domingo, enero 23, 2005

More from China

ok, in continuing my travels through China, we find ourselves in Beijing for New Years Eve. A great night for sure...where did we end up? An Irish pub of course in the center of the city...something like Molloys, or Molly Malone's etc......and what was the music? A group of Chinese guys playing U2!! Brlliant....it was a great night packed with loads of different and interesting people...the UN commissioner from Australia, the ex linebacker from Pittsburgh, the French revolutionaries (a decade late)...and on and on. We all ended up in a nightclub beside the Olympic stadium untill the early hours of the morning. Next we went to Dalian, a small seaside town north east of Beijing. We took a plane and to play it safe I thought a valium would make the flight all that easier, which it was of course! There in Dalian we met a friend of Badgers who had worked with him in a pub in Dublin. He didnt have much English but we got by after a few drinks. By the 10th round of beers I could have sworn he was singing to us in Irish about the famine shipd that sailed ever so solemnly to America 150 years before. He very nicely organized us a cheap flight on one of the airlines where is brother or cousin worked and we took a flight down to Shanghai.....the most amazing city Ive come across! The sheer size of the place is the first thing you notice...then the architecture, they must be about 30 years ahead of Europe and America in constructing skyscrapers. Its interesting as well, because they dont use conventional scaffoldings with metal...they use bamboo, which is apparently just as strong but obviously a lot cheaper. In Shanghai we saw all the old buildings that werent destroyed in the Japanese invasion at the end of the '30's. The old Peace Hotel where they still have the same jazz band playing from the Second World War. In those days(and in these days) Shanghai was one of the great cities in the world. Full of adventure, vice, exoticicism, energy, danger and culture. People drinking cocktails in the old bars along the Bund , meanwhile outside there would be bombs falling from the sky. An Asian Casablanca if you will. It was then shut out from the world for 50 years because of Communisim, but is slowly beginning to recapture that old magic from days gone by. You know...if I could pick just one place to live in tomorrow I would pick Shanghai...so much opportunity and adventure...and its only jsut beginning. If they say that this is the century of Asia, well then Shanghai will be the place to be! Where else can you find historic old bars on the waterfront filled with people from all walks of life...an old British General drinking at the bar remeniscing about the old days...a French art dealer and a Russian oil man schemeing in the corner, an American business man who lost everything sailing through a sea of Opium trying to live in between this life and the next..all the while the exotic charms of the most beautiful women in the world enchant all those willing to listen....next up was Hong Kong. This time we took the train....12 hrs from Shanghai. We got to see a lot of the countryside. And basically you can see the problem that China is going to have for the next century...although the main cities and manafacturing areas will prosper...what is going to happen to over 600million small farm workers all over China when the government transforms itself into a cpaitalist country? Hong Kong is amazing as well. Very small and concentrated but it must have one of the most celebrated skylines in the world.....and at sunset if you sit on the Kowloon side it is one of the best views you will ever see in the world. This must be the most capitalist place in the world. Everybody dealing, everybody looking for a deal to deal, to make or break. You cant stay still here or will be swallowed up and spat out. Untill 1997 it was part of the British Empire and you can see the influence of Britain remains....the red buses the red post boxes, street signs etc.
A lot more expensive than Shanghai and a lot more developed but can it develop anymore? How can it compete in this new century? We bought new tailored suits there from an Indian for a great price because you wont get that quality anywhere else in the world for the same price. So we bought them with the idea of sending them home by post. But we wanted to waer them once, so we decided to go to the Hong Kong Jockey club and see some horseracing....crazy! thousands of manic Chinese gambling on everything...we didnt win anything but had a great time. That was the last of our Chinese adventure....our next stop was to go to Bangkok in Thailand. But we needed to get visas, so that took an extra 5 days. So we had some time to spare in Hong Kong. We visited the largest Buddha in the world on the outskirts and also took a cable car to the top of Hong Kong Island where the views are magnificent. Like Shanghai, I would move to Hong Kong in a second to live there. No doubts about it. If you ever go you have to go down to the harbour area and try some of the fish there. We met a friend of mine there and he took us to eat all these incredible looking fish , all different colours...and great local beer. A Chinese meal is very important, it is a very traditional custom...like a banquet...it was a really great experience. Another great thing to do in Hong Kong is to take the ferry across from Kowloon to Hong Kong island, preferably at sunset or sunrise....its very enjoyable and as I said the skyline is incredible.
So we finally got our visas and then we headed of to Bangkok, Thailand...........

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