Published: September 5th 2010
August 4th 2010
Due to the hordes of Chinese tourists departing Shanghai having visited the World Expo, I was informed by staff at the main railway station that all trains to Hong Kong were booked out for the next month! Luckily the girl at reception in my hostel suggested that I book a ticket to Shenzhen, a city on the Chinese border a mere 40 minutes from Hong Kong.
The train journey itself was fine. I booked a hard sleeper, and the 18hrs went by relatively fast. At one point I went to the restaurant car to buy water and while there happened to look through the window in the door at the opposite end of the carriage.
It was cattle class, my former home!
Someone made a hand gesture begging me to open the door. Now, I’ve come to the conclusion that harsh experiences make you more compassionate in some ways, but harsher in others. While I felt sorry for those people enduring conditions PETA would protest against animals having to suffer, my main emotion was overwhelming relief, “Thank fuck I’m no longer one of them!”
Trust me life in 3rd class is not all Irish dancing, craic, getting
drunk, and sex in rich strangers’ Rolls Royces... it's only like that in the movies...
Anyway accommodation wise I based myself in Kowloon, the main tourist area in HK. Having heard horror stories from backpackers who’d stayed in the infamous Chungking Mansions (think massive refugee camp stuffed into a dilapidated 15 storey building waiting to burn down, patrolled by groups of well organised rats) I decided to pay an extra €4 a night and stay in a slightly cleaner box room a few minutes down the road.
In total I spent only one day in Hong Kong and one day in Macau, which considering they’re both expensive cities, was probably for the best.
In short, Hong Kong’s skyline is impressive and the local population’s English speaking and queuing abilities were a welcome relief after the limited linguistic range of the Chinese and crowded chaos of China. The city seems past its glory days and the mantle for the economic centre of China looks likely to pass to Shanghai. While there I walked around the CBD and Kowloon, got the Star Ferry across the harbour, climbed the route that runs to Victoria Tram (yeah I was too cheap
Macau Town Centre
Portugal meets China
to pay), went to the Botanic Gardens, and took in the skyline at night.
Macau, a former Portuguese colony returned to China in 1999, is essentially a picturesque European historical town with a Las Vegas casino strip thrown into the mix. While its casinos are large and imposing, gambling is a depressing sight in general and especially when one has zero spending power with the result that it becomes a spectator sport! I visited the largest casino on the island, the Venetian. According to Lonely Planet it is twice the size of its Las Vegas sister. Having actually been in the real Venice, the Disneyland version was more than slightly unnerving.
With my time in Hong Kong/Macau at an end, I boarded my Air Asia flight to Bangkok. Midway down the plane I heard someone call my name. My friend Aidan was on the same flight; clearly reunited by our mutual stinginess in booking the cheapest flight available!
I’m going to end with a quick summary of Bangkok. I was in Thailand two years ago so it’s not getting its own post.
To sum up: Well Bangkok is Bangkok: tuk-tuks, ping pong shows, Koh
San Road, knock off brand name clothes, love you long time, same same but different etc. i.e. the exact same as the way I left it after my last visit.
Having started this trip believing myself to be an independent “off the beaten track” traveller, the illusion was irrevocably shattered by running into Aidan yet again at the Vietnamese embassy in Bangkok.
In the end we’re all slaves to Lonely Planet whether we believe it or not....
There are more photos below