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Published: February 17th 2013
I'd like to superimpose one day onto another please.
Day 1 - Shin deep rubbish by the side of roads. An omnipresent film of dust clouds the air. Roads are choked to the point of standstill by vehicles, half of which are 3 wheeled. The most integral part of those vehicles is the horn. The incessant noise has you wishing you were deaf. Every 10 metres an auto rickshaw driver will confront you for an inflated fare to somewhere you don't want to go. Crossing the road is a genuine health hazard. Beggars cohort for loose change. The background odour of stale urine a constant. Everyone spits and men use any spare wall space as a public latrine. Blackouts are the rule rather than the exception. In fact nothing works with regularity. Tourists are, love it or hate it, lathered with rock star status. Welcome to Hyderabad. (read - any Indian city).
Day 2 - you could eat off the sparkling airport floor. The downtown train hums to a halt with Swiss precision. Automatic doors open with a near inaudible hiss. You slide into the climate controlled seat before being whisked away with audio announcements in 3 languages. Metered
taxis render haggling obsolete as you are zoomed to your digs via the quickest, shortest route. Traffic stops on red and edges off cautiously on green. Street signs. Numbering. Pedestrians have evolved to equal footing in the traffic food chain. Public works are constructed so quickly you seem to be viewing it in time lapse photography. Public garbage bins abound and are used. Dog owners not only carry doggy do do bags but also water bottles to dilute Fido's pee pee indiscretions. No honking of horns. Tourists are superfluous to the daily routine. Hong Kong is the definition of ordered efficiency and spruce.
Is it unfair to juxtapose these 2 cities? I don't think so. They share similar population densities and the Brits have had a significant impact in both their histories. Hong Kong will never compete with India as a travel experience, yet the gulf in main street social standards is a text book piece on why we stereotype races, despite our best efforts not to.
Indians - flighty, disorganised, il-disciplined.
Chinese - ruthlessly efficient.
That ruthlessly efficient stereotype regularly goes hand in glove with the impression that the people of HK exist in a
The smaller residential buildings aren't exactly low level either.
perpetual scowl, a no nonsense business as usual kind of city that doesn't require the approval of the rest of the world. I disagree. It may not be party time round the clock but going by our week here, the impression is that this is a people well at ease with themselves. Not a smugness that can come with "being right" but more a satisfaction that life could be much much worse.
Mind you, Chinese New Year - bring on the snake - is about as festive as things get in this town so if you're going to see a smile, now's the time.
Being New Year, the HK calendar had a few events worth looking into. Penny has always been a fan of fireworks (I suspect a closet pyromaniac) and as you'd expect, HK had a whiz bang display pencilled in. Unfortunately, the promo read;
"expect about a million of Hong Kong's 7 million residents to line the shore of Victoria Harbour to witness the display".
As providence would have it, Penny is married to "The Ultimate Ideas Man". My plan, please follow carefully as I will be asking questions later, was to head over
to the Kowloon side. There we would have the opportunity to look back towards the pyrotechnics plus take advantage of the lack of crowds and have the HK skyline as a backdrop. Pure genius.
Over on Kowloon that evening and we managed to stumble onto the other 6 million of HK's citizenry, all with the same plan. DOH!
The fireworks sounded impressive and the red haze we could see between the buildings 500 metres away by the foreshore was equally so.
Regardless of that plan falling flat on its derrière, the rest of our stay in HK has been a surprise hit. In the grand scheme of our journey, HK was the link to Big Brother across the ditch. Here I had another plan. I called it "Plan A".
Cycling amongst the limestone pinnacles of Yangshuo. Facing off with the Terracotta Warriors in the cultural capital X'ian. Straining the eyes down The Wall fading into the distance. Exploring The Bund and getting down and dirty in the decadence of Shangai. Becoming lost in Beijing's Forbidden City. Plan A was looking pretty slick on paper.
That was until a pair of speed humps reared vertical in
- Chinese New Year meant government departments closed down for the week, including the visa office in HK. Oops.
- having one blank page remaining in your passport may be an enviable situation until that is two blank pages shy of the number required to apply for that Chinese visa. Oops again.
Mainland China slipped under the immediate radar.
"Hey Penny. Time to implement Plan B. By the way, what exactly is Plan B"?
"We don't have one Ultimate Ideas Man".
Once upon a long time ago, about 13 months back actually, we jumped aboard a Hawaiin Airlines flight and no return ticket. That day turned into another before snowballing into weeks, the weeks into months and the months into a year plus interest. Now;
We really should knock
That naughty clock
That says it's time to go
It goes so fast
Our time has passed
And we must end our show.
Romper Room circa 1963.
We're coming home. (See grandma. I did listen. I didn't leave home without bus fare in my pocket).
