Our first words to each other when we met in Toronto for our China flight: “What were we thinking? Two sixty-something women on their own in China?!” We couldn’t even get text messages to each other in the Toronto airport. What were going to do in China? We needed help!
We got help from our seatmate Billy on our 15-hour flight to Hong Kong. A citizen of China, because of his Hong Kong birth, and a citizen of Canada by choice, he shared a wealth of information about and insight into China during our long flight.
He even changed his plans to guide us through the transportation from the airport to our hotel. He helped us buy an Octopus card, the public transportation card and got us on the right train and then a taxi. When we finally saw the western amenities in the bathroom of our hotel, we breathed a sigh of relief.
The fact our hotel had a rooftop terrace bar with fabulous views of Hong Kong didn’t hurt either. The fact the hotel staff spoke English and could answer all of our questions was also helpful. They gave us maps in English. Answered all of our questions.
With our Octopus card in hand (thanks to Chris), we tackled learning the subway system with the help of a map in English, the hotel staff, and some hard study on our part. The next day we took the subway to the bay and boarded the ferry to Hong Kong Island. What a fabled and lovely view. Sadly, it is often spoiled by the ever increasing smog.
We toured about on a Big Red Bus with an English guide buzzing away in our ears. Saw more cranes than we have ever seen in one place. Got off to ride the tram up Victoria Peak, another spectacular view. Outside of Hong Kong proper, we visited Stanley, a lovely beach town. Bargained with vendors at the famous Stanley Market and saved lots of money!! Then got lost and found with the help of strangers and some good problem solving on our part.
Another day in Hong Kong, the Chinese city that lulled us into believing that travel in China is not as difficult as people would have you believe.
The next morning we boarded the train to Guangzhou in mainland China. Our Hong Kong confidence began to fade with every scene that whizzed by our train window getting us closer to the land of squat toilets, water you cannot drink, and air you cannot breath.
Would there be a “Billy” in Guangzhou to guide us? What would Blanche Dubois do? Find out next week.
Andy Hawkins, with her cousin Karen Robinson, will be in China for six weeks from March 4-April 15. They are teaching English at Xijuan Experimental Primary School in Guangzhou for a month. The last two weeks of their visit, they will tour other areas of China. During this time, Andy will post a blog “Musings from China” with pictures once a week or as often as she can get the technology to work.