Enlightenment, one post at a time...

Enlightenment, one post at a time...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Xiang Gang

So, we went back to Hong Kong for a few days.  What a crazy ride.  I hope Cecelia posts an entry too because there's way too many weird things to cover in one post.

I went to buy tickets to Shenzhen on Sunday, but the trains were full until the following morning (6 a.m. Monday to be precise).  I purchased two tickets for that train, before realizing that I bought the infamous "standing room only" tickets.  You see, in most civilized countries they fill the train's seats and sleepers, then stop selling tickets.  Not in China.  So long as there are aisles, emergency exits and bathrooms to stand in, they keep selling the standing tickets.  These were what Cecelia and I had.  We weren't even together in the same car.  I stood next to a really noxious bathroom for about 2-2 1/2 hours, surrounded by people smoking cigarettes.  Once we reached Guangzhou, over half of my car exited and I got a seat (throwing some American elbows to get it).  Apparently Cecelia wasn't so lucky.  She stood until the stop before Shenzhen (for about 4 hours, then got to sit for about 45 mins.).

Once we reached Shenzhen we thought our ordeal was over.  We were wrong.  After we cleared Chinese customs, we came into a large hall that was FULL of black hair (that's all you could see from a distance was the back of Chinese heads).  This was just the overflow from the customs area.  We ended up waiting for over 2 hours to clear HK customs.  Ugh.  Goddamn Chinese holidays!

Our hostel room was clean, if nothing to write home about.  Predictably, the first day we were so tired that we just crashed.  The next day we explored a bit more of Hong Kong than I had previously done.  It was pretty fun.  I managed to stumble upon a store that sold money (bills and coins) from around the world.  I ended up buying a colonial Hong Kong $5 bill, a 1 yuan bill from the Republic of China (1936), 5 shilling Ugandan bill from 1973 with a picture of Idi Amin (who I recognized instantly and knew I had to buy), and then 50, 10, and 5 Won bills from the DPRK.  They were so cool that I had to go back and get them.  The 5 Won has a nuclear symbol on it.  It turns out that this Won currency was replaced in 2009, when the people were told to cash in their old bills (which would be made obsolete and have no monetary value) for new ones (at a trade-in max of $40 USD equivalent) which they got a week later.  This was to combat the black market sellers who had accumulated stockpiles of money.  The effect, of course, was to leave many who had saved money extremely angry, and the entire country without money for a whole week.  Interesting.

Yesterday we went to the HK Art Museum.  Amazing place.  There were quite a few beautiful pieces, but my favorite was the fine art exhibit of modern Chinese painter Wu Guanzhong.  He painted a piece called "Two Swollows" which really moved me.  A very minimalist painting of two buildings, with a tree and two swollows flying above.  I ended up buying the postcard because I really loved the piece.

Two Swallows by Wu GuanZho
Today we came back via Guangzhou, and took the bullet train (at 337 kmph) back to Shaoguan.  It's good to be settled again!

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