Of the myriad of enduring memories from this
journey, one that shines brighter than most has been the number of people we've met desperately seeking an Australian work visa and with one eye on the greater prize of residency. Neither were these solely individuals from so called developing nations. Plenty of The West view Down Under as as a contemporary land of opportunity, if only they could manage to jump through the beaurocratic hoops of Australia's tough immigration selection criteria.
We don't have that issue. On the cover of our passports sits a kangaroo and an emu. Coming and going as we please to our great land is a luxury of luxuries. (I hope this doesn't reek of nauseating jaded patriotism).
Rather than lament ex-filtrating ourselves back home and into the throes of travel withdrawal, we are now wallowing in a sense of nostalgia in reverse, anticipating the wonderful lifestyle Oz has to offer. Tomorrow, it's ours again when we hit the tape at the finishing line.
Combine the past year with all our other adventures and we've managed to chip away a layer of paint from this planet. Even so, we are still well short of stripping mother earth down to the carcass. It's
not that this onion is too big, it's just that life is too short. So a brief word to The Maker before signing off;
"I know I haven't always been the most loyal of your flock, but if I could just ask one teensy weensy request - One more life please. I can take it from there. Oh, and whilst I'm calling in the favours, a new passport wouldn't hurt either. This one's full. Thanks in advance".
Colvin and Yeates, over and out. She Says
What a year and a bit.
It started with a holiday on each of the islands of Hawaii with Gary bidding farewell to his surfboard for at least a year. We then ventured to central America with stints in Cuba, Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala.
Back to the mainland and we picked up our RV which became home for the next two months and travelled first north, then back south covering some of the most amazing national parks and scenery we have ever seen. We crossed into Canada, I managed a dentist appointment, Gary a doctors appointment and headed south until we parted with the RV in Vegas.
From there we stopped off at a number of cities , caught the jazz festival in Montreal and fell in love with Chicago and New York.
We left the US and arrived in Denmark where we jumped on a cruise ship and for the next ten days, cruising through the Baltic states where Gary managed to be quarantined for his first day and the first port stop. We did get to St Petersburg, our main aim for the cruise and bypass a time consuming visa process.
From the cruise we returned to Denmark and travelled further around Scandinavia and the Baltic states leaving the bank balance rather depleted but happy to have been able to see this most picturesque region.
Back on the road, France became home for a few weeks staying in a number of regions and living like locals and really enjoying Annecy and Corsica before hitting the Amalfi Coast and a little bit of sunshine and swimming.
We then moved on to Greece covering some of the islands we had previously missed and both loving the Greek food and easy going life.
Then onto the Middle East covering Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan,
Iran, Dubai and Oman, all fascinating and each offering it's uniqueness. We had used Istanbul as our base to get our Iranian visa and loved the city so much we look forward to returning.
From the Middle East to Sri Lanka where Gary hopped on a surfboard for the first time since Hawaii. We both used Sri Lanka as the holiday from the holiday and chilled for a few weeks.
From Sri Lanka to India, a destination that never fails to amaze and frustrate. The dusty dirty rubbish filled streets, the constant smell of urine and the sound of traffic, horns and noise eventually overloads the senses.
We then arrived here in Hong Kong...
Hong Kong has been the haven. Upon stepping off the plane I couldn't help but notice the quiet, the orderly manner in which people collected their luggage from the baggage carousel. No rubbish to be seen, no spitting, in fact everyone looked clean, tidy and dust free. Gary and I looked like we had travelled the world, our bags covered in grime, our shoes no longer resembling their former colour, our clothes covered with a bits of breakfast, lunch dinner and whatever
the streets of Hyderabad had thrown our way.
Hong kong has become our last stop before home. One, because we have arrived in the middle of Chinese New Year and cannot get a visa processed for at least another 4 days, and two, having only a single page left in our passport we would have to apply for a new passport before the Chinese would be willing to offer us a visa.
So homeward bound we are. We have tossed away most of our clothes, managed to collect a few new, clean and proper fitting outfits, topped up in the shoe department and used the past week to explore HK. We are staying in an apartment in SOHO a really interesting area of HK best know for its antique markets which greet us each day at our front door.
Yesterday we crossed over to Macau for the day (and managed to pick up an additional 4 stamps in the passport). We both agreed there is more to see in Macau and hope to come back and visit again.
Another of our day trips was a bus to Aberdeen, Repulse Bay and Stanley. Now I visited Stanley
market some thirty odd years ago, and this is not the Stanley I remember. Hong Kong thank you for restoring us to something resembling our 'former glory'. At least now Sydney should recognise us when we disembark.
More images at: www.colvinyeates.zenfolio.com
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