So here I am, back in good-old Zhengzhou. I’ll start from January 20th.
I met up with the other people going to Hong Kong at Zhengzhou’s train station. There isn’t any other way to describe the scene there except to say it was a literal ocean of people. We met on the outskirts of the crowd, so I had an opportunity to take some pictures from a raised platform. When we dove into the crowds, it wasn’t any better than it looked. Thousands of people mulling around, pushing and shoving, spitting and hoarking, most of them looking up in surprise to see a foreigner wading through the mess.
We got onto the train at about 4:00pm after an uncomfortable journey first through the crowds outside, and then the crowds inside, and then the crowds on the train. Thankfully I had a top bunk on the train, so I was able to hide away by myself when things got too noisy or smelly or obnoxious. This was pre-Spring Festival travel in China.
The kids travelling with us to Hong Kong were wonderful; I really fell in love with them on the trip. Always smiling, always helpful…the train ride to Guangzhou, which lasted a little longer than 20 hours, went by happily. At times I taught the kids how to play chess, at other times the parents and I talked, and sometimes I sat quietly watching the beautiful rural scenery passing by the window outside. When night came, we slept away a good seven hours of the journey.
When we arrived in Guangzhou we found a bus that drove us to Shenzhen, the city opposite Hong Kong on the mainland. This ride took another two hours, and when we got there, we switched buses again (because we needed one able to drive on the left side of the road), and we crossed over to Hong Kong via under-water tunnel that crossed the channel.
It was 9pm when we arrived in Hong Kong. Before heading to the hotel, the group of us visited a harbour-side area with a fantastic view of the city. With my students dancing around excitedly, a light breeze wafting off the water, and the quiet tranquility a city can have from a distance, I couldn’t help but smile. Sometimes I just don’t know how I’ve gotten so lucky. So I whispered “thank you” to whoever was listening up in the sky, and commenced to take pictures and play with the kids.
Day two found us shopping in the morning. Or rather, the parents went shopping. I skipped out in favour of exploring the city with Richard. We walked along broad avenues, looked timidly into shady alleys, and bought drinks and snacks we’d never seen before. I had a Korean soy drink that was particularly delicious.
In the afternoon, our entire group took a bus to a beach area on the outskirts of Hong Kong. Played around by the water, enjoyed the tropical view, breathed in the fresh air. That evening Richard and I again went exploring around the city, this time following a canal that passed by our hotel.
Day three, my birthday, was dominated by a trip to Hong Kong Disney World. It was quite a place, and apparently not finished being built yet. No need to describe that place, except to say there wasn’t a quiet moment the whole time we were there. It also sported very Western prices.
At 6pm, Richard, Alex, Justin and I took the subway line from Disney World to downtown, where we found a place to have dinner. The restaurant we chose to eat at turned out to be the most expensive place I’ve ever eaten at in my whole time in China. The bill came to 500 Hong Kong dollars. When compared to the 5 Yuan meals I customarily eat in Zhengzhou, you can see the difference. The meal was great though, and a nice treat for my 21st birthday.
After dinner the four of us found the most hopping area of the city: Queen Street East. A steeply inclined road covered with bars, BMWs, lights, and anything else you might imagine, this area had me absolutely breathless at the energy of it all. I didn’t want to leave, even though I couldn’t afford to even set foot in most of the places there.
The next morning at 8am we set back out to Shenzhen, then to Guangzhou, then to Zhengzhou via train. Unfortunately, I felt progressively weaker and sicker as each hour passed that day. In a moment of foolishness the evening before, I’d sipped some water right from the tap in our hotel room, not wanting to spend time boiling it. For all intents and purposes, Hong Kong was the richest place I’d ever seen, so why wouldn’t they have drinkable water? Well, I thought wrong. I vomited four times on the train ride back, and was in my bunk bed for almost the entire ride, dizzy, feverish and sore.
So, getting back into Zhengzhou, seeing the mass of people that seemingly hadn’t moved since last time we were there, I felt a sense of tenderness for this dirty and crowded place. Mostly just because it meant I could soon sleep in a comfortable bed again and think about what a wonderful few days I’d just experienced.
I might be going to Beijing on the 30th, haven’t decided yet. Mr Wang’s invited me to come along with him and his family for a few days. I’ll let my stomach settle and let you guys know what the plan is soon.
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Hope you’re all doing well.