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Notes on the walls

Chengdu Travel Blog

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Kowloon by night...

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.

and Hong kong island by day.
Either tourists taking in the gritty high light, people like us who are forced to stay waiting for paperwork or for jobs or those that got stuck in the concrete jungle. In the daytime it's got the typical big city feel: People don't acknowledge one another but also they don't judge. They don't care. Everybody has made their own world in wich they are busy. At night it changes. Groups of people sit on the railings and staircases, talking loudly. Some are drunk, some are mad but noones busy anymore. They scrutinize us as we walk past them. It's not friendly and I swear i'll never walk here alone this late. In addition to the dodgyness Chunking Mansion is apparently a bit of a fire hazzard. To many people in to little space is never so good I suppose.
Night train to Lanzhou.
.. But we have to remain in our reality. In Cheng do we stayed in a nice hostel called sims. Its famous and it has little notes reminding you of everything everywhere. "Read the warning before using the lift.", "Switch on telly here", "This is free fruit", "Please have a sweet". It has DVD players in the rooms, international telephonelinesa, internet, a pricy bar and a games room. And there, together with all the other white folk in Cheng do, we remained in a bubble. We did not go travelling for 2 years to be in bubbles. Here there's no bubble. There are notes but there nothing like sims. Instead I look at the grease in the kitchen, the dust on the floors and the people and life here. All has been here forever and I take comfort in then thought that it will remain that way.

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.

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Kowloon by night...
Kowloon by night...
and Hong kong island by day.
and Hong kong island by day.
Night train to Lanzhou.
Night train to Lanzhou.
Chengdu
photo by: spocklogic