!

The train to Shenzhen was like a soft sleeper but with no door and 6 bunks to a cabin. I think they used a nice one because the Guilin - Shenzhen (via Guangzhou) is frequented by many foreigners.

We’ve had a lovely time. It wasn’t exactly as I expected it, being far more touristy than remote, but was very nice to relax at the end of the Yangtze cruise and all the ciggy smoke that that involved. After this I won’t be too disappointed if we don’t see more of China before we go back; it will be only 7 weeks (at time of writing), after all.

Yangtze River - Guilin #9

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Today was wet, drizzly and showery (or drizzly, showery and wet, as it is usually termed ) ). Before it got too wet we wandered the street next to the river. I t was relatively early and people were only beginning to set up their stalls. So we were only lightly hassled by foot-sellers. I think most other foreigners were out the night before, then hit the bars afterwards. We could hear them from our room. They sounded a bit like Gibbons at times (ooh, ooh, ooh, oooooh). And if the foreigners were out, so were people trying to sell them things.

Yangshuo work vehicle

The mist played havoc with photos so we mainly strolled. As the weather set in, we went back to he hostel for some reading/ writing and cups of tea. We headed out for a late pizza lunch (Very nice, homemade and all. The only thing was there was some Chinese sausage, which was a bit yuk, but removable), then back to the hostel.

Yangshuo small waterfall Yangshuo city Yangshuo West Street

Later, when it had stopped raining, Andrew and I went out to the People’s Park in central Yangshuo. It’s one of the few things inside the city. All other things you ride or catch a bus to, or do as part of a day-trip. We climbed to the viewing platform of a limestone pillar (they are everywhere!) that’s part of the Park, and had a good view of the City from it. I got a jin (500g - it’s a standard measurement for fruit/ veg) of mandarins which were a pit past their prime, but a mandi is a mandi, and not to turn one’s nose up at. Tomorrow night we need to be on the bus to Guilin for a 10:00pm train to Shenzhen.

Yangshuo cityscape

Before lunch we had an espresso and banana milkshake, and I finished off the postcards.

Meiyou taste

China rivers holiday 48

For tea we went to the ‘Meiyou Cafe’. In Chinese, meiyou means ‘don’t have’. It purports to have ‘Meiyou bad service, bad food, overcharging’ etc. Andrew ordered a New Zealand steak. He said that any New Zealander would be ashamed of it. I had some. It was tasteless. The pepper sauce was ok though. My meal was Chinese veges. It was what I expected and tasted fine. I also ordered a chocolate milkshake. It was not what I would call a milkshake. To the best of my ability, I think it was made of: a little bit of cocoa dissolved in milk (not fully dissolved; there were bits around the top. That’s how I tasted it was cocoa), the rest (4/5 or less) of it was water. It didn’t taste like milk or chocolate, but water and imitation vanilla essence. I smelled and tasted it carefully. Definitely imitation vanilla. Before you question this, I have done enough cooking with the stuff to know what it smells and tastes like. There’s even currently some in my cupboard. An so yes, it most definitely was that. I asked the waitress if she could add a little bit more milk to it, as a ‘good enough’ measure, but she didn’t understand so I didn’t press it. It seems like the Meiyou Cafe has gone down the same path as many other good food joints. They’ve been started by foreigners, run successfully then sold to locals. The owners then employ lots of cost-cutting measures, so the place no longer retains the original recipe but becomes Chinese-ified. I think the Lonely Planet needs to update a few things. )

On the other hand, we found a place called Drifters that sold apple crumble, of all things! In China! So we sat down with a drink and waited. 3/4 hr, but it was most certainly worth it. We couldn’t finish them, but took the remainder away and had it as part of breakfast the next day. ) Minute and dedicated evaluation still ranked it lesser to Mrs Newman (senior)’s, but not by much.

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Photos: someone else recommended the apple crumble via the wall, the empty apple crumble take-away container, Drifters frontage.

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