Notes on the walls
Chengdu Travel Blog› entry 61 of 86 › view all entries
We made it to Hong kong -more exactly to Kowloon, the part of the city that spreads out opposite Hong kong island, to Chunking Mansions. Pushed out of Hong Kongs glamour and forgotten in Kowloons financial upsurge it stands like a huge block of shabbyness: An 18 floor appartment block full of guesthouses. Maybe two pr floor from the 4th floor and up. Then there's restaurents, mobile phone sellers, ugly jewelery shops, money excgangers , small kiosks etc. The lift is shaky and has cctv, so when you wait you can spy on people. As I realize how sleazy it is here I come to love these cameras. The ground floor is milling with indians offering rooms and copy watches and Chunking Mansions seems to be run mostly by them. The street is buisy with people from Indian, African and chines descent and a fair share of westerners.
Our guesthouse is the cheapest, run by an old chinese man who apparently is called Terry. He too has been here forever and, for Terry, everything takes forever but it's ok because we've got just about that amount of time in Kowloon: Daren needs a new pasport (mine is Danish and has got a few more pages) and we need to get new 3 month visas for China. Luckily Terry's got a kitchen we can use and our room has windows. A novelty for Chunking.
But before allowing ourselves to get to know the fleeting and busy worlds of Kowloon and Hong kong we have the luxury of disappearing into another world: Solid old friends happen to be in Hong Kong. Friends from childhood and teenage years. First a couple from the UK on a family visit and then one of my oldest friend from Denmark, who happens to pass through on buisness. Both Daren and I agree that our friends are the ones that make us. They are indeispensable...My girl friend brought out the softer, deeper and more girlie side in me that I normally pack away a little in order to make this trip. This is a side that is reserved for women that I share an intimacy with that can only be had between women that have known eachother for years and years. Without these women it's easy for me to loose foot hold in the world and the strenght and happiness I took from our meeting is just another nice reminder of how important our friends are.
"Please try to refrain from spitting or otherwise dirtying the toilet. If you need a simpler option try shitting behind a tree!" This note in the bathroom in Chunking Mansions takes me back to our current world. Our friends have gone and we focus on our new surroundings: the people in this hostel reflected life on the streets. The chinese keep themselves to themselves. These small rooms seem to be their permanent homes and they politely put up with fleeting travellers coming and going, noisy nights and to many people over two cooking hobs. Then theres flo the german, trying to land a highflying chefs job, Luis, a 19 year old brit, studying as far away from home, on the mainland as he possibly can and there's Tony, an Italian who's been on the road for three years and is waiting for a new direction to appear. With these people we celebrated my 30th birthday. It was good and at 5 am we went onto the roof, staring 18 floors down onto the neon lights, inhaling the smoggy air of freedom.
But then there's the stranger ones. An ancient western man we name mumbles. Mumbles lives permanently in a dorm bed, he's the author of the happy note in the toilet and he hates fleeting travelers including us. There's chopstics: A British lunatic with chopsticks bandaged to his hand who is incapable of saying anyting that isn't inappropriate or perverted. I get scared of him and say nothing to him. He too hates us.
And then there's Earnest. An ageing canadian waiting for the wether to change towards Tibet. When Tony found his direction, Luis got his visa and Flo went couch surfing Earnest became our solid companion in the madhouse. Another person for the book of people who are fantastic but whom we are never going to see again. People who could have been ancient friends but whom we are only lucky enough to meet once.
And so almost three weeks past in Hong Kong.We handed my pasport in to the embassy and I only got a one month visa. The same afternoon a new annoying 'fleeting traveller' arrived who got a three month visa from "forever bright" travel agency down a side street. He smirked a little but when the time came for Daren to finally get his visa he too got a one month visa in sympathy, so he could share my visa extension stress. And so we left.
We flew back to Cheng do and took a train to Lanzouh. The train cut out 1117 km of riding. One month. With extensoins we can now make our journey across China and give the berocracy concerning Kazakh visas time enough.